ALBUM REVIEW: Danny Brown "Atrocity Exhibition"

—review by Jesse Wiles @thewildwiles

On Atrocity Exhibition Danny Brown combines his tried and true brand of unconventional, X-rated, manic depressive hip-hop with a palette of new sounds and a previously hidden layer of visceral depth. The end result is a look into the multi-dimensional, norm-hurdling world of the artist known as Danny Brown.

Brown offers up a cornucopia of flows throughout the project varying from punchy, quick-witted and high-pitched to subdued and poetic. The latter occurs on two occasions: first, on “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” and then again, on “From The Ground.” Production on “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” sounds empty and urgent like the ghostly streets of Detroit where Brown grew up. Later, on “From The Ground,” the production sets the scene again for Brown to rap slowly and deliberately, fading in and out as Kelela’s soulful interjections are scattered throughout the song. On the other end of the spectrum is “Really Doe.” This action packed, star studded single is classic Danny Brown. He attacks the first verse while Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt follow suit. Earl Sweatshirt finishes off the song with one of the better quips of the album, matter-of-factly rapping, “I’m at your house why you got your couch on my chucks?” “When it Rain” also falls victim to Brown’s unpredictable barrage of lyrics and a beat that impels movement.

 For all of the changes evident throughout the project he’s still the same Danny Brown. There is an endless stream of coke and weed references that obviously still fuel his lifestyle. This addiction to the fast life splits the album in two. For the first half he takes an unapologetic stance toward his drug use. On the opening track “Downward Spiral” he acknowledges the harm he is inflicting upon himself, “on death row, feel like I’m Yams,” all the while rapping lines like, “smoking blunt after blunt, ‘til my eyes start burning.” A few songs later on “Ain’t it Funny” Brown raps about the irony of his relationship as a past dealer and current user, “broke serving fiends, got rich became a addict.” Following the album’s single party song “White Lines,” an obvious nod to cocaine, the album shifts into a realm of realized responsibility with a spattering of politics. On “Today,” Brown raps with more urgency than his fans are used to. The song is almost a plea to his people to be alert. Filled with socially aware lines like, “cops killing niggas every day, like protocol,” and, “nigga jail the new slave, don’t go that way.” On the album’s outro, “Hell For It,” Brown apologizes for his abuse of Actavis and accepts the blame he was deflecting. Later in the song he allows a brief glimpse into insecurities surrounding album sales and his role as a celebrity but immediately rejects those feelings dropping a zinger that stabs at Iggy Azalea’s problematic relevance. He proceeds to end the verse with, “fuck being a celebrity, cause these songs that I write leave behind my legacy.” 

Danny Brown has crafted the perfect atrocity exhibition, thanks in part to the master production from South London’s Paul White. Putting on full display his flirtatious relationship with his own demise, the Adderall and cocaine infused energy of this project and a newfound accountability combine to give listeners the most complex Danny Brown experience to date.


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