**** (out of 4)
Danny Brown, by all accounts, is a very smart man. After the runaway success of his go-for-broke 2011 free album “XXX,” he quickly joined the ranks of rap’s hottest new acts and became a festival mainstay. On this, his first “official release,” he completely throws caution to the wind and delivers one of the more entertaining projects in recent memory.
See, the man made a concept project that deviates from the boring-ass “this is all related to one thing” concept-record narrative. The project is meant to be digested in two ways. On “Side A (Old)” (the name of the track, but also referring to the first 10 songs), he gives us a mainstream/Fool’s Gold late adopter/”he is the one on drugs, right?” Danny Brown that the audience has no familiarity with. This is the Danny Brown who spit flawlessly gritty stories over Black Milk beats, teamed with Tony Yayo and Lil B (yes, on the same album) and proved himself to be one of the most slept-on rappers in America. This opening brings you up to speed on vintage Danny, with woeful, brutal lyrics about his life before fame, sex and the drug trade. Tracks like “Dope Fiend Rental” (a song about trading drugs for sexual favors) and “The Return” (a hard-hitting, Outkast sampling, Hell in a Cell match with Freddie Gibbs) help showcase his visceral ability to deliver some of the most honest raps recorded in the past five years.
On “Side B (Dope Song)” (the song itself and the final nine songs on the record), Brown reveals his ace in the hole with ramped-up electronic productions, immediately switching the vibe and adding intensity. I’d now like to reiterate my point that Danny Brown, by all accounts, is a very smart man. In interviews, Brown has never shied away from his love for electronic styles, from ghettotech in his native Detroit to dubstep. He knows his new audience is most familiar with this style and happily gives it to them any way they want it. He’s rapping over trap beats, reaching out to non-traditional acts like U.K. grime rookie of the year Scrufizzer and having the sense to let A$AP Rocky float over standout track “Kush Coma.”
If you want to quibble about anything, the project could lose two songs on each “side”—but it’s a minor grievance at best. There will be people who don’t see what Brown is doing here and will complain that this album is scattered and disjointed.
Those people are dweebs.