Last week, Danny Brown released the album cover for his September 30 release Old. The artwork is above. Danny is wearing a 19th-century sea captain's uniform, and he sits in a melting portrait frame. The Old font, situated above the rapper, looks like it might be ripped from Purple Rain. It's perfect.
If you don't know Danny, it's okay to be a little confused right now. He's—how should we say it?—pretty fucking weird. Superficially, there's his hair and the missing front teeth, and once you delve into the music, there's a strange, densely worded collection of odes to pill-popping, cunning linguists, and Cool Ranch Doritos. There's also that incident, which you may have seen around here, when he received a blowjob on stage during a performing. Yes, it actually happened.
If you know Danny's stuff, though—and if you are still a non-believer, please cue up the simultaneously depraved and hilarious XXX, arrive at the line "You're softer than Flanders' son," and then come back here—you've been sitting on pins and needles during this prolonged wait for Old. It has seemed, for months now, that Danny's major debut would go the way of Pusha T's My Name is My Name and Jay Electronica's Act II, yet another long-awaited and highly-anticipated album that hip-hop heads have begun telling themselves is never actually coming. Old was announced last August. It was nearly completed all the way back in December. It prompted Brown himself to tweet in August: "Man #OLD fuck around and never come out.... I'm a fuck around and leak that shit myself." His record label, Fool's Gold, responded by finally giving him, and us, a firm release date of September 30, and there was much rejoycing. (Fool's Gold, by the way, also gave this high prize to the 32-year-old. I liked it: "In an era of industry-obsessed MCs, interchangeable hashtag raps, and “viral” everything, it has become increasingly difficult to find a true original in the rap game, an artist able to ignite a buzz without calculatedly chasing it down. Yet ask anyone who’s been paying attention and they’ll tell you: Danny Brown is that dude.")
So now we're here, stuck in a final 20-day countdown till its release. What can we expect? After catching Brown in concert last Monday, I'll say this: Obviously, he's on top of his game. He rapped every word, he controlled a tired and water-logged crowd. Brown also wasn't afraid to delve into a catalogue of non-crowd-pleasers. Despite quite a few calls for "Grown Up" and "Monopoly," he pushed through with new stuff.
That new stuff is... different. Brown told Pitchfork this January that he's pushed for randomness in the creative process. "I always try to act like I'm some old school artist from the 1960s, so I approached this album like I was making it for vinyl: There's a side A and a side B. The way I look at it, I've always been two different artists anyway; I do that underground hip hop shit and that turned-up trap shit. XXX told a story, so I wanted this one to be like "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-- it's random and all over the place, but by the end it comes together."
And when you listen to his new material, you see that Brown does seem to be filling in the gap between new, electronic-influenced rap and his older, sample-heavy, Wu-Tang style jams. This is, at its core, why Old will shock the music world this month. (You heard it here first!) Brown is creating rap for a generation of people who immediately say their favorite genres are "hip-hop" and "EDM" (i.e., many of you). It's timely, it feels new. Yet, importantly, it also doesn't feel forced. Danny Brown is not a studio creation, a result music executive plugging in numbers to solve the problem of "BRIDGING EDM AND RAP." He's an absolute original, who combined this new musicality with a same, terrific focus on creative wordplay—with lyrics that call to mind Eazy-E at his most sex-obssessed, and fellow Detroit-er Eminem at his quickest. It's unlike little else on the radio.
Take the psychedelic acid rap of "ODB." (Two very clever lines that call out his propensity to rap about drugs: "On the verge of O.D'in for the shit that I say/But who gives a fuck, I'm still gon' do this shit anyway.)
The timely A$AP Rocky appearance for "Kush Coma," possibly the highest-tempo weed song ever created:
The next great twerking anthem in the Diplo-inspired "Expressyourself":
And "Hand Stand," a song so lyrically vile that you really have to hear it to believe it. (You might wind up with a stripper snorting lines off you by its end):
The two final numbers that he's performed live several times. "Dope Song":
And the Araabmusik-produced "Molly Ringwald":
So, yeah: Be ready for Old. It's going to stun some people this month.