Album Review: Danny Brown, ‘Atrocity Exhibition’

Written by Angelo Gingerelli

danny-brown-atrocity-exhibition

What goes on in Detroit? Seriously, how can one city produce a seemingly endless number of musical madmen like Ted Nugent, Insane Clown Posse, Jack White, Kid Rock, Eminem and now Danny Brown?

Atrocity Exhibition is Danny Brown’s second proper album and a follow-up to his 2013 debut Old (2011’s XXX mixtape was Brown’s first project to gain national attention and still worth checking out five years after its’ release). Since Old Danny Brown has basically kept a low profile and kept mix tapes and guest appearances to a minimum, which works on two levels, fans have actually had a chance to miss Brown’s wholly unique music and he sounds fully re-invigorated on this sophomore release, two things that are pretty rare in Hip-Hop where the culture of constantly releasing new music often causes fans to tire of artists and MC’s to sound exhausted and uninspired prematurely, neither of which is an issue for Brown on this “Exhibition.”

The title Atrocity Exhibition is borrowed from a 1970’s anthology of short stories centered on a doctor losing his mind due to the state of the world and the title applies perfectly to Danny Brown on this project as he addresses the last few years of his life and the “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll” lifestyle that he’s been living. Danny is a singular talent when it comes to matching tales of growing up in one of the roughest cities in America with his current “Famous Rapper” lifestyle. To illustrate the difference between the two phases of his life, he raps about street stuff in a pretty straightforward “real” voice, but adopts a nasally, deranged cartoon character tone to rap about partying and the “Rap Life.” If you are unfamiliar with his previous work, the best comparison is to fellow Detroit MC Eminem and the difference between the serious Marshall Mathers and the manic Slim Shady on his albums. This dichotomy works incredibly well as fans get a decent amount of content from both sides of Danny Brown over the course of fifteen tracks and never enough of either for it get tiresome.

The production is similar to the ominous, almost horror-core feel of his debut album and it continues to work incredibly well to highlight Brown’s voice and somewhat unorthodox subject matter. However, it’s not all doom & gloom as he does make a few attempts at party/club songs like “Ain’t It Funny” and “Dance in the Water,” but please keep in mind Danny’s version of partying is more doing nitrous balloons with groupies than popping bottles with models. In Detroit’s nightlife scene, if Big Sean is at the club in the VIP section, Danny Brown is at a basement party down the street having twice as much fun.

For an artist with an impressive list of past collaborators (Eminem, El-P, A$AP Rocky, etc.) Atrocity Exhibition has very few guest appearances. There are a few singers that drop by for hooks, B-Real lends a chorus to “Get Hi” and that’s about it, except for the monster posse cut “Really Doe” featuring the entire TDE clique, this track is obviously a standout on the album and will surely be on a lot of “Best of 2016” playlists at the end of the year.

Five years after his first major project, Danny Brown is still one of the most exciting MC’s in the game, with tracks about depression (“Downward Spiral”), Drug use (“Gold Dust,” “White Lines”) and as many cuts about growing up in the hood (“Tell Me What I Don’t Know”) as songs about partying and living like a rockstar (“Rolling Stone”), Danny Brown is like the deranged offspring of Kool G Rap and Mick Jagger that happens to make some of the best music coming out today.

Best Songs: “Really Doe,” “Today,” “Hell for It”

Perfect For: Proving people that say “There’s no good Hip-Hop these days” wrong

Rating: 9 out of 10

Angelo Gingerelli has been contributing to The Pop Break since 2015 and writing about pop culture since 2009. A Jersey shore native, Gingerelli is a writer, stand-up comic, hip-hop head, sneaker enthusiast, comic book fan, husband, father and supporter of the local arts scene. He likes debating the best rappers of all time, hates discussing why things were better in the “Good Ol’ Days” and loves beating The Pop Break staff at fantasy football. You can catch up with Angelo on Twitter/IG at @Mr5thRound, at his website www.FifthRoundMovement.com or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).