Hip-hop album brings a diverse mosaic of melodies
October 10, 2013
Despite receiving “universal acclaim” according to Metacritic, “Old” seems unlikely to be the album to push Danny Brown to superstardom.
“Old” sounds like no other mainstream album released this year, regardless of genre. It might shock casual listeners of hip-hop, as well as those who decided to see what Brown was about after he mentioned bands such as Arcade Fire and Love as his biggest influences.
However, for an indie rapper who, at age 32, has a decent amount of years over his peers, Brown appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
Though bearing no sonic similarity to the albums of alternative rock royalty he claims to listen to most, it is clear he took cues from their records in how he structured the album.
Last year, Brown revealed in an interview that if his previous album, “XXX,” was his version of Radiohead’s album “OK Computer,” “Old” was going to be his “Kid A.”
This is an extremely bold statement on several levels, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get my attention.
“Old” is structured into two clearly marked sides, with track 1 beginning Side A and track 11 starting Side B. Brown uses this divide to separate the two styles he proved he excelled at on “XXX.”
The first side features somewhat more low-key beats, with Brown utilizing his normal voice more often than the zany, high-pitched one listeners of his older works are used to. On Side A, the lyrics are much more personal and socially conscious, explaining the plights and feelings of the lower class, a story Brown is quite adept at telling. Guest artists featured on this side of the album include Freddie Gibbs, Purity Ring and Schoolboy Q.
Side B features a very different sound, meant to light up parties and music festivals. These beats hit much harder, many utilizing the aesthetic of the current U.K. electronic scene. If there are songs on “Old” that will gain Brown more mainstream popularity, they are the ones on this side.
Songs like “Dip” or “Kush Coma” featuring A$AP Rocky are sure to get stuck in your head while making good use out of your subwoofers.
Those interested in the lyrical content of the first side may be turned off by the more cliché lyrics on this side, but Brown’s unique delivery and off-kilter jokes help him stand out from his peers. Aside from A$AP Rocky, the features on this side include Charlie XCX, English MC Scrufizzer, as well as Los Angeles rapper and Kendrick Lamar/Schoolboy Q associate, Ab-Soul.
Both sides to the album work together to create a more cohesive work than many of Brown’s major label peers are capable of. Though I don’t see “Old” having the same impact on music as Radiohead’s “Kid A,” there is no doubt that his fan base will grow from this album.
Those interested in seeing Brown live may be pleased to hear that he recently announced the kick-off of the “Double-Trouble” tour with A-Trak, another artist recently accumulating critical acclaim.
If you are willing to make the trip, the tour will be stopping in Pomona, Calif. and Ventura, Calif. on Nov. 8 and 9, respectively. With a brand new album and new crop of fans for each artist, the tour is sure to be one for the books.
Considering the level of popularity he has already achieved as a rapper on an independent label, it’s hard to imagine Brown seeing this album as anything but a success on his own terms.
Contact Sam Owen at sowen@scu.
Check out “Old” below.