Detroit’s Danny Brown originally wanted to call his sophomore album O.D.B. – an acronym that would stand for “Old Danny Brown” – and obviously pay homage to the late great Russell Jones. Like Dirt Dog before him, both Danny’s rhyme style and outward appearance suggest that he’s a little bit off, hence the comparison. While the estate of Big Baby Jesus taking issue with the title, Brown ultimately settled on OLD, delivering a surprisingly solid new album that will impress both his dedicated fanbase and any skeptics still not sold on the Fool’s Gold emcee.
The biggest misconception about Danny Brown – one especially proven on this album – is that he uses his high-pitched, nasal delivery on every track, which some have called a gimmick. OLD defeats that notion, as Brown delivers several tracks in his regular voice, providing some of the albums most meaty material. The album opens with “Side a (Old)”, a Paul White produced banger that finds him recounting grim tales of drug deals, followed by “The Return” with Freddie Gibbs, a laid back, unofficial sequel to Outkast’s “Return Of The G”. Tracks like these abandon the half-baked persona, taking things back to his early upbringing, and frankly work much better. Later on both “Gremlins” and “Torture”, both produced by Oh No, again we find a more grounded Danny Brown, revealing shades of a darker past.
“Clean Up” finds him struggling with being a both a father and a travelling artist, while on “Lonely” he reflects “Smoking by my lonely / by my goddamn self / I don’t need your help homie / don’t nobody really know me / say nobody really know me….” This is a much more intimate look at Danny Brown than expected, magnificently realized through the production of Paul White.
After the first half of the album’s more melancholy “Side A”, the fun-loving, wreckless partier comes out on “Side B”, kicking off with “Dope Song”. Brown’s high-pitched, waiting-to-exhale flow dominates much of the rest of this album, with more whimsical tracks like the Freak Nasty inspired “Dip” or the A-Trak produced “Smokin’ & Drinkin”. The production on this half of the record is more trap-inspired, as songs like “Handstand” and “Break It [Go]” are likely to be the crowd-pleasers at his live performances. The pinnacle of this set is “Kush Coma”, an ultra-high, psychadelic duet with A$ap Rocky that bumps with reckless abandon. The album closes out on the reflective “Float On”, rounding out the LP nicely.
We usually aren’t fans of extra-long, 19-track albums, but Danny Brown has wisely programmed Old into a cohesive two-part LP that examines both sides of his personality. Its beginning surprises the listener with a deeply reflective version of the rapper, while the second half lets the loose the Old Danny Brown we all know and love. In an age where many artists treat albums like a collection of potential hit singles, Brown’s OLD is a well thought out, refreshing change of pace.
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