Danny Brown’s new album lives up to the hype

by Elias Karikas

Danny Brown’s new album lives up to the hype

Danny Brown

Warp Records · October 4, 2019

Danny Brown’s new album lives up to the hype

Detroit native Danny Brown released his fifth studio album uknowwhatimsayin¿ after much anticipation from fans. Produced by prolific hip-hop producer and artist Q-Tip, uknowwhatimsayin¿ is the follow-up to Brown’s 2016 release Atrocity Exhibition, the third concept album in his discography (previously, 2012’s XXX, and 2013’s Old). On Atrocity Exhibition Brown explored his deep psyche with dark themes such as addiction, paranoia, and depression. Brown has radically changed his image upon this release, getting his signature-missing tooth replaced, cutting his hair, and straying away from consistently using his high-pitched inflection. Brown also seems to be moving more towards comedic entertainment following the debut of his show “Danny’s House” on Viceland.

Brown’s approach to uknowwhatimsayin¿ is unlike any other project he has made. It feels looser, lighter, and more comedic, and is more optimistic than any other project he has released, taking into account the fact that Brown has not particularly explored the lighter side of life in any part of his discography. Despite the fact that Brown seems to be going in a lighter direction with his music, he still finds himself following previous dark themes of betrayal, perverted thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse, aggression, gun violence, and an overall pessimistic view of life in general.

Although Brown has tried to avoid making a concept album, in a lot of ways the tracks on the record play as small, somewhat interconnected, thematic, tales of his life. The opening track, “Change Up,” Brown speaks about his troubles in life, and how he pushes forward in the face of adversity. The title track “uknowwhatimsayin¿”, follows this theme as well but plays more as a song of triumph, and encouragement, speaking of moving forward past the twists and turns of life. “Best Life” seems to be Brown’s current outlook, “Living His Best Life” since there “ain’t no next life.”

Brown’s humor is prevalent on this record as he consistently uses outlandish metaphors; comparing drug bags to Santa Claus’s sack, being smooth enough to talk a cat off a fish truck, ignoring women like an email from LinkedIn, or being a microphone magician, making rappers disappear. Brown uses his outlandish and perverted humor in a way that allows him to twist in and out of darker themes.

Features on this album particularly shine, as Brown has such a high amount of chemistry with his guests. Run the Jewels and Brown are able to exchange verses and create a great standout track in “3 Tearz”, while JPEGMAFIA, Blood Orange, and Obongjayar provide hooks and bridges that add to the total ambience of the songs. JPEGMAFIA’s nasally compressed delivery in particular is able to create an almost panicked feel to the entire track. The album closes with “Combat,” which features Consequence and Q-Tip, and is very reminiscent of a track off of A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 release “We Got it from Here…Thank you 4 Your Service,” and it leaves the listener wanting more.

Sonically, the album is able to create a soundscape that is mysterious, daunting, encouraging, and confrontational for whatever situation Brown’s lyrics call for. The producing credits go further than just Q-Tip as the ensemble cast includes producing credits from both established and up-and-coming artists such as Paul White, JPEGMAFIA, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Standing on the Corner.

uknowwhatimsayin¿ is Brown’s statement to the hip-hop world, proving his veteran status and illustrating why his career has had such longevity in a high-consumption high-disposal culture. Although it lacks depth at some points, Danny Brown is able to create a project that is unapologetically him: humorous and dark, strange and forward, and aggressive and encouraging.