I was first introduced to Danny Brown through Childish Gambino’s blog about a year and
a half ago. Gambino had been praising Danny’s XXX project quite a bit on Twitter and even posted a download link to it so I scooped it up. I am a huge Gambino fan so, naturally, I had high expectations for “XXX ”. Quite frankly I hated it. I hated the way Danny’s voice sounded, didn’t like any of his flows and didn’t understand any of his so-called humor. The grimy production was interesting, but not enough to make up for the raps. After a few listens, I all but forgot about XXX and the self proclaimed “Adderall Admiral”.
I have no idea what made me revisit XXX this past summer but I did and this time I loved it. I totally understood what made XXX such a critically acclaimed project. The juxtaposition of absurd punchlines woven seamlessly into profoundly bleak and desolate songs makes his material incredibly interesting. Danny’s schizophrenic delivery was perfect for his often ridiculous subject matter. A good chunk of XXX remained on my “Most Played” playlist on iTunes from then on.
Danny Brown’s popularity has quickly grown since he dropped XXX in August of 2011 on Fool’s Gold Records. He’s had numerous highly publicized feature verses that were, more often than not, better than whomever’s track it was. He also collaborated with many EDM-focused producers on a series of very popular internet singles. He also went on tour with A$AP Rocky and ScHoolBoy Q this past fall to favorable reviews. Danny has been carefully building his momentum and getting ready to drop his first album “Old” in August of this year. He set out to promote his forthcoming record on the “Old and Reckless Tour”.
Since I saw Danny perform on the “Long.Live.A$AP Tour”, I have been dying to see him again. While the crowd was mostly there to see A$AP Rocky (and it showed), Danny Brown, his hype man Dopehead and DJ SKYWLKR put on a very energetic and entertaining show. Since then, I had only been listening to Danny more, so naturally, I snatched up two tickets when the “Old and Reckless” tour was announced.
I saw Danny play at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, Wisconsin. Since it is only a short walk from my college dorm, my buddy and I decided to go early and get a good spot for the show. It ended up working out and, after showing our IDs, we were able to get spots right up against the stage. We hung out for about an hour listening to a local DJ scratch and spin over current bangers while the Saloon filled up behind us. The DJ did a pretty good job of slowly building the anticipation for the show to start. Songs by Chief Keef, Future and Lil B all did their job of getting the crowd in a party mood while other, slightly different flavored hits like R. Kelly’s “Remix to Ignition” kept it from getting too serious. The opener, a local rapper and spoken-word artist who calls himself CRASHprez, got delayed a half hour so we didn’t actually hear any live music until 10 PM. CRASHprez delivered a good set, especially considering 95% of the crowd had no idea who he was. Apparently, he attends the University of Wisconsin so all of us Badgers were pleased to see a fellow student hold his own in front of a crowd of hip hop heads. CRASHprez ended his short set with a stage dive to much applause.
Next up was Kitty or Kitty Pryde. Before ordering my tickets, I had only heard the name…never any of her music. I watched a couple of YouTube videos of her in the days leading up to the show and I didn’t have strong opinions on her music either way. Nevertheless, I was still excited to see her. Kitty seemed VERY unsure of herself in the beginning, but in a quirky, tongue-in-cheek way rather than genuinely timid. Kitty started to loosen up when someone in the crowd passed up a beer. She only had a sip or two but it served to reassure her that we were happy she was there. Apparently, last time she was in Madison, a bunch of Wisconsin Badger football players somehow ended up at her show and didn’t take kindly to her brand of hip-hop. Oh well. By the third or fourth song, she was noticeably more comfortable with the audience and setting, as she was moving around more and even hopping down into the crowd a couple times to interact with the audience. She seemed to be having a really good
time and before performing a new song (which was over a kind-of-trap-kind-of-not beat) she explained, “This is a new song, you guys. I guess it’s my real hip hop song or trap song or whatever. I don’t know, I’m only like 12” referencing the ongoing internet discussion of her reluctance to reveal her true age. “Orion’s Belt” was definitely the highlight of her set and her rapping Riff Raff’s verse made it even more fun. She closed her set with the YouTube sensation “Okay Cupid” and thanked the crowd for being so cool.
Then we waited. There was about 30 minutes of music played without anyone on stage or any sign of Danny or his DJ. The crowd became quite restless and, after about 15 minutes, even chanted “Danny, Danny, Danny” to no avail. SKYWLKR received a healthy applause when he finally appeared. He put on an excellent DJ set, mixing drill rap with electronic and dance music. The set also sounded like it was completely improvised which made it all the more entertaining. He was onstage by himself for about an hour when the side door opened and Danny ran out onto the stage.
Danny’s first song was “Jealousy” and, since it only came out a little over a month before
the show, not too many people were expecting it, but the energy level was
through the roof. Next up was “Witit” which was INSANE. Danny went on to perform almost all of his up tempo hits including “Radio Song”, “Kush Coma”, “Monopoly”, “Blunt After Blunt”, “Molly Ringwald”, and “Blueberry (Pills and Cocaine)” to name a few. About halfway through the show, Danny rapped a never-before-heard verse acapella which will appear on “Old”, complete with mentions of giving a girl the Kanye-shrug, comparing himself to Roy Orbison and a reference to Santa Clause. Only Danny Brown, right? Danny sounded incredibly aggressive on the mic. He was able to switch back and forth between his high-pitched squawk and his mean-as-hell, deep-voiced growl without any effort. The switches even came at different spots in his performance than the studio versions of his songs. This, coupled with him using slightly different flows, made his performance much more than just the glorified karaoke session so prevalent in rap shows.
A big part of what makes Danny Brown such a great performer is his DJ, SKYWLKR. SKYWLKR does not take the easy way out like so many other hip hop DJs. He not only uses tracks without vocals, but actually plays with the track mid-song. He frequently adds EDM elements, additional snares, bass lines and even melodies. Production elements are also subtracted from the original beat. All of this is done with incredible skill and completely improvised. None of it sounds forced and all of it
sounds good. Every time I was able to peel my eyes off Danny’s antics, SKYWLKR was weaving and mixing tracks at 100 miles per hour on the boards. His stellar production/beat making mixed with his DJ skills would make Fool’s Gold Records a perfect fit for him.
Danny and SKYWLKR’s teamwork also allowed for a lot of crowd participation. Almost everyone there knew every line to every song so it was a very involved crowd. Like most hip hop shows, the music stopped for certain hooks for the crowd to sing along, but since the audience was so familiar with Danny’s lyrics, SKYWLKR stopped the music for Danny’s most famous lines as well. Danny also invited the crowd to fill in his signature “style!” and “check!” adlibs. He looked particularly pleased when the crowd yelled his famous “Cool Ranch Doritos” line louder than the actual music.
Being in the front row also had its perks. I’m a very small dude, so all the pushing and shoving at high-energy shows like this one can really knock me around. The stage gave me and my buddy the perfect anchor to save us from the borderline mosh pit going on a few rows back. I got tossed around quite a bit when I saw A$AP Rocky, ScHoolBoy Q and Danny Brown in October and thankfully it didn’t happen again. This venue was also quite a bit narrower than where I saw Danny last, so it made it much easier for security to crack down on weed smokers during the show. Still, two blunts did manage to be passed up to Danny during his set. Another thing I noticed during the few first songs was that Danny’s
jeans seemed to be unbuttoned and falling down. He would later explain that “the incident” in Minneapolis had resulted in the buttons of his $1,500.00 Balmain jeans breaking. It didn’t have any effect on the show, just an unusual little detail.
All in all, this was definitely the best hip-hop concert I have been to. All of the performers did a great job
and this tour is sure to pick up even more steam as it moves around the country. I would absolutely recommend making it out to a show to support Danny Brown and have an awesome time. To put it in his words, “If you want a rap show, pack up your backpack and find an open mic. I’m here to party!”
Here’s a new verse he performed for us, too!