Old is Danny Brown’s second studio album with Fool’s Gold Records. The first, XXX (also released as a mixtape) was Danny’s quest with “experimenting and seeing how far he can push listeners… With ‘Old’ you think I’m talking about my age, or where I’m at in my career. But it’s really when I’m experimenting, making songs with Darq E Freaker and stuff, and then when I go back to my ‘hood, I have my people who be like, ‘Where that ‘Old’ Danny Brown shit at? I wanna hear that J. Dilla Danny Brown.’ So I [titled the] album for them.”
Danny Brown has had his ups and downs in the industry. After recording Hawaiian Snow with Tony Yayo, Brown had an opportunity to sign with G-Unit, but supposedly 50 Cent didn’t sign him because his pants was too tight? He went on to release his first studio album The Hybrid, followed by XXX, then the Black & Brown EP with Detroit producer Black Milk. Since, Brown has been named to XXL’s 2012’s Top 10 Freshmen List. His name has been buzzing on several guest appearances, and he’s finally to the point of becoming a common artist among underground Hip-Hop. Now, let’s get into the album.
1. Side A (Old) Produced by Paul White
Danny starts with “Side A (Old)” which is an introduction to the album. This track brings Brown back to the beginning of his rap career where he was selling nick’s for $3 and hustling on the streets. The hook is a great way to open up the album, “They want that old Danny Brown/To bag up and sell a pound/Might have to go and get my braids back/Matter of fact, go and bring them AKs back”.
2. The Return Featuring Freddie Gibbs; Produced by Paul White
Basically, Danny & Gibbs made part two of Outkast’s “Return of the G”. Danny switches up his flow here that sounds very similar to Gibbs, but he pulls it off faultlessly. The highlight of the track comes from Gangsta Gibbs,
Eastside niggas keep roaches in the ashtray
Twenty thousand out the public housing on a bad day
Drop it in the pot, if it ain’t lockin’ that’s some bad yay
Tryna save my soul I wish the lord would meet me half way
Devil on my shoulder as I’m whipping up this yola
And that motor hit the rotor ship this blow to Minnesota
Only option is a shoot-out if the police pull me over
This shit gets real as shit that’s on your Playstation controller
Call of Duty ass nigga, dick in the booty ass nigga
Don’t po’ up roll no dough up and I don’t get no cash wit’ cha
Feel like fuck the world, it ain’t no friends up in this business
Fuck my label show them that I’m the real realest nigga in it
Gangsta Gibbs, bitch…
The outro hook is nice too as Freddie Gibbs flips the original “Return of the Gangsta” lyrics. Even Paul White is impressive on the beat that has an Aquemini vibe to it.
3. 25 Bucks Featuring Purity Ring; Produced by Corin Roddick
The title illustrates how Danny’s mother used to charge him and his siblings $25 to have their hair braided. The song gets more specific dealing with Danny’s parents struggle for money and how he is now going through the same struggles. Canadian electronic pop group Purity Ring is on the chorus. The hook took time to sink in, but it eventually grew on me where it seems to fit the theme perfect. Plus, it doesn’t sound forced like some recent Hip -Hop releases experimenting with electronic music…
4. Wonderbread Produced by Paul White
Danny steps into his storytelling mode as he tells the story of going to the store to buy Wonderbread for his mother. In the story, he comes across dope fiends, gunshots, junkie prostitutes, a mad Arab store clerk, and finally a jump of fiends who end up jumping Danny for his bread. The hook can be repetitive, but the story is funny and it’s actually true.
5. Gremlins Produced by Oh No
This track was produced by upcoming West Coast producer Oh No (Madlib’s brother). Danny narrates the crime scene of young kids (Gremlins) in Detroit who cause the city chaos. He tells how they rob and kill for the greed of money, “A pair of True Religions dog, my lil nigga blast you/Listenin’ to 2 Chainz, ain’t thinkin’ bout college/I wonder if he knew that 2 Chainz went to college/I wonder if he knew that, would that change his mind?/Guess that’s somethin’ we’ll find in due time”. The last five bars show the karma behind the Gremlins’ intentions. It’s a really good lyrical track; I just wish it had an extra verse or two.
6. Dope Fiend Rental Featuring ScHoolboy Q; Produced by SKYWLKR
This song takes us back to XXX. We got SKYWLKR on a heavy based beat that is perfect for the whip. Then, we got Q and Danny talking about sex. We shouldn’t be surprised with the two’s nature, but these two seem to always shine on these type of tracks. If you’re a fan of XXX or ScHoolboy Q, then you should love this song.
7. Torture Produced by Oh No
Danny starts the first verse explaining all the crazy things he saw growing up and how he is no longer delicate to the exposure of the streets as he once was as a child. The first verse continues about how the horrors have stayed with him, and how it’s torture. The second verse is about selling crack to fiends and how these horrors led him to getting arrested. Once again, Oh No creates a darker beat that perfectly fits the story. Danny told Complex, “Torture is about how I can’t sleep at the end of the day because of all the shit I’ve been through. No matter where I’m at, I can still close my eyes and see baseheads”. Verse two goes deeper into showing this,
I feel like a prisoner of war
Reacting sporadically to what the mind absorb
Probably need a shrink, can’t get a wink
So I smoke a lot of kush and pop a Xanax to sleep
Close my eyes, look up, fiend said 1 for 8
Can tell that I scared him by the look on my face
Reached in my pocket served him nervous as a surgeon
Can’t believe where I’m at ‘pose be writin’ verses
Heard a knock at the do’, ‘Nother fiend wanted fo’
Gave him what he came for, told him go to the sto’
Lemme get a box a box of Swishers, Faygo Cola
Gave his ass another stone, now guess what it’s over
He ain’t come back, before I could look back
I heard the wood on the door crack, and they yelling police
With this work up in my jeans man, this a bad dream
8. Lonely Produced by Paul White
The song opens with a French expression meaning, “Well, maybe the bird, sleeping inside each of us, will rise up”. Paul White samples Morice Benin’s “Apocalypse” and gives the track a mellow experimental vibe. Danny Brown explains how he is living for the better and trying to make himself better. It goes further into our society and how some people start against the grain from a young age. This is a great track that takes us more into the mind of Danny as he states that nobody really knows him.
9. Clean Up Produced by Paul White
Here is another deep introspective track that has Brown rapping about cleaning up his drug act because it’s giving him nightmares and messing up his life,
I know it ain’t right, but in this state I don’t care
A whole week done went past, I don’t gone nowhere
Hotel rooms crushing pills and menus
Daughter sending me messages saying “Daddy, I miss you”
But in this condition I don’t think she need to see me
Ain’t slept in four days, and I’m smelling like seaweed
Problems in my past haunt my future and the present
Escaping from reality got me missing my blessings
Sent a couple G’s but that make it no better
And now I got habits that ain’t getting no better
And it ain’t that easy trying to get it all together
Been stressed for so long think depression done settled
This is that Danny Brown most people didn’t expect to hear on the album. After hearing these tracks, I see this doing nothing but helping Danny’s career. When he wants, he can really sit down and make some deep beautiful music.
Still rollin up, ho smellin like chicken
Rap Martin Lawrence, all you other rappers boring
Bruiser make 2 Live Crew look like some mormons
Nigga my essay is hard like a life-doin’ ese
Gang banging on the yard with a homemade machete
The nicest cassette tapes, stay smokin’ heavy
Popped a couple pills, eye’s glowing like Belly
Used to stash the cracks in the seams of my Pelle
Detroit nigga, but I’m smokin’ on LA
11. Side B (Dope Song) Produced by Rustie
The second part of the album starts with “Side B (Dope Song)”. This is supposedly Danny’s last song about dope, but it’s not his last DOPE song….get it? Danny goes in on the heavy hitting instrumental by Rustie.
12. Dubstep Featuring Scrufizzer; Produced by SKYWLKR
We get a dubstep song from Danny & Scrufizzer with SKYWLKR on the beat. Danny has been exploring with dubstep in the past recording with numerous artists. It’s a good song, until Scrufizzer gets on the mic. This song reminds me of working EDC – it was different and I liked it at first, but it ultimately turned into a long headache. The hook and a few bars from Brown are clever, but in the end, the song doesn’t come off too memorable.
13. Dip Produced by SKYWLKR
Dip is another up-tempo track, but unlike Dubstep where it’s about selling dubs, this is about doing molly. It’s not really my cup of tea but I can imagine this sounding a hundred times better in live concert. Depending on the person, you’ll either love or hate it.
14. Smokin’ & Drinkin’ Produced by A-Trak & JMike
This song is produced by Fool’s Gold owner and DJ A-Trak with help from JMike. We get another electronic type track that is now about weed, ecstasy, and alcohol. Danny has fun with the track, but I don’t see anything special about it. The hook is simple and Danny basically rhymes about getting too high. Brown definitely has talent, but he seems to be wasting it on tracks like these. It’s not terrible, but probably my least favorite song on the album.
15. Break It (Go) Produced by Rustie
This song reminds me a lot of Ludacris’ latest music video from earlier in the year. It’s another fun sexual song that sounds perfect for the strip club. I’m not going to score this as a standout until the video comes out…and it better be good.
16. Headstand Produced Darq E. Freaker
I suppose we are getting into the electronic/sex theme part of the album. We get another fast-paced track about dippin’ and pussy poppin’. Danny Brown recycles the twerkin’ mentality from Diplo’s “Express Yourself”, and turns it into a hook. It’s getting to the point of the album where it’s not bad, but it’s really not great.
17. Way Up Here Featuring Ab-Soul; Produced by Rustie
This beat is all over the place. There is so much going on that it’s hard to be attentive to Brown & Soul’s verse. And, after hearing their verses, you’re really going to be disappointed. The two spit hardly memorable bars and the beat drop becomes too damn repetitive. It quickly becomes a skip. It’s too bad because “Terrorist Threats” was one of the best songs of last year, and I had really high hopes for this song.
18. Kush Coma Featuring A$AP Rocky & Zeelooperz; Produced by SKYWLKR
This song was released for the first time earlier in the year. After numerous unfinished leaks, we finally get the mastered version with A$AP Rocky. It surely has got better since the first time I heard it. The beat my SKYWLKR is mesmerizing, and the song builds impressively with each verse. By the third verse, you should be in a kush coma… especially if you’re smoking on that OG. However, Danny’s first verse was my favorite,
Close my eyes, feel like I’m going down
In an elevator at 90 miles an hour
And all I see is stars and they coming at me sort of like a meteor shower
My forehead’s sweaty, my eyelids heavy, feeling like I ain’t goin’ make it
Cause inside my head’s like a firework show on the 4th July in Las Vegas
Said, I’m trippin’, I’m slippin’, feeling like I just can’t move
I done took me a couple more pills
Next thing I know, I’m taking off my shoes
And I’m on walking on these clouds like marshmallows
Nodding off, smellin’ like rose petals
Zoning out, two-three like the fiend in hell fire and angel wings
I’m conscious to that world, connin science ’bout that world
All these drugs up in me, it’s a miracle I ain’t mirror Kurt
I’m numb like a mortician, going dumb with Oakland bitches
They say you hella boosie, roll a backwood up with them cookies
19. Float On Featuring Charli XCX; Produced by Frank Dukes & BadBadNotGood
The last song on Old is just about getting through life. For Danny, it’s through pills, “Might have a mental breakdown, If it wasn’t for these pills here now, and no matter how hard it gets, I hold on, Rolling up this dope to cope, I float on, nigga I float on”. It’s a standout track that feels appropriate for the theme of the album.
Bottom Line: Old is definitely an album that takes time to sink in. And to be completely honest, if you’re not a huge Danny Brown fan, this record is not going to help. If you’re a fan of Danny, then you’ll most likely love it. Overall, Danny was very impressive lyrically. He gives us a look at what he’s gone through (streets, dealing, etc.) and what’s he currently going through (drugs, depression, etc.). At times, he’ll be going in on a more Hip-Hop sounding record, and other times, he’ll be going off on some outer space shit. Regardless, it works.
The ordering of Side A and Side B makes sense as you listen to the album more. Side A is more about that old Danny Brown people want to hear; those boom bap tracks and deep lyrics. Side B is more about having fun…if it’s through pills, weed or sex. When you first listen to the record, it sounds like Danny is really thinking about changing up his act, then we get to Side B which is basically about doing drugs and having a good time. Danny really sounds stuck trying to get his shit together. I prefer Side A, but Side B is not bad if you come into the project open minded or if you’re a fan of electronic music. The only tracks I wasn’t feeling was “Smokin’ & Drinkin’” and “Way Up Here”. They should’ve been better considering that A-Trak and Ab-Soul were on them. There are some iffy beats and styles, but too many standouts not to score this a 4/5.
I understand that Danny is going to make experimental Hip-Hop because he’s signed to Fool’s Gold and that’s really just his style. However, I really like hearing him on some Hip-Hop shit. I would like to hear him more with TDE and working with producers such as The Alchemist, Madlib, and Harry Fraud. This is a superb album that leaves his fans fiending for more. I still think Brown can do better (classic?)…he may just need to lay off the drugs for a minute.