Has there been an artist who combines the pre-post-apocalyptic nature of Detroit with the bygone musical influences that the indie kids of the 2000’s loved to say they loved? The answer is an unmistakable “yes”; his name is Danny Brown, and he’s the most unique voice of hip-hop of the 2010’s. In terms of his lyrical prowess, love show escapades, and persona, he checks every box that makes him marketable to the mainstream. But in terms of purity, Danny Brown has done everything in his power to carve his own lane without losing an ounce of oneness with his identity. Let’s be honest, very few modern rappers (or even rock bands) claim to love Outkast as much as they love Joy Division, or Radiohead as much as they do Dizzee Rascal; but even fewer wear those influences as a part of their sonic identity. And for the past six years, Danny Brown has seemed to be struggling to fit every twisted idea into a context that makes sense to his audience. Yet after two albums with his trademarked tonal shift, one single has encapsulated the soul of his music.
“Atrocity Exhibition” is the first song off the last Joy Division album, and is the name of Danny’s fourth studio album. But the first single, “When It Rain”, represents a rebirth of sorts, an expulsion of the chrysalis the media has marginalized him into. It serves as an introduction to Warp, home of Aphex Twin, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Flying Lotus. And it serves as a signal that Brown has synchronized his influences, personality, and ideas into a succinct dance track. The eerie hums and percussion whiz by, distinctly setting the scene for the deserted world that produced him. The simple bass pulses in a recursive fashion. Paul White, who helped transform This Heat’s “Horizontal Hold” into “Adderall Admiral“, has made a madcap attempt to distort the percussion stylings from the opener of Closer into a hypnotic gallop with a chirping screech from Danny. And once he sets off, he never leaves the pocket; his furious lyrics composite the raw fetishization of the streets: murder, fucking, drugs, and the hubris that comes with the behavior. But the effortless shifts into the existential wondering make the song a powerhouse. The emphatic delivery of lines like “Living every day like it’s the end. Just waking up, feelin’ like a sin” and “Ain’t no water, how a flower gon’ grow? Ain’t no change, then how we gon’ change? No umbrella, we stuck in the rain” fuse the steady danceable elements and the lyrics into potent structure. “When It Rain” sears every element of Danny Brown into a demented and uptempo track that serves as his necessary inauguration to Warp. Even the hook works as a sort of fusion of Danny’s new identity, acting as an alteration to the idiom. “When it rain, when it pour, get your ass on the floor now”; a command to indulge in the hedonism during life’s worst moments, and a summation of how far Danny Brown has come.
– T. Pennington