Danny Brown comes a little too close to becoming a real 'Atrocity Exhibition' in fourth LP
Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
Voice-stretching Detroit boy Danny Brown did the natural thing since dropping his 2013 masterwork, Old. He took enough time to craft a worthy followup, and while the timing is correct, what we’ve been given – his experimentally produced, lyrically safe fourth studio album Atrocity Exhibition – is solid but also somewhat of an expectable product for Brown’s standard at this particular juncture. The LP, which comes out Friday Sept 30 via Warp Records now available to stream early on Spotify and Apple Music, might be the victim of a little commercial overhype, not to the level of something like a new Drake or Kendrick album, but enough mainstream attention to wear down the glossy idea of the album a little for underground fans. The bottom line though is once you get some of this A.E. in your ears, you won’t easily regret listening, as long as you like hip-hop.
Like it or not, this A.E. Danny Brown is the same old Danny as before. We step into typical rockstar scenes of sex and drugs in the opener, “Downward Spiral,” with music of an unusually warped twangy door-shuttering type. The beats on the album, which deserve some high remarks, are sounds that don’t usually go with each other tossed together in the same receptacle, unfamiliar off guard catching instruments like the pushing horns of “Ain’t It Funny” and the easy-on sample in “Get Hi.” Back to the topics – a few cuts deliver words of meaning and message, but most of Atrocity Exhibition is dedicated to nurturing Danny’s crazy (rarely violent) side, once again. The mind-murked party times and quick spending of “Golddust” and “Pneumonia” and the hoe-complaints of “White Lines” (think about that title for a second) obviously won’t deliver something else as far as rap goes. A few of these songs seem to almost speak for themselves simply based on their names, and in general, it feels like the darkness we’re met with is a result of and combatted with more darkness or darkness to begin with.
When Danny decides to let some light show in, his offerings can be pretty thought-provoking though. “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” discusses various circumstances of the disadvantaged lifestyle with Dan giving particular instances and examples from his own beginnings of course, and similarly, “Today” has Danny warning of gun-toters and the general warzone-like conditions of the slums. “Hell For It,” which has the media-termed Iggy “diss” (more like a harmless jab), includes a fairly good deal of deep thinking by Dan, and it turns into an iron-willed promise to us that he’ll keep on, which we’ll need considering some of the album’s evident shortcomings.
Danny Brown should be complimented for the level of awareness he’s reached here but he should also be critiqued for not going far enough with it and coming close to falling on his face so to speak in terms of his staple goofball-ism. There is not a plethora of growth here by him, and if he is trying to be seen as a far-out rebel, he’ll only be able to convince mainstream audiences. Plus, it may be time for him to tone down his wild-man persona somewhat. It’s naive to think the reckless party animal in him would survive this long without more detraction and more pressure to improve. It was his signature wonder in years past but perhaps not now. On the other hand, the production by Black Milk, Paul White and others is so different and out there that it deserves some special praise. The biggest issue is that Brown in Atrocity Exhibition spends much time repeating the same talking points and tones that appeared on his previous projects. He frolics to conventional haunts instead of making many bold new renegade statements, but what we’re served here at the end of the day is definitely not an irreparable mess-up.