Danny Brown's "Old" is arguably one of the year’s best albums.
It was strange when the tracklist for Old was released, as the album was divided into two different halves, but at first listen it's obvious why: they represent two sides of Danny Brown's multifaceted psyche and personality, as well as the old and the new. Garnering success after the release of his second studio album XXX last year, the Detroit-born rapper is more confident in his weirdness and originality than ever before, a major facet of his work that attracted fans; he's finally put it all on full display. The structure of the double-sided LP allows listeners to grasp the various thoughts inside Danny's head as he offers reflection, party songs, nightmares, hopes and dreams and addresses his past, present, and future self. He's still in touch with his old self, but is trying to evolve and build a new life and, subsequently, a new sound.
On Side A, Danny Brown attempts to exorcise his past demons by delving into his most emotional, harrowing material. He clearly has a lot to work through, though, as the party-ready Side B has bad memories popping up as well. Brown can't seem to contain the demons that haunt him as he describes his uncle's spousal abuse amongst other things on "Torture", one of the darkest tracks to drop this year. There's "Side B", where Brown addresses his crack-dealing past, a memory he seems to want to forget. The most emotional track on the album is definitely "Clean Up", as it finds Danny looking to get sober, rhyming about ignoring text messages from his daughter while he gets high in a hotel room. It's ironic that on a record whereupon Brown longs for maturity and sobriety, he spits about crushing pills, snorting drugs and getting high enough to float amongst the clouds. The 31-year-old clearly realizes he can't please everyone, but still attempts to balance the more reflective, emotional tracks with the weird, party anthem tracks that got him noticed in the first place.
Danny Brown is all kinds of strange, as he expertly displays on Old, his flow, rhythm and meticulous rhyme schemes changing from track to track. Brown's unique taste and self-title as one of the best rappers in the game is most strengthened when he tackles richly layered, complex production on tracks like "Dubstep" and "Way Up Here". Brown is vicious on certain tracks, his rapping aggressive and almost intentionally primitive, as if to exorcise his demons by rapping angrier, louder and better than his peers. On the other hand, he's more mellow and subdued on track such as "Lonely" and the Charlie XCX-featuring "Float On." Brown mixes in the mellow with the party-tracks to keep the fans guessing - the listener is never entirely sure what mood he or she is going to be put in by the controlled chaos that is this album.
Old sprawls inside the mind, the infectious beats and lines lingering inside the cerebrum hours after listening. You come to understand how and why Danny Brown has cemented his place in the game. The album should prove to detractors that any weaknesses has been compensated for with fresh honesty and confidence. On this strange but fascinating project, Danny exorcises his haunting memories while praying he can get old so he can see his "influence on this genre of music." This desire sums up Brown's new approach on an album that is arguably one of the year's best.
*Read all the words to Old at gotbars.com.