Detroit rapper Danny Brown returns with the brilliantly titled ‘Uknowhatimsayin¿’, his follow-up to the industrial and post-punk tinged modern classic ‘Atrocity Exhibition’. The screwball MC has straddled the line between rap superstar and experimental music deity since the release of his breakthrough album ‘XXX’ way back in 2011, meaning you’re just as likely to see him reviewed in The Wire as seeing him lend a verse on a track with rap royalty. ‘Uknowhatimsayin¿’ is an alternative rap record released on the legendary Warp Records, complete with production from A Tribe Called Quest legend Q-tip and guest spots from Run The Jewels, Blood Orange, and hyped underground MC JPEGMAFIA. Danny has once again reimagined what a hip hop album can and should be with his latest opus.
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Danny Brown, all grown up. Not like ‘Grown Up’, the revivalist boom-bap tune Brown dropped back in 2012 which remains by far his most-streamed song on Spotify despite being (or perhaps because it's) so out of character for this otherwise challenging artist. No, he’s actually grown up - cut his hair, fixed his teeth, an early-middle-age paunch just starting to show beneath his designer streetwear. To all intents and purposes, Danny Brown is now Uncle Danny.
That said, on fifth album ‘uknowhatimsayin¿’ Danny is … not a dirty uncle, exactly, but an uncle with the sort of sordid past he’ll get to talking about after one too many sherries at Christmas. Like ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, ‘XXX’ and the rest, ‘uknowhatimsayin¿’ is still a masterly splitting-open of the head, an outpouring of memories and traumas elevated to be by turns funny, disturbing, lurid and shocking through Brown’s hyena-voiced flow.
The difference here is how collected it all sounds. In the past Brown’s music has tended towards mania, his beats often overloading the senses as Brown yammered breathlessly above them. By contrast ‘uknowhatimsayin¿’ contains itself across its eleven tracks, no doubt kept in check by the eye of executive producer Q-Tip. First track ‘Theme Song’ makes for a good point of comparison - like all of Brown’s other album openers we find him with his back to the wall, but rather than sounding hounded by the world Brown here faces it down with steely determination, an icy certainty giving extra force to the refrain of "I'ma keep goin', you cannot blame us/Never look back, I would never change up". I hope he never does.
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