It’s been a tremendous year for Detroit rapper Danny Brown. Not only did he appear on The Avalanches’s unbelievable return record after a sixteen-year break, but he delivered his own hotly anticipated follow-up to 2013’s breakout album Old. Both records are very likely to appear on “Best Of” lists in the next couple of months, and some of their best tracks are those that feature Brown. His fire can’t be put out, nor will he let it, as his latest record is proof of how much the rapper really has “Grown Up” over the past decade.
Atrocity Exhibition is arguably Brown’s most audacious set of tracks, forming a concept of maddening decent. It’s closely related to his previous effort, XXX, but his openness and approach to experimental production and tighter vocal delivery on the new LP sets an entirely new bar for him and, honestly, modern hip hop. It’s a release to behold in a year already spoiled by so many fantastic hip hop records, which is why I absolutely made it a necessity to see Brown perform during his LA tour stop supporting it.
I’d never seen Brown live before, and I am pretty glad I waited to see him at The Fonda Theatre after his latest record’s release. For an unstoppable and unbreathable hour, Danny Brown shaped his show as a display of his latest trifecta, chronologically hitting the singles and select tracks through to Atrocity Exhibition, which was much more interesting from a conceptual standpoint that has now become synonymous with his work. It’s a lethal strength he has ahead of other rappers who would otherwise perform a bunch of tracks thrown into a setlist without much thought other than matching energy.
The only hinderance of this concept is, considering it’s called the “Atrocity Exhibition” tour, those tracks obviously didn’t appear until the end of his set, of which he only played the recently released singles. I would have really loved to hear more tracks from the album, like the incredible speed of “Ain’t It Funny” or the searing “White Lines,” but it’s hard to complain when you’re watching him tackle “Die Like A Rockstar” and “I Will” and “Dip” and “25 Bucks” to a crowd already riled up from Zeelooperz and Maxo Kream and uncontrollably lit and insane because of it.
I had unfortunately speculated that Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt — all LA-based artists — would join Danny Brown for their features on the banger “Really Doe,” but Danny Brown only performed his verse and was done with it. I’m not sure what was on everyone’s schedules, but I feel like this was a missed opportunity in an otherwise explosive and ridiculously fun show.
Danny Brown is no longer a rapper to watch but the rapper to watch, an adrenaline-pumping personality who entertains in equal measure with his experimentations and injects a much-needed twist to hip hop that sounds nothing like it. He’s an acquired taste, but take the explicit, ludicrous, funny, sad, and all-around emotional plunge and you will soon realize that it’s 2016 and music needs this. See Danny Brown live — straight up.