Danny Brown hails from Motor City, Detroit, the infamous city of industrial beginnings and humble homes. From the downtown areas of sprawling city life to the urbanized factories of yesteryear, Brown emerges from the rubble, born anew from the ashes of a decaying nation. He spreads his metaphorical and lyrical wings to reach into the unknown grasps of experimentation with his newest masterpiece, Atrocity Exhibition.
Brown has always been a frontrunner of using hip-hop musical style and a clashing abrasiveness to display a prowess toward showcasing an exciting and comedic element that had been seemingly missing from music. The lyrical style is brash, near slapstick at times, but never ceases to be an amazing standout display of raw, unfiltered emotion. From the bitter moments of “Downward Spiral” where Brown explains in a horrific manner; a display of loneliness, depression, substance abuse, and the uneasy feeling of emotional frustration. Brown explains, “Everybody say, you got a lot to be proud of, been high this whole time, don’t realize what I done. Cause when I’m all alone, feel like no once care, isolate myself and don’t go nowhere…Drowning frustrations in a ocean of sin, thinking irrational, I have no emotions.” This is the powerful catalyst for Brown’s emotional flooding and is the seguing momentum that Brown capitalizes on when shifting the boundaries from shades of tone on tracks like “Ain’t it Funny”, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” to the final moments of Atrocity Exhibition with “When It Rain”, where the attitude of the tracks change, but the tone and approach stays consistent.
There are moments of downright shadows on Atrocity Exhibition, where Danny Brown reaches into the ill-tempered recesses of the mind and takes those levels of emotional agony into a creative outreaching position. Not only is he managing to put forth a level of lyricism that is both mature and engaging, but he is also able to create a window into the darkness that surrounds fame, the chains of material possession, and the inner psyche of someone who might just possibly be insane. The track “Lost” is a prime example of how Brown manages to show this darker side of the mirror that represents Brown, but how he also still keeps his older, more childish style of lyricism where Brown explains, “I’m like Spielberg with lil ill words and hoes on that curb, gotta screw loose, I’m cuckoo, mentally disturbed but still smart enough to hit this bitch with a rubber.” It is the moments like these on Atrocity Exhibition where Brown shows his creative output while managing to still put a comedic spin on his twisted path and situations. Even with this being a mainly emotional disturbed album with lots of pitfalls that Danny Brown expresses through his own fish-eyed perception of the world around him, there are at times where Atrocity Exhibition is a beautiful album. The instrumentals are some of the most other-worldly and of the most off-the-wall style that it is incredible how Brown can somehow mold them to fit his style and manage to approach these beasts with a ready smile on his face.
Shifting momentum can be a difficult process for any producer or MC, but Brown uses his experience to launch into “White Lines” which is another track that really stands out for both the instrumental and for delivery on Brown’s aspect where he lyrically stands as a heavyweight. The hook of “White Lines” as perceived revolves around the topic of cocaine, but Brown leads a different type of perspective, Brown begins, “Lines and lines of coke, heart beating hope it ain’t my time to go. Take another snort, no way, no no… Lines and lines of coke, nose bleeding got me with an itchy throat. Heart beating fast, oh no, oh no, oh no.” All while the carnival-esque instrumental backs Brown in this constant clash of the light-hearted party style that Danny once had, to the now introverted style of beat selection that Brown sided with on this project.
Even before this on the hip-hop heavyweight track, “Really Doe” which features Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and other shadowy rapper, Earl Sweatshirt whose last project, “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” was another mostly depressive project that featured an introspective look into the personal life and new-found maturity within the career level. “Really Doe” is a truly explosive track and while it was featured as a single off the record, it is still an instant crowd mover when it rears its head on Atrocity Exhibition even now. While it is the most approachable track off of Atrocity Exhibition, it still features the only more up beat, straight-forward style of hip-hop track on the entire record.
Then as the final moments of Atrocity Exhibition flash in the distance, Brown still has a few tricks up his sleeve with one of the last cuts, “When It Rain” where Brown shows for one last time that he can rap on any style and he really does come through and shine through the strange, schizophrenic, and rapidly-tapping instrumental ripped straight from Brown’s blitzing mind. There are sections on this track where Brown just lets loose and begins an onslaught of his usual clapping lyricism, Brown near shouts, “Oh, you ain’t know that when it rain, when it pour, get your ass on the floor now. Oh, you ain’t know that did you? Better duck when you hear them gun shots go off, pop off when them shots go off, knock off, you tried to play me soft.” Brown then continues on to say, “Glocks all in your face, dog, no baseball, better run home. Hit ya lung, blood on your tongue, Exorcist, your head get spun, Exodus, I might forget. Bitch, when it’s time for your ass be done.” Throughout Atrocity Exhibition, Brown manages to exhibit a solid look into the true working mechanisms behind his career movements and the way that he operates.
Danny Brown might not be a reliable narrator for some of the stories that he personally embodies, but Brown makes Atrocity Exhibition a true to life display of exactly how horrible decisions can make for an electrifying experience and artistic outflow that captures in essence what it means to change the straight-forward styles of hip-hop, blending the lines of genre, and making for an experimental art show that reflects the darkest side of one man’s personal journey.