MFNW Preview: Danny Brown

What you need to know about the Motor City's newest madman.

Danny Brown might be the biggest weirdo in hip-hop. The 34-year-old Detroit rapper has amassed a rabid following of rap fiends, teenagers, critics and stoned Adult Swim viewers with his nasally voice and hilariously dirty mind. As he prepares for a prime MusicfestNW slot and upcoming tour with Tyler the Creator, Vince Staples and A$AP Rocky, here are some important things every attendee should know about That Old Danny Brown.

He's been around for a while. 

Although most of his current audience came in about the time of 2011 album XXX, Brown is actually a veteran of the hip-hop underground. His background probably sounds familiar: a brief stint in a failed group (Rese'vor Dogs); a drug-dealing past; jail time. He released a mixtape with G-Unit rapper and bucket-hat aficionado Tony Yayo in 2010, but his breakthrough didn't come until he signed with Brooklyn label Fool's Gold and released XXX as a free download, an ingenious move in the age of streaming. 

He fucks with indie rock.

There's a reason Brown is often lumped in as one of the few rappers working the festival circuit. Not only does his music vibe with the EDM crowd, but his association with rock music also runs deep. This is a guy who listened to a lot of Joy Division during the making of XXX, referred to 2013 follow-up Old as the Kid A to XXX's OK Computer, and even drops the line "Radiohead shit/ Fiends with The Bends" on "Lonely." He's collaborated with Purity Ring, Charli XCX and Rustie. In 2012, Brown put in time tracking vocals with Australian cut-and-paste wizards the Avalanches, but considering they still haven't released an album since 2000's groundbreaking Since I Left You, who knows if his contributions will ever see the light of day.

He has two types of songs.

There are really two Danny Browns: the one who pops molly and makes frantic, trap-inspired party music filled with hilarious one-liners and punch lines; and the introspective, thoughtful guy who just wants to make underground shit and isn't afraid to get in touch with his feelings. Old was so critically acclaimed in part because of how well he balanced his polar opposites. Arranged like a vinyl album, side A is mostly laid-back, with fewer dick jokes and more experimental beats, while the wilder B side plays well at both the club and the rave. Even though Brown's music is forward-thinking and influenced equally by new trends in dance music and cloud-rap production, he's also somewhat of a formalist. XXX and Old are immaculately constructed records, put together with care and narrative structure in mind.

He likes to indulge in illicit substances.

This is another way of saying that Danny Brown raps about drugs. It's not just there in the song titles ("Blunt After Blunt," "Adderall Admiral," "Kush Coma") and lyrics ("Codeine in my cereal" is the first line of frantic highlight "Red 2 Go") but also in his interviews, where he's candid about dabbling in uppers, downers and psychedelics. Dude knows his basketball weedhead history, too. When asked by Complex magazine earlier this year what NBA personality he would want to smoke with, he said either Shawn Kemp or Isaiah "J.R." Rider, both former Blazers.

He's writing a children's book 

Not just any children's book, but a children's book inspired by Dr. Seuss. There is no way this won't end up really freakin' weird. Is Powell's taking pre-orders yet? 

Danny Brown plays at 6:30 pm on Sunday, Aug. 23.

WWeek 2015

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