Detroit rapper Danny Brown has had a long and consistent career. For the longest time, he flew under the radar, his explicit and bizarre style appealing to a niche set of people. It wasn’t until his 2016 album “Atrocity Exhibition” that he garnered significant commercial success, with the help of features from rap game heavy-weights like Earl Sweatshirt and Kendrick Lamar. Now, three years later, Danny Brown has released “uknowwhatimsayin?,” his smoothest and most consistent record to date.
Much like “Atrocity Exhibition,” “uknowwhatimsayin?” is chock-full of talent. Artists like Run the Jewels, Blood Orange, Jpegmafia and Thundercat all grace Danny’s new album. The featured talent also extends to the production, which is the highlight of the entire record. A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip is the featured producer on the tracks “Dirty Laundry,” “Best Life” and “Combat,” each bringing a completely different sound to the pieces. “3 Tearz,” featuring Run The Jewels, is produced by Jpegmafia and makes for a headbanger with strong deliveries from all three rappers. El-P’s (of Run the Jewels) line, “If I’m correct the really cool kids probably calling it lit (hey kids)” is a very tongue-in-cheek line about being an older rapper who is viewed as being out-of-touch. The song is aggressive and hits you early on, testing you to see if you can get through the rest. Jpegmafia gets to lend verses in the song “Negro Spiritual,” where he is accompanied by Thundercat on bass, with production from Flying Lotus. The result is an alternative and distorted song with a fast-paced bass and Brown at his most disjointed.
Brown’s style is still as explicit as ever. He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to rapping about one-night stands gone awry and bullets successfully dodged. But behind some of his disgusting bars is Brown at his most sincere. In “Dirty Laundry,” he details hooking up in a Burger King bathroom with someone he sees the next morning doing her laundry in the same complex as him, subsequently apologizing to her and saying that he has to wash his clothes, too. There is an amount of experience and wisdom that Brown brings that is a rarity in the genre. In the song “Best Life,” he comes to terms with his life, repeating the line, “There ain’t no next life so now I gotta live my best life. I’m livin’ my best life.” In the title track “uknowwhatimsayin?,” he abandons a typical rap formula and instead quotes his own philosophies, keeping it real in his signature style with lyrics such as, “Like bad luck never get enough. Know what I’m sayin’?,” making for an honest and well-constructed title track
Danny Brown’s “uknowwhatimsayin?” is many things. It’s jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop; it’s disgusting and it’s beautiful. It succeeds at being a complete album in its composure, hitting you with the harder songs in the beginning and then further easing you into the album as you listen, symbolizing Brown’s own tumultuous progress through life. Behind the music is a man who wants us all to live the best lives we can, just as he has started to do himself.