After approximately three years, Danny Brown has finally released a long-awaited new album. With his previous project, Atrocity Exhibition, being what I believe to be one of the best rap albums of all time, my anticipation for his new work is high. I’m not the only one with formidable expectations; the enigmatically titled unknowhatimsayin¿ brings promise of out-of-this-world beats accompanied by a crazed sense of mania. These are both stylistic trademarks of Danny Brown, and all of this creative insanity comes in a nice thirty minute package. And, with production from legendary A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip, the excitement about this album only mounts from there.
Never afraid to reinvent himself, the promotion and style of this album reflect a more grown up and put together version of Brown. His signature long, unruly hair is cut down to a cleaner, more mature, look. Similarly, this album’s themes and sound are more clean and suave than what I’ve become accustomed to from his past releases. This is due in no small part to Q-tip’s impressive contributions to this album. The celebrated producer masterfully dishes out sample heavy, lo-fi beats that sound like a Soul Train tape set in a New York City subway platform throughout the record. In other words, it sounds amazing. In tandem with this, Danny Brown has introduced a more laid back (but still very out there, true to form) rapping style in most of his songs.
This is shown immediately in the first few tracks, as the opening track Changeup sets the scene with its introspective, solemn rapping about how Danny wants to stay true to himself despite wrestling with his troubled past. This sentiment is acknowledged, but largely ignored in the first single from this album, Dirty Laundry, which is an ode to the reckless lifestyle Danny has adopted. This track features one of the most inventive and infectious beats I’ve heard in years, and it showcases a standout instrumental. This already awesome sound is only made better by the fact that I couldn’t imagine anyone but Danny Brown rapping over it. With soaring choir sections, chaotic beeps and horn samples rhythmically falling into place, it’s no wonder he released it as the first impression to this album.
As we dive deeper into the album, I must address what I feel is the elephant in the room; this being the final track, Combat. It is easily, in my opinion, the best rap song of 2019 so far. It’s incredibly simple but with an unbelievably groovy beat, and its many chantable chorus’ (chorusi?) send me into an absolute frenzy. The ice cold opening line, “I could talk a cat off the back of a fish truck” perfectly encapsulates the slick, effortless rapping this album highlights from Danny so well. It also conveys a message prevalent in Danny Brown’s work; a tale of desperately trying to make ends meet through poverty on the harsh streets of Detroit, a reality Brown himself experienced. I couldn’t imagine a better track to express this narrative. However, this isn’t the only track on this album that features these themes. Take for example, the unapologetic and gritty Savage Nomad delivering cool bars about the harsh realities of Danny’s upbringing over broken guitar samples, cymbal crashes and record scratches.
The only slight sour spot on this album, for me, is the track 3 Tearz, which has a pretty disappointing feature from Run The Jewels. Despite releasing a couple of the best rap albums of the 2010’s, this legendary musical duo fell flat for me. They sound crude and unimaginative as their usual brand of obscene aggression prevails throughout the track. The song also features a pretty lame chorus, but I still don’t think it’s that bad, and it certainly doesn’t taint the album too much. In the same breath, I would be remissed if I didn’t mention the greatness of another song with a feature on this album, Shine. With one of my favorite RnB artists, Blood Orange, delivering a sultry chorus over a banging, ethereal beat to accompany Danny’s morose rapping. All together this album has lived up to my expectations and will surely provide me with years of sustenance as I anxiously await Danny Brown’s next project. Overall, I’d give this album a very impressive 9/10.