Evan Gabriel

Posts Tagged ‘mixtape’

In Case You Slept: Danny Brown’s XXX and Why You Should Listen

In Audible on May 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

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by Evan Gabriel

For Danny Brown, 2011 marked the beginning of fame with the release of his XXX mixtape. Listeners were hit with an X-rated style, which even caused non-Hip Hop fans to google the Detroit rapper.

On one hand, the first half of XXX is extremely celebratory—touting life as a fresh superstar, being signed to A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold Records and spoils of success, which in Brown’s case are most notably sexual exploits. Tracks like “Lie4” and “Bruiser Brigade” celebrate these triumphs endlessly. Yet beyond the superficial fluff of money and the smorgasbord of substances that power the thirty-one-year old, there is a darker side to XXX that sheds light on the beauty of duality.

On the second half of he album, Brown explores his history, the grim details of present day Detroit and all the natural horrors that plague most of the city’s impoverished inhabitants. On songs like “Scrap or Die,” Brown illustrates fictional (or nonfictional) accounts of the grim copper and wire trade in Motor City. What’s more, Brown directly addresses his audience taunting, “You probably laugh/ ‘cause you know it’s true,” eerily predicting his listeners’ responses to this practice of modern barbarity, like the pillage of the crumbling city’s shambles, its abandon houses and structures providing the very livelihood of natives. Can anyone say concrete jungle?

Throughout XXX, however, Brown refuses to let the listener settle on his depiction of fame or famine as the album’s sole focus. Instead, like reality, he balances the two seamlessly. To use a phrase from Detroit author Jeffrey Eugenide’s, Danny is not acting as “a cheerleader for Detroit.” Instead, the rapper depicts Motown as a real place, one of squalor and desperation. Yet above all the grit, the city is simply his home.

Brown’s debut mixtape ends in painful realism as he portrays his life constantly teetering on destruction: “If I don’t make it my life’s a failure,” he airs with a high-pitched delivery, causing the listener to view his unabashed history of poverty and drug abuse as essential to his fame. While songs like “Blunt After Blunt” and “Radio Song” have clearly reached a wide range of listeners, the skeleton of XXX comes from a darker place, one of financial frustration, self-consciousness, and the struggle to make it in the city’s iron heart.

Listeners of XXX are left with a graphic picture of the dualistic lifestyle that Brown continues to live. Whether celebrating raucous evenings backstage, nods of Xanies on his couch or ordering girls to sit on his face, Brown also shows the pain of drug-dependencies, the influx of mindless ramblings, MDMA infused sublimity and the overbearing past that leaves the rapper with a wide smile despite his missing front tooth.

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