Dance in the Water, Might Get Wet: Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition

Over the past three years, hip hop has picked up the slack where punk music dropped off. For me, this began in 2013, when Kanye’s Yeezus absolutely decimated anything else that was out there. From then on, it’s been on a steady incline – while most music that was considered “punk” was busy talking about cats, pizza, and the problems of being in your first year of college, hip hop seemed to be more socially aware and reacting appropriately to how fucked the situation is. Maybe that’s because the hip hop world couldn’t ignore what was/has been happening in the black community while the heavily-dominated white punk scene could. This growing discontent has given us a string of great albums from Tyler the Creator, YG, Pusha T, ScHoolBoy Q, A$AP Rocky, and a masterpiece in the form of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

Which brings me to Danny Brown and his latest Atrocity Exhibition. I’ve always sort of written off Brown. Having only heard “Kush Coma” and seen his interviews, I’ve always been entertained by him but never saw him as being anything other than a personality. He was a shock rapper and an occasional afterthought. Atrocity Exhibition turned the tide for me. My ladyfriend, a bigger fan, vouched for it so I bought the fucker on a whim to hear it for myself.

The first listen was a mixed bag. I feel like the entire hip hop community has discovered LSD because a lot of great beats these days sound like they’ve been beamed in from outer space or straight out of Brian Wilson’s head. This is true for Atrocity Exhibition but since I wasn’t expecting this, I wasn’t used to it yet and it made the first listen feel unfocused. I still dug a couple of songs. The cosmic vibe of “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” merged perfectly into the groove of “Rolling Stone” and Danny’s “get the fuck in or get run over” styled verse on “When It Rain” was hard not to like.

When It Rain – Danny Brown

The second listen brought out more moments I liked and found different songs getting stuck in my head – the K-Dot heavy track “Really Doe” with a beat that carries a level of melodic menace, the church chanting/tribal shuffling sounds of “Dance in the Water”, and the general euphoric tone of “Get Hi.” All of these tracks took on different lives during the second listen.

Really Doe ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt – Danny Brown

The third listen made everything start making sense together and every subsequent listen since then has been great. Other reviews I’ve read state that it’s a record you have to be in the right mood for – I disagree. After numerous listens, all you have to do is push play and the right mood will find you. If Brown had followed XXX with this record, he’d have a stronger stretch of records. Still, Atrocity Exhibition sees Danny evolve from a personality with artistic tendencies to an artist with a cult of personality. Do yourself a favor – buy Atrocity Exhibition HERE and see Brown in town if you can. His live set might be short, but it’s still pretty fucking sweet.

Pneumonia – Danny Brown


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