new music: danny brown turns up the contradictions to new heights on the exhilarating ‘atrocity exhibition’ #soundcheck

September 29, 2016

What do you do when the high stops being fun but you’re still fucked up? That’s the question at the heart of Danny Brown’s exhilarating new record Atrocity Exhibition, now streaming 3 days ahead of schedule. “Your worst nightmare, for me is a normal dream / Have I learned anything?” Brown asks on “Downward Spiral.” The contradictions fuel a record that takes a zig-zagging tour of Danny Brown’s drug-addled psyche. The highest highs are followed by the worst come-downs, as he struggles to enjoy a success he’s fought so hard to achieve but barely remembers. “Everybody’s saying you’ve got a lot to be proud of / Been high this whole time / Don’t realize what I’ve done.”

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

It’s no question Danny Brown was making a statement front-loading the record with the three songs most damning of the public persona of the Adderall Admiral. He ditches his trademark high pitched flow on “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” for a song taking down the cycle of poverty-dealing-prison-poverty-dealing-prison he came out of. “This shit is like a cycle / You get out / I go in / This is not the life for us.” The Petite Noir-featuring “Rolling Stone” begs for release from the cycle he finds himself in now: feel empty-get high-come down-feel empty-get high-come down. The psychedelic and blues guitars peppering the first 3 tracks gives way to Black Milk’s menacing production on the already-classic posse cut “Really Doe.” Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt drop in for the career highlight song, but it’s telling where, when, and who Danny Brown employs guest spots. There are no time-filling verses here. There are no strategic verses given out for political reasons or radio aspirations. When Kelela drops in on “From The Ground,” it’s to lend the song the longing her voice conjures out of thin air. Meanwhile B-Real passes a blunt and a torch on “Get Hi.” The song sounds exactly like what you’d imagine a B-Real and Danny Brown collaboration would sound like. And we’re all better for it existing.

“I went through that shit / So you don’t have to go through it” is as close to an answer as we’re likely to get on the closer “Hell For It.” Here’s Danny Brown: determined, fucked up, brilliant, and can’t decide whether to self-destruct or survive. He’s always forged his best shit in the fire of his own contradictions, but Atrocity Exhibition turns that conflict up to new heights, throws it over some fuzzed out guitar and jagged beats, and delivers the best album of his career. In hindsight I guess it’s not that surprising but I definitely didn’t expect Danny Brown to deliver what is arguably the tightest and most thought-provoking psychedelic rock album since 1968.