After 3 years of relative silence, Danny Brown is finally back with his new album Atrocity Exhibition. The Detroit rapper made a name for himself back in 2011 with his breakthrough project XXX, which introduced most to his hyper, shriekish raps about partying, drugs and the quest to die like a rockstar. His last release, 2013’s Old, saw Brown keep the party going but also mix in some subdued, introspective songs about what happens when the party dies and your back home by yourself. Atrocity Exhibition finds the rapper picking up where he left off on XXX, delivering line after line of unhinged deliriousness that further increases his drugged-out rockstar persona.
Opening track “Downward Spiral” takes us right in the middle of Brown’s debauchery; just look at the first couple lines. “I’m sweating like I’m in a rave/Been in this room for 3 days/ Think I’m hearing voices.” The song contains strong ‘I Don’t Give A Fuck’ vibes, but even Brown knows that maybe he needs to slow it down, evident in the hook where he cleverly alludes to a line from the opening track off XXX. “And it’s a downward spiral/Gotta figure it out.” But does he really want to? For every dose of self-awareness there’s a call for every drug he can get his hands on, to the point where Brown is often battling himself. “Self-medicate is how I cope,” he explains on “Rolling Stone.”Feeling trapped, no looking back.”
Even with such dark themes peppered throughout the album, the album’s production give it a maximilist, post-rap grandeur reminiscent of projects like Yeezus by Kanye West, Bottomless Pit by Death Grips and of course Brown’s previous works. His trademark high-pitched squawk once again pairs well with the instrumentals, making sure that Brown’s rap stay center stage even amidst the urgent beats of tracks like “Ain’t It Funny” and “When It Rain.” As for influences, Brown told Rolling Stone that rock bands System of a Down, Talking Heads and Joy Division helped shape the album’s sound, and while you may not hear much guitar on the album, it’s the different types of production and styles that those bands incorporated into their own music that has made it’s way on Atrocity Exhibition. Kooky synths with bombastic drums inhabit “Golddust,” while “Dance in the Water” starts off with tribal-like chants. Producers Paul White, Black Milk, Evian Christ and others worked their magic to curate an album only Danny Brown could rap on.
As per usual with Danny Brown projects, Atrocity Exhibition is an acquried taste. Those wanting a smooth, even keeled record should probably stay away, though Brown showcases how fun an album as outrageous and uncouth as this one can be. Even being relatively gone for 3 years couldn’t stop others from taking his lane, making Brown one of the most unique rappers in recent memory. Whether he finally faces his inner demons or not, we’re definitely going to be listening either way, because Danny Brown is one of the only true rockstars we have left.