There’s no getting around it: Danny Brown is a profoundly weird dude. He’s hip-hop’s Technicolor Dreamcoat: a word-drunk rapper with the technical skills of a Scribble Jam champion, the ability to rap over any beat you throw at him, the imagination of a Dadaist genius, no front teeth and a slash of hair that belongs on the teenage frontman for a crappy screamo band. At a glance, Brown reads hipster; listen to a song or two, and it becomes abundantly clear that he’s hip-hop. No wonder he called his 2010 album The Hybrid.
Success has not come easy for the Detroit spitter, who spent his twenties selling drugs, bouncing in and out of jail, and buying studio time when he could, hoping for a break. He had a few opportunities: His was the standout verse on a posthumous J. Dilla album, and after recording Hawaiian Snow, a collaborative mixtape with Tony Yayo, he was a blunt ash or two away from signing with 50 Cent’s G-Unit crew. But Fiddy was turned off by Brown’s abject weirdness—a quality that helped him attract his recent torrent of acclaim.
Following the 50 Cent fallout, Brown signed with the dance label Fool’s Gold, which financed his mixtape, XXX. It’s a daring project, rife with the typical rap tropes of drugs, tough talk and out-there boasts; Brown brings such an intense oddness to the project that it feels fresh, almost revolutionary.—Drew Millard
Danny Brown plays Coachella Saturday April 13 and Saturday April 20.