Rap is still blamed by parts of the media as a bad influence to the delicate youth of today. The promoter of a culture centred around violence, drugs and sexism. People who say these things often have a passing curiosity in a genre and art form that is more diverse and experimental than any other element of mainstream culture. Rap manages (even in its most successful guises) to create sounds and textures that you would only expect to hear in the most avant-garde of alternative artists. It backs this up with lyrics that cover areas of culture that are usually ignored or sidelined. Lyrics that can be highly personal, political and public. Occasionally artists mange to achieve all of them at the same time.
Nobody could call Danny Browns album Atrocity Exhibition a promoter of a gangster lifestyle. The opening track introduces him strung out, hung over and looking for means of escape from his unforgiving world and it only goes down from there. His addictions to Sex, alcohol and drugs both pharmaceutical and illegal are prevalent and are talked about as an honest portrayal of a man dealing with some serious issues. Even tracks that feature bravado and swagger will be undermined in the next track as he tries to grapple the complexities of his life and his vices. At times tracks come across as a means of catharsis, a way he can contemplate the issues and let them go in a positive way and move forward. There’s little wallowing in self pity here, Danny Brown is trying to find solutions and through the albums playtime you get the feeling he’s on the way to doing just that.
He is also Joined by a collection of features and collaborations big and small who all pull out their A game, enhancing and developing elements in their own way whilst fitting into the clear style employed throughout the album.
We have an album with great vocal delivery and well structured lyrics that look into the more insecure feelings from Danny Brown, but it’s the way that this is tied to the unusual and experimental production that really makes the album shine. When listening you just go with it. But take one second to analyse the musical accompaniment and you’ll find a kaleidoscope of alternative samples and instrumentation backed up with odd time signature drum patterns. It shouldn’t work and yet amazingly no matter how out there it goes it never feels out of place. Providing a perfect accompaniment to his verses. It does this time and time again. Track after track of instantly memorable and catchy music that reveals its layers on multiple listens.
Yet again Rap has gone in a unique direction from an interesting artist with a strong identity and created a wonderful album that manages to have modern popular design, yet bring in some of the oddest and most experimental production I have ever heard. The genre continues to dumbfound my expectations and Danny Brown achieved that the most for me this year.