DANNY BROWN – uknowhatimsayin¿ REVIEW

At this point, I do not even know what I could say about Danny Brown that has not been said already. Danny Brown has been one of the most inventive and interesting rappers of the last decade; ever since he burst onto the music scene, he has made cutting edge rap music that is not only so different sounding than most other rap music also but is also very honest and open in a way that makes you feel like you know Danny. At the beginning of his career, the stories that Danny was telling sort of seemed like a cautionary tale; he did an excellent job in highlighting all of the good and all of the bad that came with his crazy lifestyle, and it honestly showed that although sometimes that life was fun it ultimately was not worth it at all. Since his last album, though, it really seems like Danny has cleaned up and become a better person; he has gone from your hilarious but problematic crack head uncle to your cool stoner artsy uncle. One may wonder if this shift in attitude would affect the quality of his music. Fortunately, that is not the case. Although uknowhatimsayin¿ is not as wild lyrically or sonically has some of Danny’s past work, the quality has not dipped at all. It is still as honest and open and ever, and is an example of how talented he is as a rapper because he does not necessarily need all of these crazy instrumentals to shine.

Up all night, toss and turn when I sleep. Pacing around, drowning sorrows in my drink. Can’t even think, got my mind wrapped up. But I still bite down, clench my teeth, knuckle up…

One of my favorite things about Danny Brown has always been how self-aware the dude is. I mean just check out the first couple lines off of the first song on this album, ‘Change Up’: they thought I was gone, now I’m back from the grave. Mind of a master, body of blood of a slave. Heart of a king, stuck in between. The devil and an angel on my shoulder when I sleep. The dude truly knows who he is for better or for worse. I know that I said this album was not as wild sonically as some of his previous stuff, but ‘Change Up’ does not fit into that assessment because it is pretty weird The beat is super 90s sounding and very reminiscent of Nas in a way, and the melody is made by a combination of an organ and piano and is honestly kind of unsettling in away. The whole vibe or this track is a very Danny Brown way to start the record. The next track, ‘Theme Song,’ is not as unsettling but still sort of scary and sad. There really isn’t much of a beat, and the melody is very somber, with a weird violin riff that comes like every four measures. It reminds me of a scene where mob bosses are meeting up in a mafia movie. Danny is very cocky and confident in this song, rapping at the bitch ass dudes in his city that think they are hot now because they have a little money. Danny Brown is making sure they remember who they stole their swagger from. After this, we get the song that was the main single leading up to the release of this album, ‘Dirty Laundry.’ The instrumental on this one is sort creepy and anxious and sporadic and I really like it. It is actually produced by Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, and this does not surprise me because it has that psychedelic and alternative feel that Tribe is known so well for. Danny Brown is truly airing out some of his dirty laundry with this track, using his abstract lyricism and comical tendencies to tell us that even though he never looks back, he still has some of the same misgivings that he has always had. He is definitely evolving, but will always be scummy in some ways. ‘3 Tearz,’ which was also a single and features the controversial political Hip Hop duo Run the Jewels, has a similar alternative conscious hip hop feel that the preceding song has. I do not think it is an accident that this song has the name it does and reminds me so much of the Wu-Tang Clan; Danny has talked in the past about how much he loves the Wu-Tang Clan, and this song through its style and title sort of seems like an ode to the legendary hip hop group(if you do not know why the name of the song is significant in relation to the Wu-Tang Clan, just look them up on Spotify real quick). One of my favorite things about this song is the El-P verse. That guy has such a smooth flow and eclectic lyrical style, plus he shouts out one of my favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, so I am sort of required to really dig this verse and song.

We are brought back into the weird crazy perverted classic mind of Danny Brown with the next track, ‘Belly of the Beast,’ which is honestly a great name considering the content of the track. The song is produced by Paul White, a frequent Danny Brown collaborator known for some of his weirdest instrumentals, and features Obongjayar, a British afrobeat artist who makes some very memorable contributions to a couple of the songs on this record. ‘Belly of the Beast’ is probably the weirdest and most classically Danny Brown type track on this record, and I am sure this is a favorite among his die hard fans. ‘Savage Nomad’ brings us back down to earth a bit, as it is not nearly as avant-garde and sporadic as the last couple of songs. The instrumental for this one has a psychedelic funk feeling that reminds me a lot of George Clinton. The melody also sort of has a reggae feel to it as well. I could see this being one of the more popular songs off of this record in the mainstream rap world because it is one of the more palatable and accessible songs on the record. I love the confidence and cockiness of this track; Danny Brown knows he is levels above and ahead of any of his competition regardless of his shortcomings. ‘Best Life’ was another single that was released in anticipation for this record, and it is honestly the song that sounds the most like it should actually be a single(the other singles are obviously pretty strange for being singles). It is one of the easier to listen to and accessible songs of the record. Once again, we get a 90s alternative hip hop and Wu-Tang type of vibe on this song; Danny Brown is truly wearing all of his influences on his sleeve with this project. Lyrically, this one is not as funny as some of the other tracks; it is a more serious self-assessment, as Danny is realizing he is a fuck-up but can still shine through his own bullshit. The title track of this record, ‘uknowwhatimsayin¿,’ is definitely another one of my favorite songs of the record, if not my favorite. This song seemingly comes right out of the disco era, having this trippy and funky instrumental that immediately makes me want to dance. Lyrically, this one is a little darker yet uplifting, with Danny rapping about how hard his life has been and that he will never give up. It is weird how this song sounds so hopeless yet so hopeful at the same time.

All these niggas gettin’ physical. On the outside, lookin’ spiritual. So hard for me, I took the backroads. I took the backseat, I’m at your back door

‘Negro Spiritual’ is the other track on this album that I feel like OG Danny Brown fans will really love, especially the ones who love his album XXX and the couple of mixtapes that preceded it. This song features Jpegmafia, who a lot of hip hop fans have been saying for a while would be a great collaborator with Danny Brown. Those fans were not wrong, as their weird and off-putting vibes complement each other in an awesome way. After that comes ‘Shine,’ which features Blood Orange and is probably one of the more “normal” sounding songs on this album. I really love the groove on this song, and Danny flows over it so nicely. I think that Danny and Blood Orange should make more music together in the future because they bounce off of each other very well on this track. ‘Shine’ is definitely one of my favorite songs on this record. Danny Brown concludes this record with the song ‘Combat,’ which is another song that reminds me so much of the Wu-Tang clan. The horns on this song are so early 90s; the song literally sounds like it was produced 25 years ago. Although his voice is not high and weird as it sometimes is, Danny Brown seems to have the most energy on this track out of the whole album; his mood almost seems combative(haha, get it?) For an album that seems to be a tribute to all of his influences, I think this was a great way to conclude this album for Danny. If you say you like old school rap and do not love this song, you do not know what old school rap is.

I have been seeing a lot of fans online comparing this project to Denzel Curry’s ZUU(which I reviewed and gave a good score to earlier this year so go check that out), and honestly, I can understand where that opinion is coming from. Similar to how ZUU in Denzel’s discography, uknowwhatimsayin is stylistically very tame in the world of Danny Brown’s music. Most people think that ZUU is a sort of transition album for the next wild idea and sound that Denzel wants to make, but I do not know if that is the case for this record. I think that uknowhatimsayin is an example of Danny trying to get back to his roots as a rapper and person. This album sounds a lot more like his early mixtapes than some people might realize, and it is almost like Danny was trying to show us why he loves rap music in the first place with this album. Although this very well might be a transition to something more wild and bold in the future for Danny Brown, I would not be surprised if most of his music in the future comes back to this overall classic tone that he loves. Luckily for us, it does not really even matter what “style” of music Danny decides to make next because he is so supremely talented that anything he makes will be good. Stream Danny Brown’s uknowhatimsayin below and let me know what you think of it yourself!

8.0/10

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