Album Review: Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition

Written by on October 20, 2016

Danny Brown’s explicit style and unbreakable flow shine on his new LP Atrocity Exhibition.

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Scribed by: Tyler Thompson
Album: Atrocity Exhibition
Artist: Danny Brown
Label: Warp Records
Release Date: September 27, 2016

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A three year hiatus has passed since Danny Brown’s last project Old, an album I latched to and it was the first time I had ever listened to the Detroit MC. Upon first listen Brown’s flow, illuminated by his shrill vocals, is noticeably consistent through each of his tracks.

Brown’s subject matter follows the temporary highs and detrimental long term lows of drug abuse. He accounts from personal experiences growing up in Detroit where he sold drugs at the age of 18. He spent time in prison which delivered his epiphany to focus on his passion for music. Enter Atrocity Exhibition.

Brown excels in painting the horror in Atrocity Exhibition. It almost feels pre-meditated that he would drop this new project on the cusp of October and (my second favorite holiday) Halloween, because every beat shrouds the listener in twilight – it takes the listener to a dilapidated place with Brown’s horrors on display.

Take for example the music video for his single “Pneumonia.” Brown’s visuals brings the concept to life. He hangs from chains as he raps, laughs manically in pain while he bleeds from his mouth. The cuts to Ronald Reagan on eerily stacked televisions behind Brown are a possible homage to J.G. Ballard’s experimental literary novel, Atrocity Exhibition. Reagan is a source of inspiration in one of the stories.

Brown’s fourth installment is named after a Joy Division song of the same name, drawing inspiration from Division and Talking Heads, he told Zane Lowe on Beats 1 Radio. New wave is caked throughout each track.

Brown’s opening track “Downward Spiral” sets the tone for the album and solidifies the concept.

“Everybody say, you got a lot to be proud of/Been high this whole time, don’t realize what I done/Cause when I’m all alone, feel like no one care/Isolate myself and don’t go nowhere.”

The beat sounds like it was born deep in the bayous of New Orleans; an ominous Voodoo-esque environment blooms.

Brown samples Joy Division’s song “Atrocity Exhibition” on his 13th track “Golddust,” with a slight variation with emphasis on the guitar and added horns. The track following the projects concept, the atrocities of heavy drug abuse — golddust=cocaine.

“Bloody Marys at brunch/From last night still drunk/Popped a Adderall nigga that was my lunch/And I gotta hunch”

Brown’s album is also packed with delectable features including Kendrick Lamar, EARL Sweatshirt and Ab-Soul. Lamar, Sweatshirt and Soul lend their bars on “Really Doe,” another one of Brown’s singles. This track is more up-beat and not as dark, a good one to vibe to while you’re cruising.

This is arguably Brown’s best project to date. Brown’s interview with Zane Lowe revealed this was the biggest budget he’s ever had for an album. I’ve been consistently playing Exhibition throughout my day-to-day. The album seemingly gets better the more I listen to it – I discover a deeper connection while unraveling what Brown is saying.

My favorite track? “Ain’t it Funny.” The most energetic song on the album that emphasizes Brown’s impeccable flow, take that one to the gym with ya.

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