Listening to the 29-year-old Danny Watts spit his verses, you can sense a profound rawness you'd think you could only find in a poet rather than a Houston MC. His reputation for technicality, verbosity and a willingness to explore his own emotions in his music landed him in the radar of La Habra's very own MC/producer Jonwayne. In 2015, Watts found himself working full-time while being a father, ready to give up on music when Wayne followed him via SoundCloud. Watts decided to go out on a limb by messaging Wayne about collaborating when he got back the response "I don't work over the internet, hit me up when you're in L.A."
"So I was like 'Ok, I'll be there in a week'," Watts says. "We set it up from there and ultimately that first time meeting him we were in the studio and we were working on music which ultimately became my contribution to Rap Album Two."
Looking at this as his only chance to make it in the rap world, he'd take the helm on the beautiful lullaby-like track "Rainbow," unleashing what sounded more like a passionately delivered confession rather than the albums sole guest verse. For two years they would meet on and off in L.A. until Rap Album Two finally dropped this year. Wayne approached him about going on tour with him in the fall but with a catch; Watts had to have an album done by then. "He didn't outright say it, but I just kinda knew, if I don't get this album done right now, my shot of making an album with [him was] pretty much over," he says.
They took the 7 Day Theory approach to creating Black Boy Meets World, recording everything in a week with Watts writing all of the lyrics in the same time-frame. It's set to release on September 22 on Wayne's label Authors Recording Company with it being the first release from another artist besides Wayne. All the beats were produced by Jonwayne with guest contributions by artists like bassist Juan Alderete de la Pena, saxophonist Aaron Shaw and guitarist Paul Castelluzo. The musicians all come together to parallel a beautiful space between jazz and hip-hop with the instrumentals being within the same macro-verse as Rap Album Two. It explores four themes which come together to tell his early life story in a nonlinear format, hopping around like a Quentin Tarantino movie to form a therapeutic journey from the pain in Watts' life to the blessings he's been bestowed.
On tracks like "I Don't Trust Myself," he sets the tone of opening up with the sounds blending together to form a self-questioning aura of doubt as the track slowly bleeds into "Cards With The Devil". His powerful wordplay, the technicality of his flow and the unforgettable hook by Ray Wright of Warm Brew make this a standout track which captures just how deep Watts can take you with his later track Lester's Interlude serving as a self-reminder none of us are perfect yet all still deserving of respect.
On the banger "Young And Reckless," he places you in the car alongside himself as a teen riding around the hoods of H-Town looking for trouble with his homies as a beat reminiscent of Bodak Yellow (with a far more devious edge) sets the tone. But with recklessness comes risk, with Watts speaking on the traumatic experience of seeing his friend being shot & killed on the track Pill as he rhymes the hook "seeing death is a hard pill to swallow."
While the next track "Ain't No Problem" speaks on showing a lack of fear, little do his homies know the trauma cause him to hold a fear of death he never shows because he doesn't want to be viewed as weak. He confesses this on "Things We Have To Do", when he speaks about a robber pressing a gun to his head, causing him to freeze and choose to empty his pockets instead of fighting back. Realizing he's not ruthless like his homies, he tries to pull away only to reveal on the song "Back Again" just how hard it is to stop riding with a group of friends you consider brothers.
Ultimately, he escapes the group through moving on the track "Uprooted" but only to get a girl pregnant at age 17. He speaks on the hard truth of his anger towards his father for not being around in his youth due to work, only to reveal he's guilty of the same thing with his daughter on the track "A Lullaby For You" because a number of different circumstances, I wasn't able to be there as I would've liked to be."
The final theme in the album takes you all the way back to the beginning of his life on the track "Black Boy Meets World", speaking on growing up poor with his single-mother struggling to make ends met while simultaneously not having his father in the picture. Through all his pain though, he finds gratitude for his mothers sacrifices in raising him, a faith in god and a proud mother who ends the album by telling her son she's happy her son is still chasing his dreams.
"It's a coming of age story," he says. "A young guy who goes through so many things in his life that once he gets to a point where it's time to be a man in this world, you reflect on it...All of those things at that point definitely weren't desirable at that time in my life but they definitely made me the person that I am today."
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The true mark of this album is in its ability to navigate between confessing weakness and mistakes while still being able to hold confidence, making Watts a bigger man over others who would let pride get in the way of revealing their inner truth. These songs will give the youth permission to feel, to be afraid, to be sad, to be frustrated with their situation without feeling like it compromises their strength, with him showing them how accepting those negatives can help turn them into positives to make them stronger. Definitely buy this album as it's certainly one of the best releases this year and will stand out both in message as well as sound.
Watts' is full of passion, fueled by a father's desire to be a role model for his child and as a man to set an example for others by showing you can fulfill your dreams no matter what path you've taken in life. His eyes are set on becoming a hip-hop legend as he approaches his music career with the work ethic he's developed over the years hustling to make ends meet. He even looks at the recording of the album as his interview, finishing it as getting hired and the upcoming tour as a probationary period. To him it's a chance to prove himself to the masses in hopes of turning them into fans with a set date opening for Jonwayne October 5 at The Constellation Room. "If I can do that within this 60 days then I earned my spot, I can do things on my own now, I can make another album," Watts says. "I can go on the road by myself and set things up on my own."
"I've always thought to myself, I want to be one of the best," he says. "No matter how new I am to the music industry, no matter how many people are aware of me and how many people aren't, the work that me and Jon have done, the quality of the music, the stories that I'm telling, the way it's presented, the way it's conveyed, I don't see why I shouldn't have a top ten album of the year."