The Glass House
Detroit rapper Danny Brown must be on one of the best naturally induced highs of his life right now. He just dropped his new album Old to a suffocating wave of acclaim from critics and fans, and his career is at an all-time high, with features on him by virtually every major outlet and venues across the country booking him as if he's about to retire. A few years ago, he had to embark on a long bus ride just to grab a cheesecake, and now we're sure he has people who would probably pay to bring him a wholesale supply of cheesecakes.
Today, Brown is one of the best live performers in hip-hop. He doesn't have the budget of Jay-Z and Kanye, but he has enough charisma and sheer energy to flip a festival crowd from stagnant to starstruck by simple letting out his out high-pitched cackle. He can play alongside bands, DJ's, or whoever else is booked that day, and usually outshine them as if he's always the headlining act wherever he goes.
Last Friday, Danny Brown hit the Glass House for a more intimate offering. There were no robust production crews or outdoor stage setups, just the Glass House's eternally basic- but-functional small stage and a floor full of fans who probably would place Danny near the top of their “favorite rappers” list.
After a compact warm-up set by Brown's longtime producer/DJ SKYWLKR, the Detroit MC jounced onstage and within seconds began running through the usual set of flash-bang detonators he uses to kick things off. “Witit,” “Molly Ringwald,” his verse on Childish Gambino's “Toxic,” “Express Yourself,” and “Blueberry” were all performed to their maximum effectiveness. As always, the attraction was split between both the quality of the songs themselves and Danny's on-stage persona, which is equal parts Muppet and maestro. Even if he's fatigued, he looks like he's hosting his own personal party on stage, and as far as rap's technical terms are concerned he's a first-class professional. There's never any woozy attempts to keep up with the beat, slurred words, or missed lines.
Brown's hour-plus performance never let loose of its intensity. With the release of Old, particularly “Side B,” he now has a fully complete arsenal of rave-ready anthems. He's talked in the past about the live circuit being the real source of income for his career, and he's certainly catering to that. It's not in a bad or distasteful way either; Brown is a student of hip-hip, but comes from the birthplace of American dance music. He completely understands how to craft obscenely good party jams, and for his shows he manages to take the fervor surrounding an artist's initial appearance on stage and stretch it out over an entire outing.
Even Juicy J has to slow down a little sometimes, but on-stage Danny Brown appears to have no “stop” button. Before exiting he thanked the crowd and A-Trak and launched into “Blunt After Blunt” and “Kush Coma,” hinting at a possible smoke-smothered calm after the storm. But, right after he finished he ended his set with the A-Trak produced party ode “Smokin and Drinkin.” There's no such thing as “turning up” with Danny. When he's in front of his audience, there is only one big celebration to be had.
Critic's Bias: This was about the seventh time I've seen Danny Brown, and Old is definitely in the running for Album of the Year.
Random Notebook Dump: During his DJ set, A-Trak dropped part of upcoming Atlanta rapper Young Thug's “Stoner.” That alone is enough to make us like A-Trak.
Random Notebook Dump #2: Constant crowd surfing — and its attempts– work better at Danny Brown shows than almost any other hip-hop shows. It's to be expected now.