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Danny Brown, Good for Detroit’s Economy?




It has been quite the interesting year for Fool’s Gold recording artist, Danny Brown. After performing at just about every known festival across the country and touring several times around the United States and Europe, Danny Brown finally unveiled his third studio album, ‘Old‘, streaming free on Spotify September 30th and available on hard copy October 8th. The album was so highly anticipated that it had his local US fanbase switching their computer IP addresses to Australian addresses, just to get a glimpse of the album 24 hours earlier. The album is somewhat of a concept piece showing off the Detroit rapper’s two distinct personas, almost a past and present Danny Brown. As the track names suggest, the album is broken into a ‘Side A‘ and ‘Side B‘, like an old vinyl LP.

Side A‘ features 10 tracks, each giving an often graphic depiction of what life in Detroit was like, before fame, for the ‘Old‘ Danny Brown. Although he admits to using and selling drugs to escape the harsh realities of the city, it is not the entirety of his content, as it is for so many artists in the hip hop industry today. All ten of the tracks on ‘Side A‘ are unique, to say the least, each offering Danny’s perspective on very different issues within his city. On ‘25 Bucks‘ he tells a haunting tale, over Purity Ring’s, Megan James’s, even more haunting vocals, about his mother, braiding hair on the porch to feed the family and keep him off the streets. ‘Wonderbread‘ and ‘Torture‘ both vividly depict the prevalence of violence and drugs that he was exposed to as a young child, being robbed and beaten for a loaf of bread on the way home from the market. The latter of the tracks focuses on how the horrors he was exposed to as a youth have affected him psychologically, alluding to the concept of post traumatic stress disorder. If Danny’s content is starting to get you a bit depressed, don’t eject the disc just yet, the album is about to make an abrupt change of direction.

Side B‘ is the polar  opposite and this is the portion of the Album where he really exemplifies the one trait that makes him stand out from every other artist in the game right now; his uniqueness and ability to cross genre lines. His style has caught the attention of hip hop fans and indie fans alike, pushing Alternative Hip Hop further into the public eye. The track ‘Side B‘, or ‘Dope Song‘ intros the second half of the album perfectly. The song is a smooth transition from the melodic, lyric-driven ‘Side A‘ to the bass-pounding, high strung, high energy, party songs of ‘Side B‘. The now 32 year old recording artist, makes it clear that this is his last ‘Dope Song‘, and that selling drugs to get by may have been the ‘Old‘ Danny Brown way, but that is a closed chapter in his life. He has moved onto bigger better things, selling dope music to his fans. For the remainder of the album, you can really tell how his life has turned around, a lot less talk about using ovens to heat the house and a lot more talk of designer clothes and wild parties. Witnessing this transformation gives Detroit, as a whole, a reason to be hopeful. Danny Brown has noted that as a kid in elementary school, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would always answer, “a rapper.” The fact that it wasn’t until he was 30 that he started getting widespread recognition, really accentuates his dedication, persistence, and the amount of work he has put into getting where he is now, especially after you become aware of how limited his resources were. This is exactly the success story Detroit needs.

The Linwood native paints an all too vivid picture of Detroit, and not only through references to Faygo Cola and Coney Island. Danny Brown brings awareness to the problems burdening many Detroit families and neighborhoods; the lack of nutritious food options in urban neighborhoods, the urban blight that lines Detroit streets with abandoned houses and lots, the lack of working street lights, just to name a few. On July 18th, 2013 the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy. Detroit is not the only city to have ever gone bankrupt, but the size and history of Detroit makes the situation unprecedented. Since the bankruptcy filing, Detroit has already made some drastic changes in terms of improving quality of life, through a large scale overhaul of the city’s infrastructure.