The Student News Site of Ithaca College

THE ITHACAN

The Student News Site of Ithaca College

THE ITHACAN

The Student News Site of Ithaca College

THE ITHACAN

Support Us
$1260
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Danny Brown raps a story of love, drugs and alcohol with hints of jazz

Danny+Brown+released+his+newest+album%2C+Quaranta%2C+Nov.+17.
Pitchfork
Danny Brown released his newest album, “Quaranta,” Nov. 17.

“You 40, still doing this s—?” Danny Brown asks himself on the title track of his new album “Quaranta.” “When you gon’ stop? But God gon’ make you quit,” Brown taunts himself underneath a dark, smokey and introspective instrumental that sounds like a nighttime walk through rainy city streets.

Quaranta is the Italian word for 40, marking this album as a follow up to Brown’s “XXX,” an album marking his 30th birthday in roman numerals. “XXX” became Brown’s career-launching album, defying all odds as a music artist in that age group, especially in a genre that emphasizes youth. “XXX” firmly and unapologetically planted Brown in the spotlight, ushering in a new era of underground and experimental hip-hop artists. “Quaranta” looks back on the 10 years Brown has spent as Detroit’s most divisive underground rapper.

“This rap s— done saved my life / And f— it up at the same time.”

Brown’s voice sets him apart from the rest. His nasal, high-pitched, whiny flows are definitive to his style. The ears are immediately drawn to his voice, which often sounds like it’s crying for help underneath the heavy and abstract beats he raps over. Lead single “Tantor” shows off Brown’s usual style, with a jazzy progressive rock sampled beat produced by The Alchemist that drives the song forward, while Brown’s stream-of-consciousness rapping meanders from topic to topic in what sounds like a drug-induced rant.

Brown’s musicianship has always had a strong connection with drug use. “XXX” was created during a point in his life where he was abusing prescription drugs; subsequent albums would often focus on themes of addiction and drug use. His admittedly mind melting verse on Billy Woods’ “Year Zero” earlier this year was recorded while Brown was blackout drunk. After a particularly concerning podcast appearance earlier this year, he was checked into rehab. Now completely sober, Brown can make his most introspective record yet. “Quaranta” is notably more soft spoken than the rest of Brown’s catalog, even though he still leans toward the unexpected and the bombastic.

By pulling back however, he allows his storytelling to become more subtle, which fits better for an album so focused on how Brown got to where he is today. On the heartbreaking “Down Wit It,” Brown reflects on someone in his life he turned away. “Lifestyle of this music s— / Had me on some stupid s— / Never would’ve thought I’d f— up who I’m closest with / All my fault, for the most of it.” He describes how his career has stunted his relationships, whether it be the fame, the drugs, the mental illness or the paranoia. Brown looks back on this person he realized he lost, someone he truly loved and was perhaps the only person that loved him back. “Now I’m realizing that I love her,” he repeats as he resolves into noise, a guitar solo playing him out. His delivery on this track, as well as most of the rest of the album, is deflated. The energy he so proudly displayed throughout his career is sucked out of him as he really evaluates the toll that has been placed on him over the years.

“Jenn’s Terrific Vacation” sits at the center of this album — a stand-out track — with some mind-blowing jazz drum grooves and dark minimal production from Kassa Overall, and some cutting commentary on gentrification. “Tell me what to do when the block gets slow, and the money get low, but the rent rise up / White folks popping out the blue, they done tore that down and made that to a Whole Foods.” The lyrical content, just like the instrumental underneath it, is bare and minimal but has some intense complexities and details. Brown shows a deep understanding of the nuances, complexities and severity of gentrification on this track, cementing its place in the long list of incredible socially conscious bangers from Brown.

“Quaranta” doesn’t slap the listener in the face with originality like some of Brown’s previous projects, but it still exhibits his boundless creativity in more subtle ways. The chorus of “Celibate” gives Brown’s wordplay abilities a spotlight as he seamlessly rhymes “sell a bit” with “celibate” with “cell a bit” with “sell a b—-,” in a song that impressively ties together ditching the drug dealer lifestyle with being celibate, with being incarcerated. Brown has always had a knack for attacking several issues at once within songs, and his ability to weave these themes together so effortlessly has only improved over his career.

“Quaranta” isn’t the most exciting Brown album, nor is it the most consistent — the track “Shakedown” holds no weight in comparison to every other track — but what “Quaranta” brings to the table is Brown distilled. It’s personal, it’s dark, it’s extremely reflective, it’s Brown without the distracting fanfare that usually comes to his defense when things get too real. “Quaranta” becomes a very brave album for Brown as he explores what music really means to him, after rapping both saved and ruined his life. He exhales on the beautiful and atmospheric final track “Bass Jam.” “Play another song, let the music talk for us / Have us shedding tears so we talk through the chorus.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to THE ITHACAN
$1260
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to THE ITHACAN
$1260
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Ithacan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *