Danny Brown is such a manic personality -- from the straightened hair that dips over his face like an '80s-styled perm to his penchant for stacking rhymes like run-on sentences -- that it's easy to overlook the fact that he's no ADD kid fresh out the suburbs. The 31-year-old Detroit rapper has bounced around the industry for years. He has courted fleeting label interest from Roc-A-Fella Records and 50 Cent's G-Unit camp; the latter helped make Hawaiian Snow, a collaborative mixtape between Brown and Tony Yayo. Still, most assumed Brown would be a marginal rap personality until XXX, a justly lionized 2011 album he issued on tastemaker label Fool's Gold Records.
With its Dust La Rock cover of a face outline with an acid tab on its tongue, XXX encapsulates hip-hop's current love affair with drugs; Brown indulges freely in pills and thrills while reveling in orgiastic sex. "Kush got a n*gg* feeling awesome/ Ate that b*tch's p*ssy 'til she squirted like a dolphin," he raps on "Blunt After Blunt." It's standard rap pornography, but he's such a clever lyricist, with his claims of having "Pac Blood," that he sounds hilariously debauched. He seems so happy partying all the time -- even claiming, "I want to die like a rock star" -- that when he shifts his tone later in the album, it comes as a shock. He reveals that he grew up poor, and that his parents struggled with addiction: "My fam liked to get f*ck*d up the same way," he says on "DNA." It culminates in "Scrap or Die," wherein Brown describes a life of petty thievery so pathetic that he sounds humbled by the experience.
XXX confirms that Brown has the potential to be a major artist, with depths unimagined by other, lesser rappers. No wonder that by album's end he sounds triumphant on "30," a title not only reflecting the age that he recorded it, but his dogged resolve to establish a lasting career. "Dropped a couple mixtapes on the 'net, n*gg*s tried to front like it wasn't all that," he raps. "But guess what, bitch, I'm coming back/ Guess what, bitch, I'm coming back!"