Danny Brown on display

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Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

Danny Brown convinces listeners that he likes the idea of pleasure. I imagine the Detroit rapper stepping away from a mic, driving himself home, and opening a bottle of a Catena Zapata in front of House of Cards. It’s not that I don’t believe him when he raps about smoking so much he faints or about lines and lines of coke; it’s that the interaction between his lurid scenarios and his high, barking voice creates a not unpleasant distance. Often Brown comes off like a sixth grader imitating a female teacher behind her back: he’s amusing, a cut-up, an asshole who feigns shock when called on his shit. No moralizing on the histrionically titled Atrocity Exhibition: fifteen nights in Sodom that are “observational” if listeners think Danny Brown matters as an observer, “tales from the front lines” if listeners think Danny Brown’s fighting some sort of war. Perhaps the attractive distortions of Paul White’s soundscapes give that impression. Cumulatively Atrocity Exhibition is as powerful an aural statement as I’ve heard this year; while it may dissatisfy those fans who press 2013’s Old close, it generates the buzz of a formalist triumph. “Pneumonia” is trap music played in a blacksmithery, “Ain’t It Funny” is Only Built 4 Cuban Linx rebuilt as a steamroller. Through and above the ruckus is Brown, who eschews narrative for declarative admissions with either subjects (“Not get wet” from “Dance in the Water”) or verbs (“Flat screen porn on” from “Lost”) amputated. Atrocity Exhibition nothing — this is Fun House.

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