Detroit's foul-mouthed rap innovator Danny Brown is several years older than many of his XXL Freshman Class counterparts at age 31, but in many ways his style is fresher than any of them. Last year's free album XXX found Brown rapping like his life depended on it, touching on everything from joining the long list of famous deceased, drug-addled celebrities to scrapping abandoned houses to the joys of eating pussy, and his intelligent and unique approach shot him to the top of many critic's year-end lists (including an Artist of the Year nod from City Pages).
Gimme Noise caught up with Brown in anticipation of his appearance at Soundset on Sunday, May 27.
Gimme Noise: The album XXX seems to have more of an arc to it than your previous work. Was there a different process in writing those two albums?
I would say I wrote them the same way, I just wrote them different. With The Hybrid, I pretty much got all the production and played with the sequences til I figured out which sonically sounded good together. With XXX, I just made the songs. After I got into the groove of it, it just started to take on a life of its own. I was in the middle of it and it started to make me feel a certain way. It's like I was subconsciously doing it the whole time. Once I was like five or six songs away, I knew what I was doing then, so I made songs that went with the whole concept of the project.
The last track "30" encapsulates that theme; it starts right off the bat with a dick joke and by the end its an impassioned screed about your struggles and how far you've come.
I wrote the intro and the outro last. Those were the last two songs I wrote for it. In the beginning, I was kinda looking at it like, you pick up a DVD or something. That's what that was, then the outro is pretty much like the credits is rolling, like the last scene.
Are you working on any new material now?
I'm the kinda person that just writes and writes and writes. When I make my music and I write songs, I want to take as much possible time as I can. Don't get me wrong, a lot of good stuff can happen spur of the moment. I don't want to discredit that formula, I just know what works better for me. I write shit at home, and listen to the music and just perfect it before I even get into the booth. When I'm in the studio, no joke, I could be there for an hour and record six songs.
The energy seems to come off stronger that way.
I think I actually learned -- I ain't gonna say learned, cuz I had to really teach myself how to write songs, but in some sense [I learned that from] English class, writing book reports. Write a rough draft, write the first draft, and the second, you know what I'm saying? I do that a lot with my verses, and maybe that's the only thing I learned from school. I do a lot of rewriting and editing, so you know it's perfect. There's a lot of things you wanna say, but melody wise, it might not fit. I think that's my biggest thing. I just want my melodies to be tight, more so than what I'm actually saying, and at the same time, you wanna still be able to say some dope shit.
You were approached by G-Unit about a deal in 2009. Where do you see your career today if you'd signed with them instead of Fool's Gold?
I don't know, I probably wouldn't have a project out right now (laughs). I'd probably be stuck in limbo, struggling trying to get people to listen to me, overshadowed by other things.
Do you think they would have pushed you to change your image at all?
Of course. That was the whole thing. The type of music that I make, the stuff that I talk about, them knowing the kind of person that I am. They know I'm a street nigga at the end of the day. You can't dress a wolf up like a sheep and tell 'em you a sheep. At the end of the day, they know what type of person I am, so that's why they fucked with me in general. They just wanted me to represent their brand a little more. I feel like, I don't represent any brand. I'm too old to have another grown man telling me what to do. That's like jail. A lot of majors have been calling me asking me to do stuff, but the whole thing is, are they gonna let me be creative? That's what Fool's Gold is all about, just letting me do what I do.
I never really made music for money. There's a lot of things that I've been approached with outside of music that could be real profitable. I would probably go a little harder at that fall-in-your-lap type shit, cuz this rap shit is easy to me, kinda. I just want to not need to look at music as my way of financial gain. To be able to be creative and be as experimental as I want. I don't want to get caught in a loop of trying to make music to pay my bills. I want to get into voice-overs, even do stuff with comedy. I've been approached with a lot of modeling shit, so I don't know. Just taking it one day at a time, really.
• General admission tickets $46
• VIP tickets sold out
• 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27
• Canterbury Park Festival Field, Shakopee
Nine hours of music will be spread over two main stages and the Fifth Element stage. The day's events also include
a B-boy/B-girl DJ tent, live painting exhibit, skate demo area, the
Soundset custom car show, and the Last of the Record Buyers live
The Official Soundset 2012 Afterparty. 18+, $10-$15, 10 p.m.
Sunday, May 27, at First Avenue, Minneapolis. Hosted by Brother Ali and
MaLLy and featuring surprise performances by Soundset artists. Beats by
Get Cryphy DJs (Plain Ole Bill, DJ Fundo, Jimmy 2 Times, and Last Word).