Danny Brown at Triple Rock Social Club, 4/26/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Friday, April 26, 2013
With squinting eyes and a smile lit up like a 1,000-watt marquee, Danny Brown began his triumphant return to the Twin Cities by issuing a warning to the sold-out crowd. "This is not a rap show. If you wanna see rappin' go to your local open mic, I bet them cats rap their asses off over there. This is a party!"
What took place at the Triple Rock on Friday was nothing short of just that. The Detroit MC couldn't have possibly picked a better night to land here. The first real spring evening made for an enthusiastic audience, eager to burn off months of cabin fever, and Brown's hedonistic persona set the tone for a night of timid heartland kids indulging in all sorts of ratchet behavior. From the poor kid who was passed out in the venue's doorway at 9:30 to the utterly stoked Tumblr-bros in the front row, right on down to what many people on Twitter allege was an onstage sex act, Danny Brown's live show had the power to make Minnesotans completely forget to act Minnesotan.
Poor Kitty, the night's opener, didn't get the same kind of treatment. Something of a viral sensation, the NY-by-way-of-FL rapper landed a spot on Brown's Bruiser Brigade earlier this year with the release of her D.A.I.S.Y. Rage EP. Slowly shaking off her history in more comedy/novelty oriented music, Kitty seems to be moving towards a cloudier territory with her new material. Like the headliner, the diminutive rapper's music is inseparable from her manic-pixie-geek-girl persona, with glittery instrumentals and Twitter-ready punchlines. You have to give her credit for not fronting, though; unlike some of the other blog-wave rappers, Kitty keeps things true to her suburban, white-bread roots and certainly doesn't claim to be anything she's not. That authenticity, and the unique brand of swag she brought with it, helped win Kitty the hearts of a decent chunk of the front row, but much of the crowd's reaction ran toward grudging tolerance or outright hostility.
Photos by Erik Hess
That might have had something to do with her grating tendency to babble a stream of self-conscious jokes and nervous laughter in between songs. A relatively young MC at only 19 years old, Kitty's been thrust into the spotlight thanks to Reddit-baiting lyrical content that only occasionally seemed ready for the amount of lumens pointed her way onstage. The nerves seemed to affect her the least while rapping, and her undeniably singular flavor and flow aren't without their charms, but most of the material felt half-baked. Still, you had to admire her courage. During one memorable moment, the diminutive rapper risked a walkout on the packed venue floor, rapping straight into the faces of several very vocal haters. That kind of chutzpah can take you pretty far in this business, so here's hoping this Old and Reckless Tour gives Kitty the necessary inspiration to step her live performance and lyrical material up a few notches.
By the time Brown and producer/DJ Skywalker emerged onstage the room had loosened up considerably. The shock-haired rapper received a rock star's greeting from the sold-out audience, responding in kind by sticking out his tongue like Gene Simmons and throwing up the 'horns. Revving through the lower gears on his first three tracks, Brown shifted up on the hilarious and steezy "Black Brad Pitt." The Motor City native's rapid-fire punchlines and double-time flow make for an interesting update on the sound his hometown made famous. Equal parts classic Detroit intensity and more contemporary Southern and West Coast party-rap, Danny's distinctive high-pitched bleat and winningly goofy behavior make for an irresistible combination.
Photos by Erik Hess
Mostly leaving his darker, socially contemplative material at home, Brown favors grimy, gutter-rattling beats in a live setting to maintain that all-important party atmosphere. Skywalker's trap-influenced beats and knob-twisting wizardry kept the energy level up, allowing Danny to loll around the stage like a cartoon character. While he's happy to play the role of the clown when his show requires it, it's obvious that Brown has an adept mind behind his glassy, chemically altered expression.
Twisting complex punchlines and rhyme schemes into limerick-like verses about substance sale and abuse, the Brusier Brigade leader never seemed to be dumbing things down, but instead lacing a subversively anarchic message into songs with mass appeal. Brown illustrated this with the winking "Radio Song," successfully commenting on the lowbrow appeal of contemporary club rap while still crafting a thoroughly enjoyable example of it. His fans have the option of taking that surface-level entertainment and buck-wild atmosphere at face value and walking away completely satisfied, and that versatility is arguably Danny's greatest strength. Knowing how to play to the college kids up front and old heads in back requires the kind of savvy that Brown's been honing for years in the Detroit underground, and it's a blast to watch him balance these two facets of his music.