FFollowing on from his critically acclaimed 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition, Danny Brown makes a return with “uknowhatimsayin¿”, an album with stellar production and some of the best lyrics of Brown’s career so far.
As the album begins, it’s immediately clear that there’s a new direction compared to his past work as an artist. Working with legendary producer Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, his production and Brown’s rapping melt together on every song. Guest producers like JPEGMAFIA and Paul White bring their own flavour to their respective tracks, but the album doesn’t feel disjointed with the different sounds.
Brown’s use of humour shines through on a lot of songs on the album, with tracks like “Dirty Laundry” and “Combat” having bars that would get a giggle out of anyone. In a freestyle verse on “Belly of the Beast”, Brown lets out on of his best bars with “I eat so many shrimp I got iodine poison / Hoes on my dick ’cause I look like Roy Orbison”.
While this album might drop Brown’s usual style of building an album around a singular concept, he doesn’t see it as a deterioration of his work. In an interview with Complex, Brown went over the change, saying he wanted it to be “just rap—dope beats and dope rhymes.” The free-flowing nature of the album works really well, and Brown doesn’t come off as abrasive in his tracks as he had on ‘Atrocity Exhibition’.
The individual songs have a lot of character, with tunes like “Change Up” and “Theme Song”, opening the album on a very high note, and set the precedent for the rest of the album to follow.
In the lead single “Dirty Laundry”, Brown raps continuously about his sexual escapades, but he doesn’t appear to be bragging. It’s more like he’s bringing his skeletons out of the closet, or more accurately telling the listener about his “dirty laundry”.
On “Savage Nomad”, Brown boosts himself far above his competition as an electronic beat hums in the background. The laugh track during the interlude between verses works well here, as Brown laughs at the “Danny copies”.
On “Best Life”, Brown puts a more positive spin on his rapping compared to his earlier work. The beat reflects this positivity, with a much brighter and vibrant beat than other tracks. While he might be rapping about his hard upbringing and gang lifestyle, he looks to how he left that behind rapping, “’Cause ain’t no next life, so I’m livin’ my best life. I’m livin’ my best life.”
The positive vibe continues on the title track “uknowhatimsayin¿”, where Brown raps across a pulsing synth beat. Brown’s flow is methodical, rapping about getting through life’s challenges with bars like: “Time’s hard? No, you can’t give up. Know what I’m sayin’?”. Collaborator Obongjayar takes the chorus to push the listener into getting back up and keep moving as life goes on.
On “Negro Spiritual”, Brown’s flow is fast paced and unrelenting. He plays with Tiger Woods puns, flaunts mint condition watches and taunts the competition in a song that proves he’s one of the biggest names in hip hop at the moment. Alongside him is JPEGMAFIA, offering up a catchy chorus that lets you breathe before Brown starts up again. Production-wise, the song boasts fantastic basslines from Thundercat, as well as guest production by legendary producer Flying Lotus.
The final song on the album, “Combat”, is an incredibly jazzy track featuring both lively horns and a bouncing beat. The song also has features from both Q-Tip and Consequence, who appear on the songs chorus.
The album itself is another successful project from Brown, as he continues to make clear that he’s a force to be reckoned with.
Image Credit: Danny Brown Album Cover