Danny Brown | Pitchfork Music Festival | July 14, 2012
Photo: Kirstie Shanley
If Russell Jones could see us now. The weirdos have either taken over hip-hop, or they've become the cool kids. Danny Brown is the godhead of the younger Pitchfork set (which is a majority, sure, but not by the margin you might expect—I have seen many a cool dad this weekend). Not only does he recognize the ridiculousness of his alt-rap genre—the myriad drug references, the abundance of mainstream cliches, the racial barriers it transcends while making reference to those same differences—he embodies the whole beast.
On record and onstage, Brown is an anomaly. His greatest gift, in terms of setting himself apart, is his refusal to abandon his shtick in any situation. If you've ever watched a Danny Brown interview, you know he's as ridiculous a human being as he is an MC/artist/kinda-famous guy with weird hair. That same authenticity translates to his live show. Unlike every other rap artist I've seen, aside from Posdnous and Method Man, Brown replicates his studio voice to perfection onstage: no barking, no yelling, no bullshit aside from obligatory "Style!" chants. This shouldn't make him exceptional, but again, Brown knows his playing field and its weaknesses.
Brown's DJ inexplicably dropped Blondie's "Rapture" halfway through the set. I don't know if this is a regular occurrence. I don't know whose idea it was, either. But hands down, even beating out FlyLo's far more relevant "Intergalactic" drop earlier in the afternoon, that was my favorite moment this weekend. God, Danny Brown is weird.
Onstage, Danny resembled a lanky high-school kid doing karaoke to his favorite Wu-Tang cuts. The Adderall Admiral had his crowd packed all the way back to the sound guy when he started, and almost to the entrance by the time he'd finished. Half of them weren't even watching, just making conversation. Bored? Absolutely not. Danny Brown is simply cool to be around.
As far as I'm aware, the man is the first popular MC to rhyme about Addies, arguably the drug of choice among my generation of college students. Some people will laugh at that notion, but it's absolutely crucial to Danny's success. Brown, somehow 30 years old, is one of the first solo rappers to blow up in our post-boundaries online world without signing to a legend's label (stoked for Kendrick tomorrow). Unlike his peers, he both understands and panders to the woefully uncool life experience of his audience. He is your dealer, he is your smoke buddy, and he's the soundtrack to your whole damn night. That's a first.