Dubbed OLD, due to fans continually asking for that “old Danny Brown,” this album takes the themes explored in Danny’s first album, XXX, and pushes them to their extremes. Drug use, abuse, grime, and introspection all come together in equal parts, and what we’re left with is an insane, bipolar, and unexpectedly dark tour-de-force which presents itself as Danny’s most ambitious project to date—not to mention my favourite.
OLD, acting as a concept album of sorts, is divided into two halves. Side A is filled with narrative, sometimes frighteningly introspective tracks detailing Danny’s experiences with newfound fame, drug abuse, depression, and his childhood growing up impoverished in Detroit. Sound-wise, Side A is what you’d get if you left an inner-city crack cocaine abuser to tinker around in a spaceship for a while—tracks “Wonderbread” and “Lonely”, are both notable, and both instrumentally upbeat yet lyrically macabre, as well as “Dope Fiend Rental,” featuring ScHoolboy Q.
Side B is the polar opposite, with every track devoted to getting whacked out on drugs and partying as hard as humanly possible. This type of wild, lyrically raunchy music is what got Danny his big break, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing a fair bit of it on this album. Bangers like “Dubstep,” featuring Scrufizzer, and “Kush Coma,” featuring A$AP Rocky and Zelooperz, are at home anywhere where the windows are open and the volume’s at max. In a nutshell, the tracks on Side B are heavily influenced by both Trap and EDM, and are about as in-your-face as it gets.
The two sides of the album stand at complete odds with one another, and might not initially seem to mesh well, but their stark juxtaposition, upon closer inspection, reveals the story of a downward spiral of addiction and escapism, and the struggles and fears of the man caught inside it. Amidst the bizarrely forceful instrumentals and the brilliantly vulgar lyricism, this message isn’t always clear, but listen closely; even on Side B, Danny slips in lines which show that he knows what the drugs are really doing to him. He raps in three or four distinct vocal tones across the album, making apt use of switching cadence from track-to-track. OLD paints a harrowing, behind-the-scenes picture of a Danny Brown slowly becoming the very addict which haunts his childhood memories.
The album concludes with “Float On ft. Charli XCX”, a track on which Danny’s message is clearer than ever, though not one which provides a particularly apt conclusion to the album. The intended closer, “ODB”, was cut due to an uncleared sample, but provides a more fitting end in tying together all the wildly unique loose ends that OLD offers (note: the track is on YouTube and definitely deserves a listen).
All in all, OLD is everything Danny Brown endeavoured to do with XXX, but on steroids (and MDMA, among others). It’s entertaining, it’s powerful, it’s complex, and it’s one of the best albums to come out in recent memory.