When you attend a Danny Brown concert, expect to quickly befriend your neighbor. Or at least become accustomed to the scent of joints and Newports while you dance. Having followed the rapper’s career from afar, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. Would we encounter a charismatic wordsmith on the prowl or a vulnerable introvert with the habit of posting confessional snippets on Twitter? I suppose that I shouldn’t have underestimated Brown’s ability to navigate the balance of comedic spectacle and natural skill.
Following a set from show-openers Tanboys, the polarizing underdog of rap was clearly the king of the court at The Met in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. From the second that he hit the stage, Brown, sporting recently dyed hair the color of a St. Patrick’s Day shamrock, controlled the eager masses with his tightly-controlled rhythm and signature voice, spitting out rhymes like a man who knew that he had nothing to lose. After all, Brown’s fans embrace his “weirdness” (he once stated that 50 Cent didn’t want to sign him to a label due to his affinity for skinny jeans), championing the rapper’s unflinching honesty about growing up in Detroit, in addition to his high-pitched wordplay. Surrounded by the energy of the Bruiser Brigade, Brown performed songs from 2011’s XXX and his current album Old. Highlights from Old included: ‘Side A (Old)’, ’25 Bucks’, ‘Handstand’, and ’Smokin and Drinkin’. The crowd, which seemed to have a median age of twenty-two, seemed to be enraptured. The rapper’s mere presence was enough to incite mania. Unlike a Drake or even hometown rival Big Sean, Brown doesn’t need the gaudy distractions of bottle-popping club thumpers or odes to designer-duds. His power lies in his conviction, the dedication to exposing the raw and ugly truths of life. Girls decked out in skate shoes and Obey snapbacks partied next to hip-hop heads in fresh sneakers and chunky chains. Bouncing with boundless showmanship, Brown tore through song after song. He moved about the stage with ease, ending every other song with the flash of his tongue. Combined with the venue setup and the crowd demographic, I couldn’t help but feel transported back to the days of college house parties, where nearly everyone swayed to the bass while clutching a red cup.
Brown has been adamant about sticking to the truth of his craft, rather than clamoring for radio-friendly hits. In the past, he’s said: “I think now with me and my music, it’s just something that I want to leave behind when I die.” Considering the work that Brown has already released, I doubt that his work will be forgotten. At the core of his music, Brown is a story-teller, one who captures the humanity of his community, no matter how bleak or grim (it’s no surprise that he cites Nas as one of his early influences). As long as Brown continues to have something to say, count me among the many hip-hop aficionados that will continue to listen.