By Roozbeh Badie

Last year, a relatively unknown Detroit rapper named Danny Brown released his first LP, The Hybrid, and made a rather large splash in the lake of underground hip-hop. I didn’t care for The Hybrid all too much — while the beats included a variety of sounds, his voice sounded like a million different artists before him, which didn’t really grab my attention. Danny wasn’t exactly pouring his heart into the lyrics either. But after The Hybrid, it’s like he experienced a revelation of sorts. Something definitely changed in Danny’s head; perhaps it was due to his Skrillex-looking haircut.

On his new album, XXX, Danny really starts to experiment with different sounds. It’s like Danny just sat in front of a synthesizer; pressed random buttons; said, “That sounds good”; and added them over a beat. Most of these experiments work very well with what he was aiming for on the album. They keep you listening just so you could hear what sounds would appear next. He brings a lot of piano into the mix, but in interesting ways; in the title track, “Die Like A Rockstar”, there’s a synthesizer that sounds like a faucet, and in “Bruiser Brigade,” there’s a sound — I can’t exactly tell how it was made — that reminds me of the aliens from M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.

Most of these sounds are very friendly on the ears, even to those who are accustomed to the polished beats played on the radio, but because of the high level of experimentation it should also appeal to the more underground kids.
But there is one sound that may not appeal to most listeners: Danny’s voice. In some of the tracks on XXX he has the same voice he had on The Hybrid, which should appeal to most people, but on most of the tracks his voice sounds like it belongs on South Park. Danny’s voice gets very nasally and high pitched. I personally loved his voice from the start; it’s so diverse and unique that I can’t help but adore it, and believe it or not his voice actually makes these songs catchier. I dare you to listen to any song from this album and not have it stuck in your head for hours.

In terms of the lyrics, they’re probably the darkest, funniest, and most overly personal lyrics I’ve heard since Eminem’s earlier days. It’s the lyrics and Danny’s cartoony vocals that will make many people who liked The Slim Shady LP like XXX as well.

Like almost every rap album before it, the lyrics on XXX are explicit, having to do with women, drugs, overly expressed egos, and violence. What sets XXX apart from most rap albums, however, is that these lyrics are used to convey a story. The whole album takes us through Danny’s life and his struggle with drugs, making the listener feel like they’re watching a violent soap opera. “Fields” and “EWNESW” talk about the environment where Danny grew up, “Scrap Or Die” focuses on Danny’s struggle to make a living, and basically the entire middle of the album, along with the tracks “XXX” and “30,” talk about his drug addiction and his love-life problems.

Overall this is an extremely enjoyable listen, and immediately after hearing it the first time I wanted to play the whole thing again. I highly recommend it for anyone, especially those into hip-hop and rap.

Favorite Tracks: “Die Like A Rockstar,” “Radio Song,” “Detroit 187,” “Outer Space,” and “Scrap Or Die”
Least Favorite Tracks: “Blunt After Blunt,” “Party All The Time”