Danny Brown is one of hip hop’s comfortable outsiders. Atrocity Exhibition is the Detroit rapper’s fourth studio album. It is a bizarre ride through Brown’s mind that’s dark and raucous, but also adventurous and challenging.
Atrocity Exhibition is about loneliness and mental anxiety. UK producer Paul White – one half of Golden Rules – is responsible for the bulk of the productions here, and right from start he sets the tone with the obliterating screeches of ‘Downward Spiral’. Similar to Kanye West and Tyler, The Creator, White’s productions are rapid and frequently wild in a manner that would scare many MCs.
But not Brown. In his signature chewy, Daffy Duck-tinged tone, he spars with the madcap wheezes and brass coughs of ‘Ain’t It Funny’ and shouts a relative dissertation of verses at you to keep up with the rebellious, relentless pace of ‘When It Rains’. It’s spectacular stuff.
Bold moments such as this can be found throughout Atrocity Exhibition. Brown’s collaboration with South African singer-producer Petite Noir is unique (‘Rolling Stone’). ‘Pneumonia’, produced by Evian Christ, is menacing like a Freddie Gibbs joint. And the stupendous ‘Really Doe’, which features, Kendrick Lamar (who Brown credits as the catalyst behind the song), Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt, is one of the year’s finest hip hop collaborations.
Brown is a rapper on edge on this album, painting a lucid picture of grim nights and dank days of excess. Contrary to album’s beginning, Atrocity Exhibition doesn’t beach you on the shores of remorse and self-doubt, but leaves you with a sort of heady pragmatism that gives the record a positive arc. Grim through it may be, the unique productions and lyrical flows on Atrocity Exhibition make it one of the most striking hip hop albums you’ll hear.
Atrocity Exhibition is out now on Warp Records.