Danny Brown, most known for his hyperactive flow, vicious bars and, well, crackhead aesthetic, has with Atrocity Exhibition released a sonically versatile record that perfectly complements his inimitable style. His first album XXX was a breakout classic; Old was the critically acclaimed but safer follow-up; Atrocity Exhibition is a concerted effort for Danny to disassociate himself from the tweaked out, drug-addled caricature that had begun to engulf him. With this latest release, his survivor’s guilt is laid to bare.
The kick-off track ‘Downward Spiral’ is vintage Danny, imbued with a depressive angst that creates a sense of rock bottom self-destruction, setting the scene for the rest of the album.
One of the most remarkable things about Danny is his ability to rap over literally anything, what he calls ‘black belt beats’; this is showcased on ‘Tell Me What I Don’t Know’, the production of which simultaneously sounds like the upturning of a cutlery drawer, the beating of a half-empty wheelie bin and the high-pitched bleating of a raver’s whistle.
Features are sparse on Atrocity Exhibition except for the posse cut ‘Really Doe’, 2016’s answer to 2013’s ‘1 Train’. Earl Sweatshirt steals the spotlight here with his uncanny ability to murder everyone lyrically without appearing to extend himself much at all; lazily announcing he was a “liar as a kid so now [he’s] honest as fuck”.
The bold horns and high-octane delivery on ‘Ain’t it Funny’ make it a standout track, whilst the soulful sample of Lena Lim on ‘Lost’ would not be out of place on Wu-Tang’s classic 36 Chambers. Indeed, Danny has long been compared to Ol’ Dirty Bastard and has cited Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx as a key inspiration for the album.
Hip hop is often criticised for the homogeneity of its mainstream; its propensity for lurching trap claps, Drake-featuring-Drake crooning and so-called mumble rap from the likes of Young Thug and Lil Yachty. With the latter in particular the gout du jour, Atrocity Exhibition is a visceral, uncompromising and highly original body of work that places Danny Brown at the forefront of the genre.
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