Published Oct 02, 2019Danny Brown concluded a five-year period of swinging between the party and his own paranoia with 2016's harrowing Atrocity Exhibition, and by his own admission, he's mellowed out plenty since. Forays into film and television have led to more funny people in the Detroit native's friend circle, and as Brown tells Exclaim!, the social change played a part in fifth album uknowhatimsayin¿ becoming "all about having fun."
Humour has always been present in Brown's work, to some degree, but uknowhatimsayin¿ is the first studio effort to wear that quality on its sleeve — literally, as three Dannys look to crack wise on the cover. Within, it's Brown's pen game and ear for production that carry the album's comedic spirit, anchored by technical and stylistic changes.
On "Dirty Laundry," Brown not only mixes the mundane chore with grimy tales of past sexcapades, but also uses firearms as the cleanser ("Shit get messy? Mop him up with the .30 / High Tide, Gain, or the Arm and Hammer"). Run the Jewels are his funniest guests, with El-P and Killer Mike both turning in verses jammed with wit and wordplay on the JPEGMAFIA-produced "3 Tearz." On "Savage Nomad," Brown slides his own unmistakable laugh in alongside that of a studio audience.
A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip executive-produced uknowhatimsayin¿, and Brown has likened working with the icon as an "ego death type thing" in which he "almost had to relearn how to rap again." No longer quick to attack every beat with his trademark squawk, Brown takes care in weaving lines like "I'm anemic with the ink / You a Stevie Wonder blink / I take a piss in the same sink you wash dishes with" around the steady, swelling instrumental of "Belly of the Beast." It's also no small feat to move in lyrical lockstep with Thundercat's freewheeling bass line on "Negro Spiritual," with Brown ratcheting up his own intensity with each pass of the loop.
In contrast, he is at his loosest back-to-back on "Best Life" and the title track. He makes his mission clear on the mantra-cum-hook of the former over sparse drums, while the echoes of his ATCQ collaborator can't be missed in his delivery on the latter. Though songs like "Change Up" and "Shine" recall the road Brown took to get here, he's far less concerned with the deep and dire this time around — "ain't no next life," after all. (Warp)