The problem with talent is that you can’t control who gets it. Which means you may not like what people choose to do with it, but you can’t deny it. I kept telling myself that during the Danny Brown set at the Splash Festival. Photos of performance below.
I would have walked away after the first XXX song, but… the wordplay, the vocal syncopation, everything except the content was genius. Brown seems to be possessed by the the spirits of the Old Dirty Bastard, Too Short and the omnipresent lurking hooded corner-dweller who yells acrid lewdness to every passing woman. I’m not sure when his libido left the bedroom but it is clearly not returning. The major topics of Brown’s set were sex and drugs and the details of both that Brown knows so well.
At a cursory glance at one of Brown’s video’s I found a commenter qualifying his adoration for Brown by saying
Its true, i’m a white dude who is well-aware of artists making certain songs to cater to the white demographic, yet I still fucking love this song. Source
Is all that sex/drugs/hard thuggery a performance for the white gaze? I certainly asked myself that question. Germans who could not hold passable conversations in English knew Brown’s lyrics word for word. He has definitely capitalized on his power to use illicit imagery to lure his (mostly male) listeners. He was one of the few artists promoted in the festival booklet and his album, XXX was critically acclaimed. All this can lead one to think that his theme choice is more strategic than intuitive.
Yet, Brown’s swag seemed more authentic than performance. Although his talent is crippled by his inability to go off message, his persona is more comical than scary. I don’t think that is what he was going for and I kept thinking: he has more talent than this. Danny Brown sums it up for me in his song Monopoly when he says “I’m a smart n***** but I do dumb shit.”