Amidst all the unrest as fans await a new Kanye West album, it turns out other people are actually releasing music when they say they will. Exhibit A: Danny Brown.
The rapper first started making waves in early 2010 with the release of his debut album “The Hybrid,” but it wasn’t until 2011’s “XXX” that people started to realize just how special he was. With a unique voice and just as unique instrumentals, the Michigan rapper was carving out a brand of hip-hop all his own. He would continue this approach on 2013’s “Old,” and would perfect it on his 2015 magnum opus “Atrocity Exhibition.” The latter of the two has been hailed as one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade as it detailed issues like drug abuse over beats that sounded like car crashes look, particularly on songs like “Ain’t It Funny.” Everyone was waiting on perked ears for the release of his next project as soon as he announced it in September.
That album turned out to be “uknowhatimsayin¿” and it was released on Oct. 4. Promotional singles released ahead of the album - “Dirty Laundry,” “Best Life” and “3 Tearz” featuring Run The Jewels - showed a different Brown than people were used to. Everyone knew Brown could rap with his secondhand rougher sounding voice, but usually he balanced it out with tracks that were of much higher energy. That’s why if you came into this album expecting the version of Danny Brown responsible for songs like “When It Rain” and “Smokin’ & Drinkin’” you probably left disappointed to hear an album more reminiscent of songs like “The Return” or “Tell Me What I Don’t Know.”
If you came in with an open mind, however, chances are you left pleased. With production from frequent collaborator Paul White, JPEGMAFIA and Q-Tip just to name a few, Brown’s ear for interesting beats is once again on full display. The album’s title track sounds like the 80’s pop hit that never was, while “Change Up” hits hard to better illustrate how serious he is about the topic. “Savage Nomad” may be the best beat on the entire album, but you could feasibly make the same case for the aforementioned “Best Life” for its soulful qualities or “Belly of the Beast” for its creepy background vocals. Q-Tip - the executive producer for the album - lends his expertise to three tracks on the album including “Best Life” and album closer “Combat”. The latter of which sounds like quintessential A Tribe Called Quest reimagined.
Where this album lacks is in the cohesion and “it” factor departments. The album sounds like when you’re listening to an album on Spotify, and it’s not until you get halfway through it when you realize that you left it on Shuffle mode and nothing played in order. It sounds like a bunch of songs that were just kind of put together without a real vision of what this body of work stands for. Nowhere is this more evident than with “Shine” featuring Blood Orange. Similar in tone to “25 Bucks” or “Float On” - both off of “Old” - “Shine is a clear standout that would have sounded better as the outroduction as opposed to the penultimate track. In that same vein, not every track on here is a standout. “Dirty Laundry” is just fine. “Theme Song” is okay, but inconsequential. “3 Tearz” has some great one-liners, as expected from a Danny Brown song, but even with a feature from Run The Jewels, none of the songs on this tracklist sound like they could have made the cut on “Atrocity Exhibition.” It’s even possible they could be out of rotation two weeks from now.
Much like the question mark in the albums title, Brown flips his usual style upside down to varying results. “uknowwhatimsayin¿” is like ASMR compared to “Atrocity Exhibition”, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. For every wild and crazy Saturday night, there’s always the Sunday morning to nurse your hangover. This album is the morning after, and who knows what time of the week Brown will cover next.