Danny Brown's new album title of his fourth LP, Atrocity Exhibition (Warp Records; out Sept. 30), shares the name with a controversial work of literature, an experimental post-punk song, and a thrash metal album — you can't make that shit up.
It's like what we've previously said of Brown: He is both "certified hood and a full-on hipster." Lately, Brown has been full of paradoxes, which only make him a more complex and interesting artist. Maybe that's why he's returning to Grand Rapids for the first time since the 2013 2 High 2 Die tour with Action Bronson, instead of playing a show in his native Detroit. But ultimately, he's gotta spread the love, or in this case, the "Pneumonia."
This looks to be a killer album. We've already gotten two singles, "Pneumonia" and "When it Rain," and a snippet of another track that hints at Brown rapping in his softer tone, usually reserved for his more introspective and thoughtful moments. The contents also predict some killer features ("Really Doe" featuring Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt), and possible qualifiers for both molly-fueled bangers ("Goldust," "White Lines," "Dance in the Water," "Get Hi") and Brown's softer side on Old ("Downward Spiral," "Lost"). The entire track list has the potential to show us what Brown has been up to the last three years, and there's no doubt he has some surprises. Hopefully he'll debut some of the new material at this de facto homecoming show, because we've been having a hard time dealing with all of the album teases for so long now.
The surreal and trance-inducing "Pneumonia" has us sick with anticipation for his newer material, yet "When It Rain" is the real standout single and a rather paradoxical song, much like Brown's reputable persona. The beat sounds like it came straight off XXX, and Brown's relentless flow can't help but make you bop your head — yet when you consider the lyrics, you might think twice about the way the song makes you feel.
The title is of course an allusion to the saying we all reiterate when we're having a shitty day: "When it rains, it pours." I'm sure Brown had a lot of those days growing up in Detroit at the time he did, which he describes as "the city where them goons be lurking, get caught slippin, yo ass will be hurtin" and later in the track, "doomed from the time we emerged from the womb, so to cope, drugs we consume."
Perhaps Brown feels surprised he was able to make it out at all, especially when we look at the way he describes Detroit; "Ain't no water, how a flower gon' grow? ... No sunshine and them showers be lead." Brown is merciless with his honest depictions of what it was like to grow up when he did, and of the atrocities he was bound to experience. These paradoxes begin to make sense once we consider the album title once more, and most likely give us a hint of what to expect at his concert: an exhibition of atrocities.
Danny Brown performs on Friday, Sept. 23 with Maxo Kream and ZelooperZ at the Intersection; 133 Grandville Ave. SW Grand Rapids; Doors at 7 p.m., sectionlive.com; $25.50 advance, $28 day of show, all ages.