Detroit emcee Danny Brown is already on the list of best up and coming American rappers to achieve commercial recognition, but now he has an excellent chance of becoming one of best active rappers of the modern day, as long as he keeps making quality albums like 2011's XXX and this 2013 album, Old, a two part journey which passes through the hurdles of life in the first part to a drugged out, intoxicated second half. The album is a remarkable walk through life for an addict starting with the everyday hustle and bustle of Side A to the tripped out, euphoric high of Side B. Danny Brown has successfully created not just a great rap album, but a real life audio experience seen through the lenses of a struggling everyman looking for relief.
The first half of Old plays out like a week in the life of a depressed drug dealer/abuser. Interestingly, Danny Brown has elected to put away his clownish, inflated accent from previous works to rap plainly and candidly about his everyday existence in this first part. Straight out the gate, Brown has included a couple of self identifying anthems in "Side A (Old)" and "The Return" to kick everything off and calibrate the audience to his current state of affairs. From there, he runs down a laundry list of personal setbacks in the form of seven songs that cover topics such as money problems, shady personalities, intimacy, a difficult childhood, bad habits, and a very peculiar trip to the local convenience store that is far too off the wall to adequately portray in writing. He takes the listener deep into his world with engaging, descriptive rhymes that vividly paint colorful, crystal clear pictures. As if building up stress and anxiety for what's to come next, Danny Brown goes on to set into motion an explosive, mind numbing act two.
Brown reverts back to his original, cartoony voice for "Red 2 Go" and the rest of the songs that follow. "Dubstep" sounds like Brown's last attempt on a Friday to make some extra money before the weekend, and after that, the festivities truly begin. The familiar Danny Brown of old with his zany tendencies and rapid delivery match perfectly with the intended tone and vibe of this second half's "night out on the town" landscape, filled with plenty of drugs, booze, women, and friendly company. This section plays out like a binge into the dark side as Brown raps about his unapologetic drinking, weed smoking ("Kush Coma"), molly popping ("Dip"), and lady admiring ("Break It (Go)" and "Handstand"). Brown comes down from his high on "Float On" as the weight of life crashes down upon him and the realizations sink in, especially as they relate to the demanding rap music business. While the type and degree of drug and alcohol use in this section are far too extreme and dangerous to emulate, it is an effective simulation of the life of a desperate user, and Brown comes full circle in accurately depicting the routine of these individuals.
Aside from Danny Brown's crazy rhyming style, awesome guests (Freddie Gibbs, Black Hippy, A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, etc.), and lively production (handled by Paul White, Oh No, SKYWLKR, etc.), the tracklist structure, set up to tell the story of Brown, the troubled junkie, is most impressive. Experiencing the album from beginning to end allows the listener to almost live firsthand the life that Brown is describing on Old. His twisted emotions and feelings moment by moment are synced so perfectly with all the moving parts of this album, and that is why listening to Old is like experiencing events rather than merely hearing sounds. The beats are so schizophrenic and the content so bipolar that it is difficult to believe two such unique, exciting styles could come from just one artist's vision, but Brown proves here that there is always more than what meets the eye.