Interview: Danny Brown Talks About Rap Pt. 1
Danny Brown – “Radio Head” (Internet, 2011)
Danny Brown is a very talented rapper from Detroit. His The Hybrid was one of last year’s strongest mixtapes and he’s currently preparing an Itunes rerelease with bonus tracks for Feb. 8th. Rather than do the regular straight forward new rapper Q&A, I sat down with him to talk about rap, music and rap music for the latest installment in CB’s TALKS ABOUT RAP series.
What was your first rap tape?
Kid N Play 2 Hype. I bought it from the gas station for ten bucks. I had young parents. My pops had me he was 16, my moms was 18 so he always listened to [rap]. He was a house DJ too and I always had that house and techno. Being from Detroit that’s like our little underground scene, that’s our world. It was always Ghettotech around. But he always had the little hip hop tapes here and there [too], he had a wide range of what he’d listen to. He was bumping Ice-T for a minute and then it went to NWA and all that shit and then before you know it changed to Tribe Called Quest. By the time Tribe Called Quest came around I was old enough to start buying shit for myself. I think that the first tape that I got into on my own was Spice 1. I didn’t know that type of hip hop existed, Bay Area hip hop. I was listening to West Coast shit but it wasn’t Bay shit and for some reason when I heard that Spice 1 shit I knew there was something out there that was different. That’s what the independent scene was to me at the time, the Bay shit. In the Bay niggas had like 415 and Richie Rich so I was just getting into that type of shit. And then from there that’s when the whole Death Row shit came around. And then once I heard Wu-Tang it was over with. That’s when CDs first came out. My pops bought me my first Wu-Tang CD Enter The 36 Chambers. Then I got into Nas. Then came the whole Rawkus stage, then like Slum Village as Detroit hip hop started progressing and getting recognized. I was into that because that was hometown shit. But then after that stage I was into Def Jux, I got into it from Rawkus, listening to a lot of Rawkus shit. Then from the Def Jux stage it went over to the London shit, I started listening to a lot of Grime and a lot of Dubstep because I was influenced from the techno and the house shit from when I was younger. So I easily gravitated to that. And after that? I was doing hip hop on my own. So I guess I just got influenced by all that shit I just named.
Yeah you just about ran down the last twenty years of hip hop completely.
So let’s start with the Bay…
Yeah E-40‘s like my top favorite rapper, top three alive, dead, whatever. E-40 taught me so much shit. His new album is amazing. I hope I’m that cool when I get to be his age. But Spice 1, E-40, a lot of the underground ones Mac Mall, C-Bo and then I started getting into like all that Brotha Lynch Hung shit. All that Sick Wid It shit though, I remember they used to bring out ill compilations and shit. So the Bay got a huge influence on me.
It seems like a lot of the more animated aspects of your rapping, the things you do with your voice, draws on that Bay shit.
Yeah for sure it’s definitely some Bay shit. Listen to somebody like Roach Gigz right now, it’s the same shit. I wanna work with that kid. He can rap!
Why do you think, outside of Pac, the Bay has never really been able to cross over on a mainstream level?
Because they doing it independent. I don’t think that’s their intentions. I mean I don’t know that but from the outside looking in I feel like they feel that’s they’re shit.I don’t know if it’s like this anymore but I used to hear stories that they was making hundreds of thousands just with no record label. That’s something to look up to. You can get signed to a deal and go through that record label bullshit and motherfuckers are telling you how to make records, and motherfuckers are picking your records for you. Motherfuckers just making their version of what you are. They’re making what they think will sell because they invested in that. To [independent rappers] it’s more pure because it’s them doing them and doing what they want to do. And people gravitate to that and they buy it. Look at somebody like Mac Dre, these guys made a lot of money by themselves and people still love the music. I don’t know. I don’t know what people look at as mainstream anymore. I think the lines got blurred. I understand what you’re saying but to me they did do it. Spice 1? He did it! I don’t about right now, a lot of the younger guys aren’t making the music that them guys is making, the caliber of it. I know times is changing and there’s new shit going on but we liked the Mob music shit. So Hyphy, when it got to that shit, that’s their own world. That’s just like us with Techno, you know? [It’s like] if niggas started rapping off Ghettotech beats and shit, which probably some niggas need to do out here. It might be our own scene out here and other people might not be able to get that shit. I think E-40 though he do the hyphy shit the best. Because it’s lyrical now. It’s some party shit so it ain’t really that [lyrical]. I mean I know Mistah Fab can rap and it’s a couple, like I said Roach Gigz but [otherwise] it don’t really seem too lyrical to me, it’s some party shit.
Well they also have like Jacka and Livewire out there.
But they don’t really do Hyphy. Jacka’s like the Bay Area Nas or something. Now Droop-E, I like Droop-E like a motherfucker. I guess it run in the family.
Then of course there’s Lil B, who you’ve worked with. How’d you get put up on him?
I got up on Lil B from The Pack and shit. I listened to the Pack. Everybody got up on him with the “Vans” song. So I always used to see him release little music on his own and shit. I remember he did the shit with Young L, though I never was really checking that shit out or nothing. Then I was just chilling one night, it was late, you know, one of them nights when you’s bored and you’re searching on the internet and ain’t really shit popping, you can’t really go to sleep. I was up smoking and I was on World Star Hip Hop and I come across the “Like A Martian” video and for some reason, man, it bothered me. It must’ve bothered me in a good way! I didn’t really take to the song like that or take to the lyrics but I don’t know, there’s something about the whole shit. Like “Man… is this guy on drugs?! I don’t know.” I just knew it was something there though. The next day I was chilling with my homie, we were smoking and I was like “yo I seen this crazy shit yesterday!” [Laughs] I showed him and he was like “What the fuck!?” and I think we watched it like 5 times straight. And ever since then I’ve just been fucking with his shit hard. I knew it was something there. That’s all I knew.
What do you think it is about his personality?
Personality wise, when I met him.. I don’t want to say it was the total opposite of what the music presents but in some sense it’s kinda like that. A lot of people probably listen to his shit and they probably wouldn’t think he’s the type of guy that he is. When I met him he was super humble, he’s super nice, you could tell he’s been raised. He’s just got manners about himself and he’s a real cool person. At the end of the day just getting to know him and seeing what kind of guy he is it’s like how can you hate on a person like that? Ain’t no hate in him. He’s just all positive. He got an ill sense of humor and that’s what the music is projecting more than anything I think.
When you see what he’s doing does that change the way you approach your own music?
No. It just let me know what I was doing was kinda right. Because what I was doing, it was always shock value in it in some sense. It was always shock value going on in my everyday life though, I just figured out a way to exploit it a little more for humor purposes. But yeah to see a person like him, I think he know how nice he is and he know he’s not getting the respect for how nice he really is and then he just did something to get your attention. And now that he got your attention he’s gonna show you the lyrical shit. For him to figure out that strategy that was kinda ill. I don’t know if he thought like that but it’s almost like “I’m gonna write the worst rap I can possibly write and you still gonna like that and when I am writing raps for you to like you’re gonna like that too!” I don’t think no other rapper could do that. Because we’re so caught up in being rappers and trying to be nice and everything you say is better than the next man. For a person like him to be like “I’m just gonna say what the fuck I want” and that’s it, you gonna love it. Because of the confidence of the rapper presenting it to you. “And I can rap, so when it’s time for me to show you I can rap I’mma bust your ass.”
What do you think it says that B’s more ignorant records are the more popular ones so far?
I think as of right now they’re the better records. Don’t get me wrong, he can do the other shit, you’ll see glimpses of that. But I think just in terms of who he works with and what he’s working around the production value doesn’t measure out. Like when he does his East Coast shit it’s cool but the beats to me aren’t as good to me. I think once people realize that he’s super talented [it’ll change]. Just imagine him getting a beat from DJ Premier or some shit. It’ll step up. But I think right now he’s not really getting beats from people that’s capable of making that style of music. But lyrically I like both sides of him. I don’t think you can have one without the other. He changed the game, man. A lot of people are gonna be more open minded about shit. That nigga’s like the David Bowie of this shit right now. And he’s a music nerd himself, we can tell. Who else would rap over ambient, bro?! It takes a music nerd to do shit like that. And it comes across in his music. When I listen to Lil B I really think a lot of the shit is punk rock influenced like in the melodies he chooses. To me “Look Like Jesus” could totally be a punk rock song. It’s just a different style of production. I could see a punk rock band covering that song and it’d be the shit! See that’s what the kids are doing, they’re taking more chances than the adults right now. The adults are more business minded. They was hating on the kids for so long and now the kids are busting they ass and they don’t know how to take it. Like with the whole Odd Future thing right now…
Yeah they can rap their asses off.
Yeah respect due.
Check Pt. 2 of the interview, where Danny talks about Dizzee Rascal, Def Jux, Kanye, Cudi and Korn…