Interview: Danny Brown Talks About Rap Pt. 2
If you missed Part 1 of the Danny Brown interview, check it now.
So going back to your timeline, how do you jump from the Bay to Rawkus?
That was just my hip hop timeline. My pops he trained me not to listen to just one genre of music so I was always listening to other shit. I was going through music phases just like everybody else who was a music nerd. I went through the whole grunge shit, I went through the whole Rage [Against The Machine] phase, I went through the whole Korn, System of a Down rap-rock shit. I went through those phases right along with the people that wasn’t listening to hip hop, all the way up to when they was bumping M.I.A. and shit like that. I was a music nerd bro. I studied all this shit instead of just one genre. That’s really how I run my shit. I run my shit more so like an indie rock artists than a rapper.
How did that play with other hip hop heads, if you were to bring around Korn or something?
You know, niggas ain’t fucking with it. It’s the same shit though. These niggas don’t really understand what hip hop is supposed to be. It’s just like my music. The people that fucked with all the shit I named and still branched out into all those other genres and shit, that’s who fuck with my music. It ain’t the super hip hop heads who think hip hop is just supposed to be what it is. They think hip hop is supposed to sound the same way and it’s supposed to be what it was. Really I thought hip hop was supposed to be an expression of youth. If you just doing something that’s true to yourself then that’s hip hop.
Well you look Bambaaata who took music from all over the world and then somewhere down the line a rulebook came into play.
[It's] this East Coast boom bap shit. How you gonna say E-40′s not hip hop? There’s people who feel like that though!
And it’s crazy because if you go back you can find pictures of him head to toe in Adidas, busting B-Boy poses.
And not even that but like I said it’s an expression of yourself. He was doing something that no one else was doing. He was rapping off beats that no one else was. He was doing something that’s so original and so ahead of his time. How can that not be hip hop? It was pure. If he had been trying to rap like Craig G or someone, been on some digging in the crates type shit, that would’ve been fake. That wouldn’t have been hip hop. That’s what’s so fucked up right now. New York, they created the rules of hip hop and now they the ones that’s breaking them. They making the fake down south songs, they’re doing anything to get hot. I ain’t trying to diss New York or whatever. I got love for New York and they got love for me too. But if you look at it that’s kinda how it is. It’s almost like they they alienating themselves from everybody else because they want the hits too and they tired of other people getting hits. So however the hits sounding, they gonna make the hits and they gon’ force it. They gonna tell themselves that it’s a hit and it’s gonna be a hit out there too. I’ll be in New York and I’ll hear some shit that’s popping [there], then I go back home and don’t nobody listen to that shit.
Yeah it seems like there’s always like a Red Cafe or Fabolous record that’s on the radio there and nowhere else.
That’s what I’m saying. That’s the only time you hear it. But to them it’s big. You can’t tell them that that’s not a hit. Like “no, man. Hip hop has changed and y’all don’t run shit no more!” I don’t even care no more. I’m at the shit where I’m so comfortable, as long as I make good music I’ll be straight.
Top five rappers of all time?
Man I got so many lists. I guess I’ll just say the niggas that influenced me the most. It was Nas first, then like I said E-40, then it’d be Ghostface, then it’d be Dizzee Rascal and then it’ll be MF Doom to top it off. He’s bumping Andre 3000 out.
I actually get a lot of shit from my overseas readers about this but I’ve never gotten Dizzee and the whole grime thing.
A lot of people feel that way about it but… I think Dizzee… I don’t know. Maybe he was just touching on the same shit that I was going through at the time and I related to him more so than his music and the music just went along with it. But he just talk about a lot of shit that I talk about too. I don’t know. That nigga like The Beatles to me. I think he’s so ahead lyrically and song structure wise in hip hop that he’ll never get the props he deserves because America don’t really respect hip hop from another country like that. Song writing-wise he’s fucking over a lot of niggas. If you just read the words, he’s fucking over niggas, bruh. He’s got a lot of strongs. I understand why people probably couldn’t get into the production or his accent or maybe they can’t get into it because he’s rapping in double time. But if people studied Dizzee Rascal they’d know E-40 was his favorite rapper. He studied E-40.
Why do you think international rappers struggle to find audiences over here?
I’m not saying it can never happen. Right now at the rate ears are changing and we’re getting more into world music and shit like that it’s becoming more and more possible. But before [grime] all their best people they presented to us, they were just making fake versions of what we was doing. They was just trying to do some American shit. And the ones that was doing progressive shit like Dizzee or The Streets it was too far ahead of its time for us to gravitate to. Like a Dizzee Rascal album never gets old. Like The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come For Free that album will never get old. They make timeless music. Where America… I can’t put on a Lil Jon album [today]. I used to listen to that shit. Lil Jon ran the radio. But you just can’t put on no fucking Lil Jon album and bump that shit right now. It’s so trendy over here.
I wonder if it’s just a matter of overexposure too. Like there was that one year where we heard nothing but Lil Jon.
You might be right. Because he still makes some incredible music but I don’t know. I just think we so trendy and we get burnt out so quick and we always looking for the next thing.
Well it’s scary. I look at what’s happening with Odd Future and I’m genuinely worried because those kids are so young and the hype is happening so quickly. The backlash seems inevitable.
Yeah [laughs]. We’re pretty much just all watching that movie. We know how it goes. It’s on them though. All they gotta do is make good music. We all in the same boat. All anybody gotta do is just make good music right now. I look at all of us like Odd Future, me, Lil B, Das Racist, Ninjasonik. It’s all the same shit in some sense.
But none of you guys sound alike.
That’s the thing about it! Because it’s hip hop. We all doing what’s pure to us. Everybody else is just doing what they think they need to be doing.
Is there anybody else you’re checking for currently?
I listen to all the new leaks and shit that’s been coming out but it hasn’t really been nothing out that I’ve been fucking with besides Lil B and Odd Future. I’ve been going back and listening to old albums, I’ve been actually listening to like E-40 and Dizzee Rascal.
You heard the Kanye yet?
Yeah. I heard Kanye’s album. I’m too ADD for that. Six minute songs is not what I’m trying to do right now. I can’t really get through it. It’s cool though. Me personally, I think it’s his worst album. My favorite Kanye album is Late Registration so go figure. I actually like the Kid Cudi album more than I like Kanye’s. People might criticize me for that but the thing is about Cudi is that he writes from almost a rock singer point of view. I don’t want to call it that but it’s almost white boy rap. Like how Linkin Park raps. And I think that’s the genre that he wants. He’s trying to take the Linkin Park fans. But because he’s got the swag he presents it the best way to me. So I can like that more so than I can like a Fort Minor album. If you listening to it from a hip hop nigga point of view like “yeah? this nigga ’bout to bust some bars?” then yeah [you're not gonna get it]. I know girls like him, that’s all I know. [Laughs] He figured out something.
So let’s talk about Def Jux. I know they’ve maybe been unfairly written off in some circles.
I mean they closed it down. They wrote it off themselves. At the end of it the music wasn’t as good as it was in the beginning. I think after Def Jux it was Detroit hip hop to me. That’s what underground head turned to next. After the Def Jux wave we just turned to Madlib and Dilla. It’s just like I said. At first [Def Jux] was hip hop and then they started making white boy rap.
It seems like Cannibal Ox was something of a missed opportunity.
There’s a story that go with that. Cannibal Ox did it to themselves. You can’t really blame the label. They put out a classic album and didn’t follow up.
Well I just mean it set such a high standard as the flagship release.
Yeah then it was placed on Aesop’s and El-P’s shoulders. It started with Cannibal Ox. I don’t know. I think a lot of people forget shit or weren’t into shit but that album man… If that album came out right now it’d be album of the year. If Def Jux was around right now the hype probably would be like it is right now with Odd Future. I think they dropped the ball with that Danny! album. It’s amazing. I’m on the album by the way, so of course i’m plugging it. If they would’ve put that album out Def Jux would’ve been rolling again. That would’ve been the new Def Jux. It’s supposed to reinvent itself. Even when they put out the Murs album. That nigga was popping in Cali forever. They really was doing shit for the underground. Right now it ain’t no underground hip hop label since that’s done that.
Stones Throw maybe?
But Stones Throw is trying to be more on some hippie shit. If you see what they putting out now they not putting out no hip hop shit. It’s almost like it was a phase for them. It’s upsetting because it’s like they was riding the Dilla bandwagon but they not trying to keep the Dilla shit going. They jumped off it just like it was a trend or a phase or something. If you was really on the Dilla wagon, if you was really into Detroit hip hop like that then y’all would be progressing it. They would have the new Detroit artists that’s popping. I’m not trying to say myself because I don’t want to be on Stone’s Throw but they should still have some type of connection with Detroit hip hop. They did they shit with Guilty [Simpson] but it’s supposed to still be going right now. Don’t just stop at Guilty. I guess they feel that was the last person Dilla cosigned so that’s all they owe to it.
I wonder if it’s just easier for them to market a James Pants or whatever. The same thing that happened with Def Jux, these guys get in with the indie circle and get on the Pitchfork radar and then they slowly become their audience.
Yeah it gets to the point where even in their indie [world] they turn commercial. They forget how that shit happened. It [should be] about them putting out the dope shit that they want to put out. So what if one album did better than the other? Y’all want every album to do good now. I know every record company want to make money at the end of the day but I’m just saying if [I ran a label] I could just break even at the end of the year and everybody tight and we’d put out good music. I would love for Def Jux to be around and [I'd be] on Def Jux, but maybe it’s better that it’s not that way.
I saw Aesop championing The Hybrid on Twitter a while back.
Yeah. Think about something like that! That humbles me more than if Jay-Z told me my shit’s tight. C’mon man! Bazooka Tooth?! He’s like a lyricist of lyricists. That nigga is in his own ball game. No one is fucking with that dude. So for him to think I’m nice?! I really must be nice! That gives me that type of confidence. Even with somebody like 50 Cent. You got 50 Cent saying I’m nice in one corner, you got Aesop Rock saying I’m nice in the other. That type of shit keep me going. So when niggas be telling me they don’t get the shit it’s all cool because there’s people I never thought would get it that’s getting it.