Table of Contents
- Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap
- Date: 17 Nov, 2023
- Content: explicit
- Track(s): 11
- ℗ 2023 Warp Records Limited
Danny Brown has always embodied both conventional and rebellious qualities. He is a Detroit native who has achieved great success in the hip-hop industry, with his collaborative album “Scaring the Hoes” with JPEGMafia earning a gold record and making him one of the most beloved “up-and-coming” hip-hop artists. Despite being a fan of ’90s hip-hop, he has transitioned into indie and EDM, leading a wave of internet-fluent rappers. However, he has always been self-conscious about his age as an artist, especially in a field where up-and-coming stars are often younger.
Brown has made references to his age in his album titles, with his breakthrough mixtape “XXX” and subsequent album “Quaranta” (meaning “40” in Italian). “Quaranta” is a sequel to “XXX” and coincides with Brown in his forties. However, the album is a stark contrast to “XXX,” with Brown confessing his shortcomings and regrets in several sombre, lyric-heavy songs. The album feels more like sitting in a therapist’s office dealing with the aftermath of a decade as a rock star than the endless roller coaster of drugs and vices depicted in “XXX.” In “Quaranta,” Brown provides an enlightened viewpoint from the same place of struggle he has managed to escape. The album showcases his growth and provides a much-needed reversal of the deceptive aesthetics of his previous works.
The album artwork is a portrait of Danny with his hair dyed red and wearing jewellery against a dark background. His demeanour sets up his audience for the lyrical density and staggering details he unleashes on the record.
Tracks And Features
“Quaranta” undercuts Brown’s image with a bleak dose of reality. But darkness brings with it a heavy feeling. Brown introduces himself at the beginning of the title track. He abandons his clever similes and punchlines as the subject matter becomes more personal, distilling his writing to its most basic form. At the same time, “Down Wit It” goes into heartache and addiction and shows him acknowledging that his protective behaviour during a moment when he needed the most help eventually wrecked one of his most meaningful relationships.
The storytelling, rapping, and melody flow in the more narratively focused tunes. Interestingly, on “Celibate,” Mike, who usually keeps to himself, effortlessly earns the finest verse on the record by adding some energy to an otherwise lifeless song. Danny considers how far he has gone since the 2006 jail term that motivated him to pursue rap; due to this increased privacy, inviting just Bruiser Wolf, Kassa Overall, and Mike gives a feeling that they approve of roles that don’t interfere with plans. This deliberate selection of collaborators showcases Danny’s growth as an artist and his ability to curate a cohesive project. It also highlights his trust in these artists to enhance his vision without overshadowing it.
To broaden his horizons, Brown collaborates with Kassa Overall on “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation,” a drum-fill-heavy song about gentrification in Detroit that references the Goodies. But the observations come out as superficial and trite. Although rapping in the first person, Brown finds adding his typical colour to the narrative challenging because the subject matter is outside his comfort zone. He uses the song “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation” to criticize the gentrification of his community, and the song also serves as a kind of history, showing how his body and surroundings have changed over time. Whether on purpose or not, the bars show how XXX’s “Die Like a Rockstar” contrasts with the good sleeping and eating habits he has since settled into since going sober.
The lead single “Tantor,” produced by Alchemist, falls into the same repetitive pattern where Brown tries to rap over a complex subject and ends up creating an unimpressive beat.” Nevertheless, he continues to do so as he frequently does, balancing between being awake and delightfully ignorant with songs that sound amazing but are a little more sophisticated than crazy bars. “Tantor” showcases Brown’s ability to quickly go between socially sensitive songs and careless ignorance. His delivery and wordplay are entertaining, even with the awkward pace. But it soon becomes clear that, despite the track’s incredible sound, it doesn’t have much depth beyond some amusing and well-constructed absurd bars.
The quirky beat of “Y.B.P.” is reminiscent of the early ICP. With its unique personality and regional flair, which are absent from many songs, the song shines. Brown gives “Y.B.P.” a distinctive touch by fusing the ICP’s trademark sound, which pays homage to the city’s rich musical past. Additionally, Brown’s use of regional flavour in the song highlights his genuineness and connects with listeners deeper, making for an engaging and unforgettable listening experience.
The only song on Quaranta that sounds like it belongs on a loud, industrial record is “Dark Sword Angel,” one of the album’s finest tunes. It’s aggressive, aiming at record company executives over a swaggering beat. Still, it also makes room for endearingly explicit sex scenes and an unexpected allusion to comedian and landlord Hannibal Buress. With the help of live percussion and a squelchy instrumental, Brown delivers his signature dirty punchlines. The song gives an album devoid of humour and energy a much-needed boost.
The penultimate track, “Hamani,” addresses this more directly. The artist reflects on the power of nostalgia and music to find inner peace. The fusion of Sven Wunder’s retro sound and RZA-esque beat adds depth to his introspective journey, making it clear that he has discovered solace through the timeless melodies and memories these elements evoke.
Despite the unremarkable musical textures of tracks like “Ain’t My Concern” and the album closer, “Bass Jams,” their well-crafted lyrics more than compensate for it. While the album’s overall mood is quite sombre, specific tracks, such as the sad and sentimental “Bass Jam,” suggest that Danny’s experimentation might pay off. In this particular song, Danny’s musings on the joys of family and old music represent his kindest sentiments. However, these rare moments of brilliance can’t break the album’s overall gloomy mood. Quaranta aptly describes the uncomfortable process of growth, for better or worse. It’s a luxury to hear him struggle through it, given how few rappers have been able to age well.
|3||Ain’t My Concern||2:50|
|4||Dark Sword Angel||2:40|
|5||Y.B.P. (feat. Bruiser Wolf)||2:56|
|6||Jenn’s Terrific Vacation (feat. Kassa Overall)||3:26|
|7||Down Wit It||2:40|
|8||Celibate (feat. MIKE)||3:58|
As he told fans ten years ago, Brown has no plan of rapping about his younger misadventures for all of his career. It is admirable that he would write an album about what he is going through rather than satisfy his fans’ expectations. Nevertheless, Quaranta frequently falls short in its attempts to make these subjects engaging. Danny Brown appears to be mapping out a course of action while considering his decisions on Quaranta. Even if its meditative tone is risky for an artist known for wild hedonism, it works better in principle than in practice.
The record resolves itself by creating a logical balance in just over 30 minutes, although it is murky and succinct at other times. Brown has never been good at making prudent decisions. Not many rappers with impressive resumes would throw in a shot like this one a decade into their career, setting him up for future greatness as he grows older and more at ease with his ‘OG status in the game.