The first time I heard the street shrill squawk of Danny Brown was over a Black Milk beat — years before the 2010 breakout, “Black and Brown.” In 2008, an unknown Detroit emcee named Danny Brown appeared on Elzhi’s The Preface posse cut “Fire RMX” produced by, you got it, Black Milk. A few years later, Black Milk would produce Danny on Nametag’s “At It”, as well as three tracks for Brown’s Detroit State of Mind 4, one of which (“LOL”) now has a fancy new beat on the duo’s EP. But last September was the true Danny Brown coming out party. And leave it to Black Milk to once again be behind the boards (and on the mic) on the Song of the Year deserving and EP-inspiring, “Black and Brown” off last year’s questionably titled, Album of the Year.
It seemed at the time that every head you spoke to was saying the same thing — “You hear that Danny Brown verse on the new Black Milk? Dude kills it.” Different person, same story — Danny Brown this, Danny Brown that. But since Album of the Year’s release, Brown hasn’t looked back; he’s been one busy dude. And with every move he makes, he seems to grow on you even more — like a high-pitched, foul-mouthed, toothless fungus. But damn can that fungus rap.
Fourteen months following Black and Brown’s blogosphere takeover, two of Detroit’s finest deliver the Black and Brown EP; ten songs (two old, three instrumental) in under 23-minutes. In reality, those 23 minutes could never live up to the endless Internet buzz it received and they don’t. Now I didn’t say the record is bad, because it’s not. It just doesn’t live up to the Dickensian great expectations set by bloggers solely based off B&B’s title track and first leak, “Zap.” But who cares? It’s a damn Hip Hop EP — only five new songs. Sure, I hope they put in a little more effort on a full-length if that happens, but for now, such expectancy over a Hip Hop EP slapped together off a beloved blog banger just seems silly.
Kicking off with “Sound Check”, a schizophrenic Black Milk ‘instromental’ that segues smoothly into the first of six consecutive new tracks featuring the one and only Danny the Hybrid. First, we get “Wake Up”, a chill-wave beat (Dilla-esque) and Hip Hop cuts interspersed with a mellowed Danny flow wising up listeners that there are only, “Two things for certain — that’s death and taxes.” Then there’s “Loosie”, one funky ass, bass-hum heavy joint, “Hotter than a barbecue at Satan’s place.” But the true standout of Black and Brown and my personal favorite beat is “Zap.” The song rides an eerie sound wave of synth loops, sped-up vocal samples and Brown at his swaggest. There’s also something inherently Hip Hop about this futuristic synth-soul phantasmagoria.
“Jordan VIII”, in all its brevity, displays the Hybrid over a spacey Tronic-sounding beat boasting classic Danny Brown head-turners like, “This bitch told me I need my teeth fixed/I said, ‘Nah hoe, that’s perfect for lickin’ clits.” In just a minute and a half, Brown shows off some of his best wordplay, effortlessly meshing sports references with drug slang: “The only time Reggie on the Knicks/When you go to the corner, say lemme get a nick.” Black steals the spotlight on “Dada”, with its simple guitar and vocal looped samples reminiscent of his production style on Popular Demand.
Black finally picks up the mic (for exactly six seconds) on “WTF”, Black and Brown’s second of three instrumentals. While I love the new beat to one of Black and Brown’s earliest collaborations, “LOL”, I’m curious… if they wanted to reuse a song, why not the Danny Brown-featured, “Jahphy Joe,” off Black Milk’s Random Axe project? Regardless, the new beat buries any memory of the original while retaining Brown’s crazy catchy, Internet-shorthand chorus, “I text back, L-O-L/If it ain’t about money, T-T-Y-L.” The last of the new tracks (and Black Milk instrumentals) is “Dark Sunshine”, a minute long Eastern-influenced instrumental (if looped) to vibe to. I wouldn’t be shocked to hear this unconventional beat on a Stones Throw or Warp release… but Fat Beats? The track could also fit perfectly on the next Das Racist album. And if anyone can connect those two (Black Milk and Das Racist) polar opposite Hip Hop entities, it’s Danny Brown.
And then there was “Black and Brown”, still one of the best tracks of Black’s career and the song that jumpstarted Brown’s. After schooling Black on his own track, Brown officially crossed over. His career no longer loomed in the irrelevant shadow of Tony Yayo and skinny jeans judging, money-hungry studio execs. Brown made his name in the game off a guest spot so memorable, this Hip Hop head holds it alongside Nas’ eminent “Live at the BBQ” debut. While Nas dropped jaws in ’91 for snuffing Jesus, I still to this day shake my head in disbelief at Brown’s line, “Thick white bitch slurp a nigga like Kirby.”
Black and Brown’s production isn’t Black Milk’s most cohesive collection and I’m going to assume Brown’s lyrics were predominantly written prior to XXX’s next level material. But for a twenty minute half-assed collection of stoned studio sessions, there’s little negative to point out here and infinite positives to look forward to. Black and Brown was severely overhyped but Black and Brown the duo remains something that Hip Hop can be excited about for years to come — hopefully with more of a Detroit presence next time around.
Black & Brown