The latest leak from Old, "Side A," reaches back and dips into that good ol' grime-caked Detroit desperation of blue-collar dope sales, cold apartments, and angry landlords. They want that old Danny Brown, he spits.
The first time I heard that old Danny Brown, it was 2009—I was down in the voluminous basement of the old Ballard Avenue location of Bop Street Records, a vinyl Vatican catacomb of dusty, moldering 78s. Its one-time employee, my homeboy Newman (of Giant Panda/ Tres Records), was playing me tracks of Brown's—in particular I was struck by his adenoidal aggression and the weird, techno-laced Detroitness of "Whatupdoe":
(Year later I met Brown at the Neptune Theater, where, in a conversation about Trinidad James, he inadvertently put me onto my current number-one favorite rap weirdo—Young Thug. For that, I am forever in his debt. Listen to 1017 Thug and you might be, too.)
That old tape's title—Hot Soup—was clearly a reference to not rib-sticking cold-weather fare but to the just-cooked cocaine base that Brown talks about selling, before he discovered asymmetrical haircuts and overseas music festivals. (Some of y'all might remember when Belltown, for example, was full of cats hooting out "soup, soup, soup!" to the local clucks.) The tension between his old life and his current reality, between the dopefiend desperation scene to the Technicolor party-drug wave, has always, to me, been part of why Brown spits so hard—he holds zero nostalgia for his crill-slinging days or his jail time, and like any sane person, is not trying to go back. Though he's beloved for his pervy sex raps and Molly-fied hedonism, his most human moments tend to come when he looks backward; his casual recounting of selling crack to a pregnant woman on "Greatest Rapper Ever" is some of the most harrowing, lowkey-guilt-laced rapping you'll ever hear. Now it seems that Brown is circling back to the scene of the crime; "Side A" is all crack, no cunnilingus, but Brown is still eating most rappers alive.