Whether it’s his openness about taking the drug Molly¸ his history of promiscuity and apparent misogyny or even performing a lewd act on stage, Danny Brown’s reputation is controversial to say the least. His history, warts and all, is vividly depicted within his lyrics on albums such as Old and XXX and, by his own admission, his past has been talked about to death in other interviews. This conversation has a different focus – Danny Brown’s music; past, present and future. It appears that, under the persona of hip-hop’s crazy man, lays a humble artist that still considers himself the underdog.
Are you looking forward to your Dublin show, how has the tour been going so far?
Yeah, I played there last year and it was pretty fun so hopefully it’ll be even more fun (this time). The tour has been cool. I’m just trying to stay healthy so I’ll be able to play everything. After a while it becomes exhausting having such a rigorous tour schedule but I mean, I’m not complaining at all. I’d rather be working than sitting around.
Old and the XXX mixtape have been commercially successfully. How do you feel about the new found media attention?
I don’t really look at it as attention. I work hard making music so I just look at it as everything I put out there I’m just getting it back. To be honest I don’t really feel like I get as much attention as I deserve (laughs).
On the Pitchfork documentary, your brother Charles said you never wanted to be famous- is that still the case?
I don’t feel like I’m famous now. I still feel like regular old me. It is what comes with it and I want my music to reach as many people as possible but if that’s what comes with it I take it in stride. I’m still me at the end of the day. I don’t let stuff like that go to my head.
Your dad was a DJ. What influence did that have on you and how you make music?
He pretty much was telling me what was good and what was bad. As a kid, you don’t really know, you just know what you like. You go with the feeling and that’s what I still go with now today. When you’re older you can recognise the difference between good and bad music. He just always tried to promote what was good even if I didn’t like it or take to it as quick. He always forced it down my throat. The majority of what he played (when he was DJing) was House music but he listened to a lot of hip hop. He bought me Wu-tang. I’d never heard of Wu-tang and he just came in and put it in the CD player. That was when the Discman first came out. He bought me one and he bought me Wu-tang. It was the only CD I had. It was a cool thing to have a disc- man, everybody else had regular walk-mans. Before I knew it I was listening to Wu-tang all day. Like my action figures were Wu-tang. I was just being weird at that time.
Did you ever get to meet a member of Wu-tang, ever have the chance to tell them about the impact that CD had on you?
No, the only one I could really say that I’d talked to was U God. Guys that I look up to, I’d be shy, I couldn’t just walk up to a member of Wu-tang and talk to him. But we have played a couple of festivals together but U God is really cool. He came up to my hotel room and we just kicked it.
Is it true you spoke in rhyme as a toddler?
Yeah.. when I first started saying words I just rhyme ‘em you know. I said “hi/bye”. I didn’t know how to form full sentences so I would just rhyme.
You always wanted to be a rapper. Is it everything you thought it would be?
I can’t say it’s everything that I thought but it’s what you expect of it today. I always thought it was all about talent, that whoever raps the best becomes successful but it’s not like that. It takes more than being a good rapper to make it, you could be a not so good rapper and make it. (The business end of it) that’s the bottom of it.
You wrote much of the first album in prison. How did it feel stepping into the studio for the first time – seeing that dream come to fruition?
No, actually when I first got out of jail I was making Detroit State Of Mind II. I think I damn near cried making it because I had been away from the studio and recording for so long. I mean, writing a rhyme for yourself is one thing but writing a song is another. I couldn’t get it going. It hurt me that I couldn’t do it. But I got through it. For that reason alone it’s is one of my favourite projects. If you listen to it that’s why most of the songs are about two minutes. I just couldn’t do it. I’d write a rap along to a beat but I think I only wrote one song for the whole thing. By Detroit State of Mind III I was on the bike riding again.
Have you any opinion on the apology text from Macklemore to Kendrick Lamar about the Grammys?
Nah, I really don’t talk about anyone else but me. My opinion don’t matter in situations like that.
Since you know Kendrick I wondered….
Macklemore is my homie too.
You’ve done numerous collaborations including tracks with ASAP Rocky, Freddie Gibbs and Charli XCX. How else would you like to work with?
I guess guys like Starlito. I want to work more with Freddie Gibbs. Rappers like Kevin Gates. I like Siren, I want to do some things with her and with Metro Boomin.
Are you doing a separate project with your crew The Bruiser Brigade?
Yes, that’s what we’re actually in the process of doing now. We’re working on that really hard right now. Anything I take on as a project I take it really seriously. I’m working hard as if it’s my album by itself. We have been working on it for years now, since before I started Old. That is like the preview, I guess it’s stamping the sound or soundscapes that I use as an artist. But with Bruiser Brigade it’s just continuing on the same path but now you’re hearing different voices over that type of production.
You have your own recording studio in Detroit. Are you interested in developing new talent or even setting up your own label?
Right now I’m actually working with a guy right now named Zelooperz. He’s the guy that’s does the hook on ‘Push Koma’. We’re just prepping his project; it’s getting ready to come out. It’s in the mixing and mastering stage. It should be out soon.
Much of your music education came from reading magazines when you were younger. Would you ever consider becoming a music journalist?
Nah, I think at the end of the day it would be kind of cheap for me to do that. I love to read about music and I’d probably love to write about it but I think that’s something I rather stay away from. I want to get into A&R more so. I’d rather develop talent than criticise it.
What was it like to be part of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ interactive video, did you get to meet him?
No, no-one got to meet Bob Dylan, we came in and did the record but he’s not the type of guy you meet (laughs). I would have love to, I thought we might but he’s not the kind of guy that just meets people. It came about because It was made by pretty much the same people that shot the ‘Grown Up’ video.
Who is your favourite artist at the moment?
I like Young Thug and Kevin Gates. But right now I’m more interested in hearing the St Vincent album that just came out. I didn’t even know it came out today so I have to go and pick that up.
Danny Brown plays the Academy Dublin on February 25th.