Atrocity Exhibition, by Danny Brown
Suggested by Alfie Bennett
I’m a fan of animation.
I think this stems from my youth, specifically my teens. Not because these formative years were packed with prime examples of animated film or television, mind. Such things were there, but not really in my sphere of influence. Because my parents were vehemently against watching anything animated.
“We’re not watching this crap,” my Mum would say, if I suggested we watch the latest Simpsons episode. “Cartoons are for kids.” And so instead we’d watch a soap opera, or reality TV, or a gurning game show.
They likely had a point, if you look back at their formative years. I can’t think of any adult-oriented animation from the late sixties. I suppose shows like the Simpsons broke the mould in that regard. Nowadays, we’re swimming in options, from the declining Simpsons to Family Guy to South Park to Bojack Horseman to Archer to Rick and Morty, and that’s without looks at the plethora of shows that straddle the line between the child / adult viewer. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
A common aspect of these shows is their use of a hyper-defined character. You’ve Homer, Peter Griffin, Cartman, Rick, and so on. These larger-than-life creations are the rudder that steers the show. Love or hate them, they are the core of the concept.
Overblown cartoon characters are great fun… in cartoons. In music? I’m not such a fan.
If you’re missing my meaning, let me be clear: Danny Brown is a cartoon character. He’s not a cool musical cartoon character, like a member of Gorillaz or Studio Killers. He’s a caricature, a gurning gesticulator, an overblown harrumph with machine-gun vocals barked through a hole in your back yard fence.
You knew this album would be a hard sell for me, right? Modern rap that’s crested the median and is surfing down the bell curve toward the thin edge of experimentation? Lyrics full of the same old bluster, drugs and violence and misogyny and boredom. “She look like a centerfold / Mouth all on my genitals / Suckin’ on it like she gettin’ vitamins and minerals / I be on the chemicals, she be on my testicles / Poke her with my tentacle then put her out my schedules.” And that’s from my standout, Really Doe, featuring the dubious talents of other industry stalwarts.
The man’s got skills, and his flows are sharp, but his peculiar over-acted chipmunk deliver does nothing for me. The songs are fast, furious, as befits Brown’s scalpel-sharp scatter-crack delivery, and the whole effect comes over as dangerously earnest and energetic. It’s tiring, and I’m old, and this is not for me. My Plan B for this genre, to let the sounds wash over me and worry not about the content? Tough to do when the frontman sounds like Squidward.
Atrocity Exhibition is lauded. Danny Brown is a hip hop visionary. I don’t see it. All I see is an animated character, thinly drawn, gnashing and wailing without achieving much of substance. Look closely: the emperor is naked. 3/10