Danny Brown is one of my favorite rappers of all time. Atrocity Exhibition was my introduction to experimental hip hop and probably for experimental music as a whole, and today it still stands as one of my favorite albums of all time. Danny's unorthodox ways of expressing emotions without any filters is what made me fall in love with him in the first place, with his pure bluntness. So this has been one of my most anticipated albums of the year.
The singles for this album were incredible, suggesting that Danny is going to deliver one of the wildest albums in his discography, a return to form if you will, and the fact that Danny said that this is a sequel to XXX only contributed to that theory. So as I sat there, expecting to be blown away by some of the most unhinged shit I've heard in my entire life, I played the first track, and Immediately understood how terribly wrong I was.
This is probably Danny's most lowkey album, which is a funny thing to say after you listen to tracks such as Tantor or Dark Sword Angel. But make no mistake, this is Danny at his most mature, introspective and wise. It's Danny in his mid-life, facing his demons fearlessly once and for all, and battling between his two personalities.
The album's production is spectacular. I love how Danny toned it down lyrically and thematically, while not giving up on his mind bending production styles. Although the beats are probably not as off-the-wall as the beats on AE or XXX for that matter, they are still incredibly diverse, unhinged, lush and most importantly unpredictable.
The tracklist offers a wide variety of instrumentals and different "vibes'' within the production, if it's the raw guitar solo on the opener Quaranta, the overwhelming sinister synths on the surreal Dark Sword Angel, or the soothing keys of Celibate. This is certainly one of Danny's most versatile albums production-wise, with every song bringing something new and fresh to the table, which is causing the album to be extremely unpredictable.
It seems like this album has something for every fan of Danny's music. For those who love his off the rails AE days you have songs like Dark Sword Angel, Jenn’s Terrific Vacation or Tantor, and for the fans who love the more lowkey conscious Danny you've got amazingly introspective tracks among Down Wit It, Hanami and Quaranta. The project feels like Danny learning from all of his past albums, and forming something that is the most true to himself.
Danny's performances are impeccable. It looks like Danny is battling between his two personalities on the album, the yelpy druggy ego and his normal self. Although he does use his iconic yelpy voice on a couple of songs, on most of the tracklist were getting Danny in his purest form, with his normal voice, which might symbolize a beginning of a new area for him. His performances are incredibly passionate and dynamic, rapping insanely on songs like Dark Sword Angel while sounding exceptionally vulnerable, truly on the edge of crying, on Down Wit It.
Thematically, this is Danny's most straightforwardly introspective album, exploring his past addictions, mental health issues, difficult teenagerhood and adulthood, traumas and even love. Danny is diving into his current headspace, right when he is approaching 40 years old, reflecting on the things that got him to where he is today, while simultaneously facing the fears that are grabbing onto him along the long exhausting way.
If you are following Danny's journey throughout his past albums, you know he had a pretty tough life, drowning in depressions, addictions and crime. Trying to make fun out of his pain on XXX with some glimpses of crying for help, torturing himself for salvation on the horrifying Atrocity Exhibition and... sounding actually alright on uknowhatimsayin¿. However, this is the healthiest Danny sounded in his discography. Although this album is undoubtedly dark and even depressing at times, it seems like Danny is looking into his demons' eyes in order to get rid of them. And considering that Danny is sounding very optimistic on the last two songs it seems like he managed to do so.
My only gripe with the album is that the second half is a bit weaker than the first one. Songs like Shakedown and Bass Jam are slightly forgettable in my opinion, although I love the lyrical themes of the tracks. And even though Hanami is one of the best songs off the album, it features a pretty weak hook with Danny rhyming the word time with time for three times, and repeating it too many TIMES. So there are a couple of lows throughout the album.
With that being said, there are many immaculate standouts, the first half is almost flawless, and even the second half is still very solid. Songs like Dark Sword Angel, Quaranta, Hanami and Jenn’s Terrific Vacation are some of Danny's best songs since Atrocity Exhibition way back in 2016. Tight 34 minutes of bangers.
Overall, Quaranta is an incredible project by one of the most uncompromising, creatively brilliant and unique rappers of our generation. It might be Danny's most human album to date.
Favorite: Quaranta, Tantor, Ain't My Concern, Dark Sword Angel, Jenn’s Terrific Vacation, Down Wit It, Hanami
Least favorite: Shakedown