Danny Brown on Current Hip-Hop Climate: "No One Wants To Be The Smart Guy"

The Bruiser Brigade captain reminisces on '90s hip-hop lyricism.

Danny Brown is an artist that bridges the gap between introspective, lyrical content and the street-bred turn-up music that dominates today’s mainstream—a microcosm of the balance necessary to keep hip-hop the dualistic wonder that it is.

Another one of those artists is Nas, who has spent the last two decades juggling that lyrical duality with near-perfect precision. It stands to reason then, that he would be responsible for Danny’s favorite song, which happens to be “The World Is Yours.” 

In a recent interview with NPR, Brown spoke on what made the track so special to him.

As far as vocabulary wise, you gotta think it's still like ‘92, so it was kinda promoted. Like it was cool to be smart back then.

When asked if he feels as though it’s no longer cool to be smart, Danny offered up a perfectly blunt commentary on the state of hip-hop’s current climate.

Of course it's not, music is super dumbed down now. No one wants to be the smart guy, that's not cool, but back in those days it was kind of like promoted.

Danny’s comments reflect the opinion of so many hip-hop listeners that grew up during rap's “Golden Era” in the 90s, when the mainstream representation of hip-hop was more inclusive of the lyrically complex music coming from the East Coast and elsewhere.

Of course, a lyrical duality has always existed in hip-hop, with the most contemplative, serious music finding a balance in either gangster rap, party tracks, or the drug-addled “mumble rap” we’re experiencing today. There is a contrast, however, in how lyricism is promoted today throughout the mainstream, as opposed to the era that birthed Nas, Jay Z and so many others that are today considered legends.

Artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Danny himself have enjoyed major successes through their more complex lyrical offerings, but the majority of the mainstream is currently dominated by a climate that promotes willful ignorance, with more focus being placed on the “vibe” of a record than the content within it.

With hip-hop culture constantly evolving with each new wave of artists, it’s important that we all maintain an open mind to the upcoming trends and musical styles, but as Danny pointed out, since it’s no longer cool to rhyme intelligently among mainstream artists, we need to ask ourselves what kind of future that’s setting up for the next wave of artists.


By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Instagram