Detroit emcee Danny Brown is slated to release his fourth solo studio album, Atrocity Exhibition, this Friday (September 30). Fresh off unveiling his super-posse cut "Really Doe," Brown is currently riding a wave of excitement that had turned his upcoming LP into the most highly-anticipated project of his 13-year career.
To capture some of this excitement we've decided to kick off our brand new series 3-on-3, in which we ask three industry tastemakers three questions about an artist, his or her new album or a newly-released single or video. For our inaugural go-round, our panel consists of DJBooth's own Yoh and Brendan Varan, as well as guest tastemaker Andrew Barber, founder of Chicago hip-hop blog and media company FakeShoreDrive.
1. Does Danny Brown have the most unique vocal in hip-hop in 2016?
Yoh, DJBooth: Danny has the obscene mouth of a vulgar sailor, but the animated voice of a South Park character. When it comes to uniqueness, few rappers rival his bizarre high-pitched tone, but I would throw Chance The Rapper in the ring. Chance is also a cartoon character, his voice is equally as unique and comical; “Juice” is the perfect example of how his voice can make you believe it’s Eric Cartman rapping in your ear.
Brendan Varan, DJBooth: The sheer number of artists dotting the landscape begs me to think there's at least a few, and I'd have to give that honor to Young Thug. Danny might have the most immediately jarring and weird vocal, but Thug's is equally unique, and his superhuman ability to stretch and work his voice into a much wider range of sounds and inflections (listen to "Harambe" and "RiRi" back to back and tell me otherwise) takes the crown.
Andrew Barber, FakeShoreDrive: Definitely. He always has. You could never mistake Danny with anyone else. He sounds like absolutely no one in music—let alone hip-hop. There's no father to his style, word to Russell Jones.
2. Brown has seen success with several independent labels, and "Atrocity Exhibition" will once again be released independently. If Brown was signed to a major label, would his ceiling be higher?
Yoh, DJBooth: Danny can build his kingdom on any land and his fans will come to the fortress, and party like the world is ending. That’s the beauty of a cult following, the cult will follow with or without a major label. I don’t think Danny cares about his ceiling being higher, he isn’t chasing mainstream success, he isn’t chasing more visibility, and that’s the beauty of his independence―he’s winning his way.
Brendan Varan, DJBooth: I doubt it. Danny operates comfortably just outside the mainstream line, and with such a unique style that tends to punch you in the face, it's hard for me to believe he'd ever secure something much more sizeable than his niche fan base. Plus, he thrives when able to color outside the lines creatively.
Andrew Barber, FakeShoreDrive: I don't think so. I'm not sure Danny on a major is a good fit. They might try to mold him into something he's not, which could compromise his music. Danny is an artist who needs the freedom to be himself. He has major management—Goliath with Dart Parker and Paul Rosenberg—and it doesn't much better than that. Danny gets opportunities and looks that major artists don't even receive. His team is really smart. The only major that might make sense is Shady Records.
3. The pre-release highlight from "Atrocity Exhibition" is "Really Doe" with guests Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt. If given the chance to A&R a Danny Brown posse cut, which three emcees would you have selected to appear on "Really Doe"?
Yoh, DJBooth: If I was the A&R, “Really Doe” would have been a Detroit posse cut: Black Milk, Royce Da 5’9”, and Elzhi―the “Deadly Medley” trio.
Brendan Varan, DJBooth: The original line-up is an A-Team of great emcees that don't shy away from getting dark and depraved, which is what I'd prefer on a Danny Brown posse cut, but I'd leave Earl on the track and replace Kendrick and Soul with Vince Staples and Jay Electronica.
Andrew Barber, FakeShoreDrive: I think they nailed it with this lineup, but they could've kept it all the way TDE with the inclusion of ScHoolboy Q—I know they said they'd add Danny to Black Hippy a few years back. I think he'd be a good fit at TDE as well. I also wouldn't mind an all Detroit remix with Payroll Giovanni and Big Quis, though.