I listen to a lot of rap on a day to day basis. It is like brain candy for me most of the time. I can turn on Enter the Wu-Tang and know where the album is going, enjoy the flow, see where it is going, see where it came from and generally sit back for the entire album without having to think about it.
Atrocity Exhibition is not that kind of album. Danny Brown breaks a lot of the orthodoxies of rap on this album, making a sharp left turn from the safe beats of 2013’s “Old” to go into somewhere that borders on incomprehensible at time. Right out of the gate the first track “Downward Spiral” features the very raw Danny Brown fans of his 2011 album “XXX” come to expect. Danny raps over what feels like a band falling apart live on stage, mirroring his lyrics discussing his descent into drug abuse and addiction. It is haunting and attention grabbing in a way that few rap albums can be, while also having samples from earlier albums to ground it in the same realm as the rest of his work.
The entire album features tracks using the similar concept of madness in the instrumental lines, as well in the rapping. Tracks like “Ain’t it Funny” feature frantic brass instrument blaring and honking. All the while Danny is rapping with a rhythm that often breaks from the BPM and flow of the instrumentals. It’s this raw energy that makes this album standout from a lot of rap in 2016.
The highlight of the album is oddly enough the most orthodox track on the album “Really Doe”. I have a very strong bias for Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt. Any time either of them appear on any track, my expectations are automatically higher for the song, and they have yet to let me down. Their addition to this track really tie together the longest track on the album, clocking in at 5:19. Having four strong rappers (including Ab-Soul) rapping about life and riches push this album into album of the year territory for me.
My favorite music includes strong experimentation. My favorite album of 2015 was “Garden of Delete” by Oneohtrix Point Never for how unlike anything else it was. Danny Brown with “Atrocity Exhibition” is doing something very different and really making a name for himself as one of the most creative rappers around.