2011 saw the breakthrough release of 'XXX', a fully realised concept album released for free online by firebrand Detroit rapper Danny Brown.
Not only was it a star-making record, but its distinct and druggy style went on to reverberate as an influential force throughout broader pop music.
Following on from his long-time-coming ascendency to fame, Danny stepped things up yet again with 'Old', a sprawling and dichotomous insight into the psyche of one of modern rap’s most compelling minds.
You might expect Danny to be in the midst of a whirlwind of activity in the wake of 'Old's release, but it’s apparent that isn’t the case as he answers the phone. “I’m in my home, man, in Michigan. Just chillin’, haven’t been doing too much.”
Danny’s emergence onto the world stage happened as he entered his thirties, sparking some debate about whether rap is no longer just a young person’s game. Whether or not that is the case, Danny doesn’t feel like the title, 'Old', is a self-descriptor.
“I don’t feel old at all. The name of my album has nothing to do with age or anything like that. Rap music gave me the chance to never grow up. I knew what I wanted to do from a young age, so I just stuck to that.”
After the phenomenal response to 'XXX', Danny’s next move was a hotly anticipated one. The two sides of 'Old' could very well make for satisfying standalone releases, an indication of Danny’s resolve to provide a comprehensive package.
“I just took my time, to be honest. Everyone was like, ‘Are you gonna do some tapes?’, so I made it with that in mind — like a tape or a vinyl [record].”
As for the lasting influence of the molly-drenched 'XXX', Danny hasn’t exactly measured its cultural reach.
“I dunno, I haven’t listened to it in a long time. It was where I was at in my life at that time. That’s what I do, I just write about what I’m going through, and that’s it. So 'XXX', it’s just me in 2011, you know?”
'Old' features a variety of guests, ranging from a broad variety of genres, with artists from all across the globe.
“I was pretty much just working with my friends, to be honest. I play them something and they say, ‘Lemme help on on that’, or something like that. Like Charli XCX and Purity Ring, y’know, I had the songs and really wanted them to be a part of it. It was fun, but they take music really seriously, I take music really seriously, so it was great working with them.”
Danny recently welcomed Siren — a Bengal cat, a rather large domestic breed — into his family.
“I got her from Ohio, they drove her up. She’s crazy. I had a cat before her that died, so I was missing a cat. I went online to try to find a nice cool cat. She cool, she just bad, man,” he says with his distinct laugh. “She likes to get in trouble.”
In spite of Danny’s recent international success, he’s managed to find a comfortable work-life balance.
“Like I said, I just rap about living my life. So I have to live my life to have something to rap about. I’m in the living stage right now. I just want to hang out,” he offers with a relaxed air.
“But sometimes I’ll be bored at home, then start to miss the road. We all like making money, and money take care of me and pay my bills, so if I have to go somewhere to make money, I’m gonna go.”
After a series of Australian club shows in mid-2012 — “I remember having a good time, but I don’t remember much else” — Danny will return for a run of Laneway Festival dates in 2014.
The festival environment, as Danny explains, is the most conducive one to his live show. “I didn’t make [the songs] for the club, I made them to perform at festivals, if anything.”
As for what the future holds, Danny is philosophical. “I’ve been doing this since I was in kindergarten, so as long as I’m able to breathe and talk I’ll be rapping. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”
Danny Brown plays St Jerome's Laneway Festival at RNA Showgrounds on Friday January 31.