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Atrocity Exhibition
Danny Brown Atrocity Exhibition
Released 30 September 2016

Paul White, Petite Noir, Black Milk, Playa Haze, Alchemist, Evian Christ
Label Warp
Length 46:38
Genre Experimental hip hop
Website xdannyxbrownx.com

Could 2016 to be the year that Danny Brown finally goes stratospheric? Not only did his collaboration with The Avalanches finally get released but it was also chosen as the lead single for the long awaited Wildflower, giving Brown a lot of exposure to music fans who might not normally come across him. Following it up with a killer album is the ideal way to capitalise on that momentum and when the list of guest appearances includes the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and B-Real you know he means business.

The album title is taken from the Joy Division song and the vibe seems to embody the same musical unpredictability of its namesake. 'Downward Spiral' kicks things off, Brown’s manic rapping about sex and drugs (something of a calling card for the rapper) set to a sample of 'Oxymoron' by Guru Guru, an inspired choice by long-time producer/collaborator Paul White. The drums and guitars are suddenly switched for understated synths and whistles for second track 'Tell me What I Don’t Know'; Brown now rapping in his ‘normal’ voice about the struggle growing up on the streets. Third track 'Rolling Stone' flips the mood yet again with a smooth hook delivered by Petite Noir over a deep bass line while Brown dissects life choices and state of mind.

'Really Doe' follows this eclectic intro and the featured artists alone (Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt and the aforementioned Kendrick) are enough to set huge expectations for the track, Black Milk producing adds to the anticipation. Not only is the line-up good on paper but it delivers in practice as well. Each rapper delivers blistering wordplay about their rise to stardom, Brown’s high pitched delivery for the opening verse contrasted by Earl’s monotone for the show stealing final verse. K-Dot provides the titular hook and a verse that bolsters the claims he made on 'Control' while his Black Hippy stable mate shows that he can more than hold his own in exalted company, adding more hype to his upcoming album, DWTW. In an album with many highlights, this track is a clear standout.

The album continues to Jekyll and Hyde its way onwards; the subdued and brief 'Lost' switches to the in your face horns of 'Ain’t It Funny', the guitars and drums of 'Golddust' make way for the paranoia soaked 'White Lines' (featuring Alchemist on production), the party feel of 'Dance in the Water' is followed with the more low-key 'From The Ground'. 'When it Rain' is another fast flowing track with Brown on full boast, followed by the equally fast 'Today', that sees Brown borrowing heavily from Outkast’s 'B.O.B.' before 'Get Hi' pulls the brake in a B-Real assisted weed haze. 'Hell For It' closes the album with Brown in defiant mood, galvanizing his place in the game and throwing shade at the novelty of acts like Iggy Azalea over real emcees. Set over a simple piano line it’s a strong end to a very strong album, allowing some contemplation from the craziness that has taken place beforehand.

Brown’s star continues to rise and Atrocity Exhibition serves as an impressive overview of his capabilities. Though the collaborations are eye-catching the album itself doesn’t rely on these moments. Most tracks are just Brown delivering lines that will induce disgust or giggles like a modern day O.D.B. and the standard still remains high. It’s the kind of album that will make end of year lists for all types of critics, not just those steeped in hip-hop and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other 2016 highlights like Untitled Unmastered, Blonde and Views.

- Brian Kinsella