Review Summary: The soundtrack to hedonism
“Turning to these drugs, now these drugs turned my life / And it's the downward spiral, got me suicidal / But too scared to do it so these pills will be the rifle.” Thus begins Danny Brown’s fantastic XXX
, a mixtape firmly establishing the Detroit rapper as a mainstay in the underground hip-hop scene. It’s an appropriate way to encapsulate the release as a whole, as it tells the tale of a young man alternately rocketed to unknown heights in the wake of drugs, partying, sex, and the high life and scared out of his wits because of how high (both figuratively and literally) he’s gotten. Sure, Brown seems cocksure all the way through the album’s 53-minute runtime, and his dynamic flow reflects just how confident he is in his mic skills. As he puts it, “[My] flow can make Gandhi grab the burner, wanna shoot shi
t.” One of the main reasons he’s such an interesting MC is because he fully believes he’s that good.
is also the story of Brown coming to terms with his newfound fame and popularity. With success inevitably comes fair-weather friends, stress, a loss of privacy, and in Brown’s case drinking and drugging almost until death. Brown is horribly worried about his future, and his brushes with death - at the hands of too much Adderall or alcohol - have him concerned. However, with this concern comes even more excess and hedonism - if he’s going to die, Brown wants to go out in a blaze of glory. And it’s this grotesque chronicling of his lifestyle which makes XXX
such an attractive album. There aren’t many other artists who can make a good song entirely about cunnillingus, and the fact that Brown does exactly this - with such relative inexperience, no less - is nothing short of impressive. No matter whether he’s popping yet another pill, having sex for the umpteenth time, or smoking “blunt after blunt after blunt”, Brown celebrates how his life has turned out in possibly the most intensely cracked way possible.
It’s precisely how over-the-top the mixtape is that settles it as one of the great hip-hop releases of the past few years. Brown’s lively lyricism and the brilliantly schizophrenic and experimental production form a beautiful team, and the release benefits greatly from every nasally whine, every trippy 808 and unearthly synth hook. XXX
does things other rappers wouldn’t dare approach - as Danny points out himself, “This is anti-clean rap...That's why these wack rappers, they never last long / Don't care about music, just radio songs.” More than everything else, then, XXX
is a display of passion. Danny cares about his hedonistic, destructive lifestyle, and being who he is he’d rather die than stop moving like he does on the mixtape. XXX
is an absolutely essential hip-hop release in the age of Internet distribution and excess, and as the extreme of the lyrical tameness spectrum it’s necessary for anyone who claims to be at all knowledgeable about hip-hop.