Review Summary: XXXXQuaranta
lives and dies with its lyricism. When dream becomes job, friends become strangers, and aspects of yourself slip away, sacrificed to the climb: Brown rekindles all these demons, and more, in the bleakest birthday party, uh, ever? I say rekindles, for the insight provided on 40
is decidedly rear view mirror, looking backwards, previous, reflective. This isn’t the in-the-moment hedonism-cum-terror of an XXX
or Atrocity Exhibition
; it comes with more perspective, less fish trapped in bowl, more therapy session circa soul retrieval. Getting lost in artistry and the accompanying excesses is the core narrative, sprinkled with literalist musings on what music means to Brown, why he pays bills with poems, and how he has sought (and still struggles to) retain a sense of self (personal) and identity (creative) through life’s turbulence. It’s a genuinely fascinating curtain pull, abstraction and metaphor kicked to the curb in favour of blunt honesty and well worn wisdom.
is less rewarding when its focus shifts elsewhere. As Brown reaches for his usual zane, sans contemplation, there’s an evident creative dissonance: a drop in nuance, and absence of snap. The bars on goofball “Dark Sword Angel” and meme-fuelled “Tantor” lack the unshakable charisma plus surefootedness that carried XXX
, autopilot engaged in deference to the delicious snare claps and creamy guitar licks. Compare-contrast Bruiser Wolf’s quirky feature on “Y.B.P” - bouncing over the big-boing beat like toddler in a sweetshop - c.f. Danny’s fizz-free rhymes, lacking colour and contours, even if broadly serviceable and in line with their subject. I’ve less to bemoan on the near flawless opener-closer bookends, whose subdued beats and bars coalesce superbly, compounding in bright earnestness, the weight of their messaging improved by the slow, somber delivery thereof.
is not what it says on the tin: it’s XXX
’s spiritual successor, but sharing little of its scrappy, flailing essence; hot on the tails of SCARING THE HOES
, yet decidedly opposite in aesthetic; aligned with the trad-rap-roots of its predecessor, uknowhatimsayin?
, save that the rainbow-jazz hue is absent. None of this is criticism, really, just noteworthy, and emblematic of the artist Brown has always been, chameleonic and restless and himself, always. For at least one constant, see the beats: there’s cappuccino foam drum bubbles on “Ain’t My Concern”, eerie piano plink-plinks on gentrification waltz, “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation”, and walk-into-blazing-sun guitar flickers on slow burn “Hanami”; they’re all are fire, understated, earthy, and brilliant.
is a mixed bag, as (perhaps) it should be. Danny opens up the trunk, sifting through, letting thoughts tumble out as they will, and not giving an overly large number of fucks re the repercussions. That isn’t to suggest a lack of polish, but a healthy irreverence for expectation/reception, of refusing to play to the gallery, of doing his thing, of simply being
. Though occasionally wallowing, there’s a self-assuredness here, a comfort in one’s skin, that’s refreshing, and relieving, given how close to the edge this ship has teetered over the years. As entertainment via soundwaves, it occasionally sags-lags-drags, but for a thoughtful tome on patient self-betterment, you couldn’t ask for much more.