“Live and Die Through The Music”: A Conversation With Danny Brown

Danny Brown: a 35 year old rapper from Detroit who has had quite a life. He’s on the verge of dropping one of this year’s most anticipated albums, and rose to international stardom thanks to a slew of mixtapes as well as XXX and Old – two albums that are as diverse as they are impressive.

Known for his brash, unrelenting self-confidence and honest as hell storytelling, Danny Brown is fierce, ambitious and really fucking talented. He spent a lot of his 20s down and out, and is a testament to the “never give up” attitude that isn’t easy to maintain after a few years of trying. However, he’s well and truly on top now and is just about to make his long awaited return to Australia for appearances at Groovin’ The Moo as well as a string of sideshows.

We had the absolute honour to speak to the man himself about everything from what he has to prove to himself, how much he respects David Bowie and how this next album is what he’s supposed to do. If you see one live show this year, make it Danny Brown’s. You can thank us later.

I saw you were recently stuck in LAX trying to get home to Detroit! How was that for you? 

That was a few days ago. I’m alright though. I’m home now so it’s cool *laughs*

Do you get to go home often, or are you just rejuvenating before Australia? 

I’ve been mixing my album in LA, so I’ve been going back and forth. Going there on the weekend but back here during the week. My daughter goes to school so I gotta make sure she’s going! *laughs* You know what I’m saying?

I just read your interview with Noisey about Detroit, I found it awesome how you reject the notion of new rap being able to be enjoyed by mums and grandmas – that that’s not what rap is to you. Why do you think rap is heading that way?

Because there’s money there! It’s popping! There’s other age demographics there. People want more bang for their buck. They’re gonna try to spread themselves out as far as they can! There’s nothing wrong with that but sometimes that music doesn’t really hold its value.

Why is it so important for you to hold onto what you believe rap to be like abrasive, dark stuff that you shouldn’t be blasting in public? Is it because that’s what you know?

That’s what I’ve grown up liking. There’s albums from then that still inspire me. When you start making decisions for financial reasons, that’s when financially you start doing bad, you know? I make music from my heart and I receive the karma from that.

I think that is one of the things that people are really drawn to you and your music for. You rap about what’s happening to you. Are you having to pinch yourself at how much life is imitating art and vice versa sometimes?

Not necessarily. I mean, I wouldn’t have it any other way. A lot of my favourite artists were the same, so I just go with the program.

You also spoke about the pressure and stress that you feel about how you’re making a lot of money about making music about drugs, to be doing more drugs now. How does that affect everything as well?

For the time being, we don’t know how that movie will end. We don’t know what will happen. Look at somebody like Bowie. Look how he went out. I look at it like that.

So, you’re a Bowie fan? 

Extremely! We’re both “DB”, 10 letters each you know!

It was so devastating when he died…

Yeah, but he went out like a G! *laughs*

Is that something you aspire to? 

He did it the best in regards to how he went out, you know? That last album was crazy. To go out like that, he lived and died through the music and that’s what I do. I live and die through my music.

You’ve got so much work behind you, so it’s awesome to hear you’re still very much influenced by the greats. 

I think that’s a bigger deal than a lot of artists, particularly rap artists. A lot of rappers just sit in the studio all day, but I like doing my homework, you know? I sit and study the music. I think I spend more of my doing my homework about music than actually making music.

Well you’ve been keep busy making music anyway lately! A bunch of side projects as well as the album?

Yeah, I wouldn’t say as much as I normally would. I’ve been trying to keep quiet but they won’t let me shut up! *laughs*

Do you want to shut up?

I’m not like the internet kid that’s trying to put out a mixtape every month or up in your Twitter timeline with my new song. I want you to miss me, so when I come back it’ll mean so much more.

Well we definitely miss you! Now, with the new album, you’ve said it’s going to be a killer. Are you going to continuing along the same lines as Old where you were pretty focussed on the beats and talking about your past a lot, or are you going into new territory? 

I started with this when I was in a good place with Old. I started experimenting and now I was still trying to find myself with the music. I was still learning! But with this album, a lot of those ideas I’ve had are coming full circle now. I know what I want to do now. I feel seasoned. I’ve been making music for a while now, so this album is just focussing on what Danny Brown is supposed to do. A lot of the time people listen to different types of music and just jump on those beats, but this is just all about doing what Danny Brown is supposed to do, or what a Danny Brown song is supposed to sound like. Doing stuff I thought nobody else could do but me. This is the Danny Brown album now.

As far as the story goes, with XXX, I was talking about what was going on at the time. With Old, I was talking about the past. I had a lot of performance based music on there too because I was doing a lot of bigger festivals back then and a lot of tours and stuff. This album is taking off from where I left XXX, in terms of subject matter. It’s pretty much about my life. I couldn’t really rap about that while I was going through it, so I waited, analysed, and now I’ve picked up where the story left off.

So the period of making new albums for you is a period of reflection? 

It’s like my therapy. It’s my way of getting stuff off my chest. I can have conversations with myself through my own music.

Did you ever feel like you had a lot to prove with the past records?

I always feel like that. Not even anyone else, just to myself. I have high expectations for myself. I was a fan of Danny Brown before anybody else was, so I can’t let myself down.

What are you trying to prove to yourself? That you can keep going? 

Yeah! To be consistent. Every time, to still be able to be creative, to still be able to stand the test of time like the greats. As long as I’m here making music that’s still up to par with what I should be doing, you know? To be still impressive.

Do you ever think there will be a point where you’ll think to yourself, “Yes, that’s it. I’ve done it”? 

I feel like because there is so much more that I want to accomplish. I want to own a record label. If I could make another person big, maybe I’d feel something like that, but I don’t think I’d feel that for myself. But if I owned the label and found the artists, taking them from nowhere and making them a big star, then maybe. But me making music, no not necessarily *laughs*

I love what you said in an an interview from a few years ago that you wanted to be the 50 year old rapper that can rap better than the 20 year old.

Yeah! I think it’s possible! It’s only 15 years away *laughs*

I definitely think it’s possible! I am so pumped for your Australian tour, especially your show in Brisbane where I live. 

I love Brisbane! One of my favourite restaurants is up there!

Oh really, which restaurant? 

It’s a seafood restaurant on the water. I can’t remember because I’ve been smoking today, but I love it. It’s great!

This tour is quite a big mix of shows – you’ve got regional towns and festivals, but also capital cities and big venues. Are you working your way back into touring with this round? 

Like I said, it’s all about staying consistent. I haven’t been performing too much as I’ve been working on the new album, so it’s always good to just stay sharp. You don’t want to get too rusty, that’s what this is all about.

Kind of like a warm up for when the album comes out? 

Yeah! I’ll be right back, you know what I’m saying? It’s gonna be lit.

Do you think you’ll get hungry for it all again when you play these shows? Maybe it’ll prompt you to put the album out, or are you not really in a rush to get it out? 

I’m not in a rush because everything is going so good right now. I want everything to be done the right way. I know timing is everything with this. I’m really big on timing, and it’s not time yet, you know? I’m not done with it really anyway. I wrote the movie but now I need to edit it. You know when you get to the editing stage of the movie, you know how long that takes! *laughs*

Is it nice to take your time with this one now? Did you have to rush through your last records?

It’s always kind of a rush because I wasn’t really in a position to take my time, financially or otherwise. Now I’m doing this for myself so it’s great! This album’s gonna be real good, because I had the time. It took so long making it, I can’t fuck it up.

How do you know it’s the right time? 

I’ll know when it’s the right time!

You can catch Danny Brown at Groovin’ The Moo and the following sideshow dates:

Groovin The Moo 2016:
Saturday 23 April: Maitland Showgrounds, Maitland NSW
Sunday 24 April: University of Canberra, Canberra ACT
Monday 25 April: Oakbank Racecourse, Oakbank SA (ANZAC Day)
Saturday 30 April: Prince of Wales Showground, Bendigo VIC
Sunday 1 May: Murray Sports Complex, Townsville QLD (QLD Long Weekend Monday Public Holiday)
Saturday 7 May: Hay Park, Bunbury WA


Friday April 22: The Tivoli, Brisbane
Tuesday April 26: The Forum, Melbourne
Tuesday May 3: Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Sunday May 8: Metro City, Perth