When he released last year’s Atrocity Exhibition via legendary UK electronic label, Warp Records, Danny Brown officially solidified a few things; among them the fact that he is one of the most versatile, ambitious, and, perhaps even, most “important” artists working in music today, as well as the fact that he can ride the beat of just about anything that you could ever possibly imagine hurling at him. It wasn’t difficult to speculate that the new album would be a monster from the moment we got our first sample in the form of “When It Rain,” an homage to his home town of Detroit and the ghetto tech / juke music fueled parties of his youth, which built it’s foundation on a sample by groundbreaking female European composer/electronic pioneer/key figure with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Delia Derbyshire. But well beyond innovative beats and mind boggling verbal dexterity, the Motor City rapper was incredibly forthright from the very first promotions for the album that he had plans to tackle some heavy subject matter, noting that while a lot of artists enjoy speaking about the high, Danny felt an obligation to provide some contrast to all of his party cuts by delivering some content about the come down. To remain genuine, there’s going to be references to excessive drug use and hedonistic behavior, but his perspective seemed to be that it would also be dishonest if he didn’t present the downside to this behavior, or at least offer a broader view of his addictions and what it all entails.
If any tune on Atrocity Exhibition truly embodies the frenetic, chaotic nature of drug addiction, mania, and emotional tail spins, it’s “Ain’t It Funny.” Like the rest of the material on the LP, “Ain’t It Funny” is a masterful composition where the beat, cadence, and lyrics all compliment each other to great effect — Danny isn’t haphazardly throwing rhymes over disconnected beats like so many others, there is a great deal of intention and awareness here for how it all connects and assembles into one uniform product from tone to content. Of course, he’s not the first to discuss addiction in a song, but the context of which he approaches it here — his financial ability to maintain his addiction and what his notoriety and occupation afford him — offers something both terrifying and refreshing, wherein his position in life operates as both blessing and curse, leaving him in a state of consistent inconsistency, falling in and pulling himself out of nose dives, and rolling around with his demons in ways that often make it difficult to discern who is pinning down who from one moment to the next. Most importantly, none of this super weighty subject matter is ever delivered in a preachy self-righteous manner, or even from a position that begs for empathy. What it is, however, is unapologetic, raw and something that feels as if it was created from no other place than a purpose to craft the most honest and real art that Brown could pull out of himself. It’s a rarity in this industry, and particularly within an art form that has such a history of relying on false personas to promote and perpetuate itself, to witness someone attempting to dispel the very persona and imagery that could so easily be exploited to sell their product.
Now, following the recent announcement that “Ain’t It Funny” will be getting the picture disc single treatment for this year’s Record Store Day next month, comes a brand new video for the track directed by none other than Jonah Hill. When we saw Danny post an announcement on his instagram that he’d be releasing something involving the Superbad actor, we had no idea what he was referring to, but to say that I’m pleasantly surprised is a definite understatement. The new video is framed like a cheesy, yet horrific, TGIF-style sitcom filmed in front of a studio audience. Complete with laugh track, it stars acclaimed director, Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting) as the head of the household; classic TV mother and Hill‘s Knocked Up co-star, Joanna Kerns (Growing Pains); and “actress and instagram celebrity,” Lauren Alice Avery as their daughter. A young boy with glowing demonic eyes fills the role of the son, along with the 40 oz drinking, crack smoking, “Uncle Danny” who finds himself in bed with both the mom and the sister — can’t miss those blood-spattered, Shining-esque homicidal visions flashing in. Sure, the imagery can be over-the-top, but the message is fairly clear: everybody might be enjoying the show, but sometimes it’s probably a good idea to consider the cost of creating it, who’s controlling what, and what’s controlling who. This is about selling tickets as a living spectacle; the idea of pain and self-destruction as entertainment. Atrocity Exhibition.
Back in 2013, Danny‘s friend/rapper Kitty Pryde spoke out about an incident that occurred while they were on tour together, in which a female audience member at the front of the stage aggressively pulled Brown‘s pants down and began to perform fellatio on him without his consent, while he was performing. Pryde‘s article examined both ideas of dismissal toward sexual assault perpetrated toward males, as well as the phenomenon of public figures being viewed outside of the normal scope and respect that one would typically apply to just about anyone else that isn’t involved in the industry — they become larger than life and, at the same time, viewed as less vulnerable to the public, rather than more so. “Ain’t It Funny” just goes to reinforce the idea that Pryde was on to something and further silence those who felt she was overreacting. Not since Aaron Freeman released the song “Covert Discretion” with his post-WEEN project and addressed his history with chemical dependency and interactions with fans who just wanted to party with him, despite his documented struggles, working to feed it, have I come across something that hits on the topic so poignantly and effectively. Too bad Gener didn’t have his own Jonah Hill to piece together a video like this one, which complements and adds another dimension to the material so seamlessly.
Cast them orbs at the results below.
For those interested in picking up the limited edition single (pictured below), they are being released in a run of 1,300 copies on April 22nd, for Record Store Day as a 10-inch picture disc with artwork by Braindead collective, “backed with acapella and instrumental versions, plus “Worth It” the track with Clams Casino originally released for Adult Swim’s Singles and now on vinyl for the first time.”