Published Oct 01, 2019By his own admission, most of Danny Brown's close friends these days aren't rappers, but hanging with actors and comedians has proven fruitful both on and off the mic. Along with hosting the surreal, star-studded VICELAND talk show Danny's House, the Detroit native's humorous streak courses through fourth studio album uknowhatimsayin¿, which arrives October 4.
"My last few albums could be Debbie Downers sometimes," Brown tells Exclaim! with a laugh. "So with this one, it was all about having fun. Dope beats and dope raps."
Brown describes uknowhatimsayin¿, which was executive produced by A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, as "my version of a standup comedy album." Across a patchwork of leftfield beats from Paul White, Flying Lotus, JPEGMAFIA and more, Brown is "a microphone magician, making rappers disappear," a Roy Orbison lookalike who will absolutely hook up with you in a Burger King bathroom later. He'll make you laugh, but his poise and penmanship are no laughing matter.
On the album's title track, the influence of the ATCQ mastermind is undeniable. "I think it's a great partnership because it allowed me to focus on the writing part, which was a breath of fresh air," Brown says of Q-Tip. "It allowed me to start having more fun with it. This is the least stressful album I've ever made."
What are your current fixations?
I'm going out on tour and I'm taking Ashnikko out with me. The first time I heard her music, I was super into it. She's a real good rapper who has these crazy pop songs. I've never seen her perform, so that's going to be dope.
Why do you live where you do?
In Michigan? Home is where the heart is to be honest with you — and it's cheap, too! If I lived in one of the bigger cities, it probably wouldn't be as comfortable, you know? I'm older, I'm set in my ways, it's not like I need to go out to nightclubs or coffee shops or anything like that. I'm just comfortable, man. I guess I'm just a Midwest boy at heart.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art.
The Matrix. I felt like 2 and 3 weren't as good as the first, but as time progress and I get older, I watch it and it makes me think a different way. It's always a mind-fuck to me, every time I watch it. Thinking that this movie came out in the late '90s, and where we at in the world right now, it's like "Damn, they weren't too far off."
What has been your most memorable or inspirational show and why?
Recently I played Primavera Festival and I opened for Nas. You know, Nas is one of my favourite rappers of all time. I've had a chance to kick it with him a few times, gave me a lot of good advice. That's a dream come true, to open for the person that made you want to rap. That was a big deal.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I mean, I might have caused it myself, but a few times I've gotten a little too drunk [laughs] and people have complained about the quality of the show. Or that it "ended a little earlier than it should have."
What should everyone shut up about?
The Detroit Lions, man. I've grown up a Detroit Lions fan my entire life. Every year we suck, and people always talk about how much we suck. At this point, it is what it is, just enjoy the games for what they are.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like that I don't take things too seriously, but the one thing I don't like about myself is that I take music too serious. I wish sometimes I'd have more fun with music. Working with [Q-Tip] opened that door a bit more, but I still have that little chip on my shoulder.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
A good Sunday is all about the good weather. When you can get you a nice carwash and a good little brunch, a little avocado toast and mimosas, you know what I'm saying? Hanging out with the lady, turning in early, nice meals. That's a Sunday for me; I don't do too much.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Have a lot more compassion for other people. I used to take stuff too seriously. I guess the older you get, you find out that the world just don't revolve around you, and everybody got they own problems too.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
For both of 'em, I guess lying. No one likes a liar, you know? I like to be honest and I like to take responsibility when I think I've done wrong.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Maple syrup! Poutine! And "eh," they say "eh" a lot. And South Park's Terrance and Phillip. I love Canada. Being from Detroit, they right there, you know? We used to just go over the bridge; going to Canada for me was always like a vacation every summer. So shouts out to my people up north.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Kid 'n Play's 2 Hype. I earned it from cutting grass and doing random chores. I liked their video; I was into that at the time.
What was your most memorable day job?
I lied about my age on a job application for a buffet. I was 14 and you had to be 16 to work; I started working real early. So I guess that was my most memorable, because I wasn't even supposed to have it. It taught me at a young age what responsibility was like. But by the time I was 18, I wasn't working no more jobs [laughs].
How do you spoil yourself?
By taking care of myself, you know? A lot of people say shopping, but I go get massages and facials and get my nails done, stuff like that. The older you get, you got to do stuff like that. So I say spa days.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
A Twitch streamer.
What do you fear most?
Well, going to jail, obviously. Don't nobody want to go to fuckin' jail.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Goddamn, I always want to get it on. It's not a "me" thing, I'm the reverse. I don't fuck, I get fucked; women come to me. They just gotta holler at me, I'm always ready [laughs].
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I met Adele backstage opening for Eminem at Wembley Stadium, and I was having too much fun with blowjob jokes. I was just talking to my friends, but you know, too much lewd humour. I think that pissed her off and she left [laughs].
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I wouldn't mind going out to dinner with Lady Gaga, and I guess it'd be burgers and fries, milkshakes, you know? I feel like I would have to take it back to the basics, and go on a nice date to In-N-Out.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
I don't know; as long as it keeps helping her pay her bills, I don't think my mom minds what I'm doing.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Nas's "The World Is Yours."