On Danny Brown’s fifth studio album, “unknowhatimsayin?,” we get to hear a side of Brown that was seen in small bits on his previous efforts, “Atrocity Exhibition” and “Old.” Instead of one or two songs that are lighthearted and comical, there are 11 songs to give us an album unlike anything he has produced before.
Despite having a much more laid-back and tongue-in-cheek style of rapping compared to the aggressive flow he has displayed in previous efforts, “uknowhatimsayin?” is one of the rapper’s most consistent efforts to date.
The album opens up with “Change Up,” a track with a simple beat that becomes more and more intense and textured the more Brown raps. Although it is not the most impressive song on the album, it establishes the theme that although Brown may change his style significantly throughout his career and may go years without producing an album, this track reassures the listener he is “back from the grave” and he will “never look back.”
The album continues to flow smoothly with its incredible production from the likes of Q-Tip, JPEGMAFIA, Flying Lotus and Thundercat.
The track “3 Tearz” contains a back-and-forth exchange from Brown and Run the Jewels, all laid against a “Wild West” type beat produced by JPEGMAFIA. The track is very unusual, unlike any hip-hop song you’ll likely hear this year. The flow on it is incredible and reminds me of Brown’s other star-studded collaboration, “Really Doe” off of his album “Atrocity Exhibition.”
The rest of the album maintains the strong flow and fantastic production overlaid with features from Obangjayar, a Nigerian afrobeat artist who contributes vocals on “Belly of the Beast” and “uknowhatimsayin?,” two of my favorite tracks from the album. I love the juxtaposition of Brown’s squeaky, youthful sounding voice over the gravelly native African sounding voice of Obangjayar. It works extremely well and makes for two very engaging and unique tracks.
Compared to his other albums, “uknowhatimsayin?” is much shorter, much simpler and much more accessible. Though some might argue that this makes him a “sellout,” I don’t think that is the case. The new style he’s going for works, and it makes for a very engaging, smooth and solid album that is great for repeated listens.
However, I wish that there were more daring musical directions on this album, like with his previous effort “Atrocity Exhibition.” Although not every song on that record was perfect, it was nice hearing the daring musical choices and how that album sounded like nothing you would hear in hip-hop at that time.
Brown is an innovator, and while this record is fun to listen to, it’s probably his least innovative record yet. In some ways, this record could be interpreted as Brown just having fun making his music, instead of trying to make the next best album. This makes the album more authentic in some ways, but it’s also somewhat disappointing when you finish listening to the album because you’re left begging for more. It doesn’t feel finished.
If there was anything I could improve on this album, I would want it to be longer. At only 33 minutes and 11 tracks long, it is the rapper’s shortest release to date. I would also want more tracks with the delivery seen on songs like “Savage Nomad” and “Negro Spiritual.” Both of these tracks contain the aggressive, fast and squeaky delivery Brown is most famous for.
One might argue that he went for a more laid-back and accessible style for tracks such as “uknowhatimsayin?” and “Shine” so more people could enjoy his music and not get annoyed by the squeakiness. However, for longtime fans of the rapper, this album might not be what they want to hear.
Personally, though, I like the change in direction the rapper is going, and there isn’t a single bad track on this album. My favorite tracks were “Savage Nomad,” “Shine,” “Dirty Laundry,” “Combat,” “Negro Spiritual” and “Belly of the Beast.” My least favorite track on the album was “Best Life.”
If this is the direction he is going in for the future, I’m very hopeful for the next project from Brown, and would give this album an eight out of ten rating.