The Shakespeare of Sixteens: Danny Brown Poetry


By: Justin Cook

This is the second installment of Justin Cook’s take on the poetry of MC’s. You can read his write-up on Common’s writing here.

Don’t let the debauchery fool you: Danny Brown is one of the most talented wordsmiths ever to grace the mic. When he’s not popping molly or getting his super freak on, he’s crafting complex bars from another dimension. The man is a mad genius with the metaphor, and his rhymes are unparalleled. So sit back, roll up a swisher, and get down to some monster verses provided by none other than Danny himself.

1. “The Hybrid

This track is classic Danny Brown: the high-pitched squealing vocals, the oddball delivery, the barrage of metaphor and simile, and of course his signature wit throughout. The song immediately draws you in with its wild rhyme scheme that slowly unfolds through the first verse. Danny makes great use of slant and internal rhyme to keep the song pushing forward: dinner, incinerator, hater none greater, urban dictator, caterer, Arabia, Arkadian, Sabian, Les Nubians, Brand Nubian, new being. The transition of rhymes from “dinner” to “new being” is smooth, and without a proper listen, “You might miss something like a/Phenomenon”—Danny is only changing a few letters per word, yet still makes each line connect and sound fluid.

He also uses “The Hybrid” as a trope throughout the song. A trope, as simple as I can put it, is the main metaphor that threads the whole poem together. In the first verse, Danny exclaims he is “not a martian nor human” but some sort of Hybrid—this is echoed in his unusual delivery. Throughout the song, he changes his rapping style back and forth from a loose playful flow, to one that is extremely tight and syncopated. By the end of the song, it feels as though Danny is part organic being, and part mechanical mastermind with cold, calculated rhymes.

The Hybrid trope is further emphasized in his figurative language. He starts both verses with the same line, “I’m the first to breakfast, late for dinner”, but takes them in completely opposite directions. In the first verse, the imagery has to do with a “flow so hot”: incinerator, hater, spit like New Jack City wedding caterer (allusion to packing heat), The Last Dragon, all the way down to his underarms—Degree deodorant free. In the second verse, Danny makes use of having a “flow so cold”: polar, solar system planet Neptune, down into an extended metaphor about Christmas and his hoes getting froze, snow, and that dick hard under mistletoe.

2. “#HottestMC”

Danny Brown is the Rap God. This is hip-hop’s Book of Revelation. No matter who you are, Danny “killed your latest.” This shit is fucking prophetic. I just get this image of Brown trekking across the desert, in some rags, walking “a thousand miles, recitin’ a hundred rhymes” of the true hip-hop gospel. Fuck, he even calls himself “poet of the century.” The man understands his craft and this is living proof. Listen for the assonance, the alliteration, and all the loaded metaphors blowing your mind away—kind of “like a DC sniper.” Bow down to The Hybrid (sorry Kendrick).

3. “Kush Coma”

This is the first track I heard from the long-awaited Old. Now, I know Danny Brown has his fair share of drugged out songs, but honestly, this is the strongest of the bunch. It’s extremely complicated trying to capture the psychedelic experience in words (trust me, I know), but here, Danny does a pretty fucking good job of it. Instead of just talking about taking drugs, he gives you the feeling by presenting a number of ridiculous images: an elevator at 90 miles an hour, a meteor shower, a firework show on the 4th of July in Las Vegas, clouds like marshmallows, nuggets the size of Rakim rings, head looking like a fatality screen, doing 100 on a Harley. These images combine to form a surprisingly coherent song about taking a Danny Brown amount of drugs.

He also brings the song full circle without having to force it. This is something you don’t usually find in most rap verses today; a lot of MC’s just spit 16 bars with some random metaphors, and boom, song over. But in “Kush Coma”, Danny consciously decides to tie all his figurative language together in the last few lines. The imagery of the song presents a heavily psychedelic landscape of stars, meteors, clouds, hell fire and angel wings, but through the trip, we arrive exactly where we started; verse one begins, “Close my eyes, feel like I’m going down/ In an elevator at 90 miles an hour/ And all I see is stars and they coming at me sort of like a meteor shower”, while verse two concludes, “I’m smoking on that ocho, got my mind on that cosmos/ Sippin’ on that purple, got a nigga in slo-mo/ Dipping in that molly, feel like I’m doing 100 on a Harley/ Tell your baby mama sorry, that was one night and please don’t call me.” Needless to say, this shit gets me pumped for Old, which will be the bigger and better than XXX.

4. “Dilla Bot vs. The Hybrid”

This song just won’t quit. It begins with the line “I break laws, jaws, and false promises” and proceeds with an onslaught of wit. I would expect nothing less from Danny going in on a Dilla beat. Some of the best lines include:

  • “Take a nigga out quicker than Adam rib/ (Geah), I make a bitch out a nigga”
  • “Touch mics like Macaulay Culkin”
  • “Hit your bitch with the chocolate thunder Darryl Dawkins/ And I’mma break her headboard/ Same way he used to break the backboard”
  • “Coming home 3rd Bass like Serch/ And I’m Nice like Pete/ Been nice since watchin’ Pete and Pete/ When you cop chronic you don’t got shit/ Soundin’ like the Nickelodeon theme song kid/ Nick Nick Ni-Nick, Ni-Nick Nick Nick/ When I call the weed man nigga I cop big”

5. “God of War”

Perfect example of Danny Brown on some serious shit. I feel his genius is often overshadowed by his constant talk of sex and drugs. But underneath all that hedonism, Danny is a real thoughtful dude. I highlighted this song because it’s a side of Danny that people don’t really listen to—or even knew existed. This song has soul. You can feel it pouring from the speakers. Just listen to the wisdom of Danny Brown.

“Drop rate increases, while wages decreases
They shootin’ up the schools
Makes ya wonder what they teachin’”

 6. “Wake Up”

When Danny starts a song with, “No one can fuck with me”, you know it’s about to be wild. His imagery, storytelling, word play, wit and honesty shine through this Black Milk produced beat. It is a Detroit hip-hop masterpiece, and one of my favorite Danny Brown songs to date; every time I listen to it, I feel like he is embodying the spirit of his people. This is a song our generation—a song of addiction, depression and economic collapse.

In the first verse, Danny sets up an extended metaphor, which captures the emptiness of living in today’s society:

“Money over everything, under the influence
At ATM’s withdrawing from Promethazine fluid
I toss at night so I fall asleep sedated
Sometimes I feel like life is so over-rated
And two things for certain, that’s death and taxes
Tryna move forward doing shit ass backwards”

This creates an interesting parallel between money struggles and drug addiction. The lines can be read in two ways: he is having Promethazine withdrawals and needs more so he can sleep at night, or, he is under the influence of money, and is so addicted, it is as if he is withdrawing from Promethazine. Either way you read the line, it’s only going to end in death and taxes.

In the next verse, Danny presents us with an image of the desolate youth, finding peace in smoke and pills:

“Hola, it’s solar, poetry polar
Got the game locked in a crowbar
Never ever sober, hot box and no cars
Watch the day pass on prescription pills Zoloft
If I don’t have it, nigga I’mma go off
Razorin’ the coke tryna slice a nigga throat off”

These lines have always struck a cord with me, being some of the rawest poetry I’ve heard in a while. But seriously, this is our generation: cruising around, popping pills, getting high, just not giving a single fuck. Days just pass by, and you begin to feel unimportant, fading away into Zoloft induced nightmares. I’ve seen friends fall down this path. It’s real. There is no sympathy, no honor, no love. In this dog eat dog world, sometimes you’re forced to slice a mother fucker’s throat off to survive. It’s like we are only living to die.

Maybe that’s why Danny titled the song Wake Up. We need to stop with the Promethazine and Zoloft; we need to stop forcing ourselves to sleep, and closing our eyes to the reality of things. The reality that we are being lied to. That we are being used and abused by big business. That our politicians have been paid off by special interest groups, with the common good not in mind. It’s time we stopped our addictions to money, and free ourselves from the prison of capitalism. We just need to wake the fuck up. Start every day fresh and new, and not in the shadow of a dying regime.

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