To rephrase the words of the psych-rock band Spacemen 3, the 42-year-old rapper Danny Brown has a strong affinity for using drugs as inspiration for his music. However, his habit spiraled into addiction after being confined during lockdown and experiencing a painful breakup. Brown sought treatment in rehab to overcome his dependence. His latest album, Quaranta (meaning “40” in Italian), was recorded while he was still struggling with his illness, but it serves as a raw reflection of himself, something Brown has always excelled at. The first line, “This rap music has both saved and ruined my life,” sets the tone for the rest of the album, which includes many concise yet grim lyrics.
The artist known as “The Detroiter” shines the brightest when a producer combines his unique nasal and chewy rap style with elements of melody. In his recent collaboration with Jpegmafia, titled “Scaring the Hoes”, this style was exemplified in a dense and exhilarating glitch-hop sound, similar to the invigorating experience of a dip in cold water with Wim Hof. In contrast, Quaranta’s production on this album feels like a damp towel. While the title track and single “Tantor” are decent, and “Shakedown” has a warm and beachy vibe with Brown’s sharp lyrics, the rest of the beats seem lackluster and unoriginal, dampening the overall impact of the album. However, there are moments of nostalgia and beauty on tracks like “Bass Jam”, where shimmering harmonies surround Brown like echoes of his past. Overall, the beats on this album feel tired and fail to live up to Brown’s recent successes.