I think Danny Brown really doesn’t like me. When he wasn’t talking about the hard work of other artists or his place in Michigan, he sounded resentful of me and bored with what I wanted to know about. It probably didn’t help that our interview interrupted him in the process of recording vocals for his new album. Still, there were moments where he genuinely wanted to talk about his creative process and his passion for collaborations in the past, present and future. The personality that came through in the short time we spent chatting was exactly what I gathered from listening to his albums – Danny is someone who wants his music to do the talking and clearly doesn’t like the potential for his spoken words to be misconstrued.
I heard you’re working on a new album. How’s it going?
You’ve said before it’s going to have less tracks and be more refined. What’s going on with it?
I’m just working on it pretty much. I was actually just working on it now before I had to do this interview.
So I’m getting in your way?
Yeah. Pretty much.
Old was a mix of sample beats and modern, trap-ish production. You were kind of going through a history of rap sounds. Where are you going in terms of your own sound now?
I don’t really know, I’m just feeling it out. I don’t really know where I’m going with it. Always expect the unexpected, I’m unpredictable.
Is there anyone you want to work with for the production or collabs?
There’s a lot of people but every time someone asks this question, I forget about it. I don’t know, I really don’t know. I’m a producer kind of guy. I like working with new producers that nobody really knows about. I don’t like working with a big time guy, you know what I’m saying? I’m more about the new. My thing is trying to find the new.
You got a new track out this morning with Phantograms. That’s sick!
It’s pretty dope, I thought it came out sounding pretty tight. I love Phantograms. We travel around at festivals a lot, we play together a lot, you know? Josh is just like ‘let’s just do stuff’ and I’m like ‘I’m down’ and there you go.
“To me, I don’t really get into New Year’s, going out and partying.”
Speaking of festivals, you’re going to be in Phillip Island for Beyond the Valley on NYE, right?
Yeah, it’s gonna be tight.
Are you going to be partying hard into 2015?
I’m going to be working. So I’ll be celebratin’ and workin’. To me, I don’t really get into New Year’s, going out and partying. Last time I went out partying for New Year’s, I got locked up. So it’s like a curse on me, not going out for New Year’s. After that I just stayed in the house with my mum, just drinking, got high, you know? I stay in and do it but I never go out to parties. This is my first time going out of the house since that time I got locked up and that was, like, the year 2000. Like 14 years ago. Real shit.
Is there anything you like doing or seeing when you’re in Melbourne?
In Melbourne? Melbourne has a nice dumpling spot I really like. I can’t think of the name of it right now but I know where it’s at. It actually has dumplings in the name.
Shanghai Village Dumpling House in Chinatown? That really cheap place
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Every time I’m in Melbourne, I for sure make my way to the dumpling spot. We always stay at the same hotel and it’s not too far from there. Hopefully I’ll be at that hotel but I always go to that dumpling spot every time I’m in Melbourne. The very first time I came to Melbourne I was doing a show with MED from Stones Throw and then he took me to that spot. That was when XXX first came out.
So you like dumplings then. What else do you like to eat when you’re on the road doing a massive tour?
Usually McDonalds and stuff in that style. It’s just like when you’re on the road, it’s just so much go, go, go. Any fast food’s good, especially when you’re in other countries and stuff. I just want that quick fix so I just get some nuggets or something, try and take my vitamins, know what I’m saying? And go drinking another night, you know? When you’re touring, you’re living like crap anyways so you just gotta adapt. A lot of people try to do it the right way but I don’t and it affects my performance probably.
Are vitamins code for pills or do you mean vitamin c and all that?
I mean just vitamins. You have to take your vitamins. You’re eating crap and you’re drinking every night and I probably smoke more than I normally smoke when I’m on tour.
Is it hard getting to sleep when you’re on tour?
Yeah man. Sometimes, you might not get no sleep and you’re dealing with different time changes and stuff like that and partying. It’s the laws of the land, man.
Any weird stories from touring?
Going on tour is pretty much like going to war. You go to battle and you have to make it alive out of battle so all you want to do is sleep by the end of the night. So my stories are pretty tame. A$AP and Schoolboy tour, that probably was the wildest. After that, I was kind of changed. I’m a little bit older and at the end of the day I can’t really– Don’t get me wrong, I party and have fun but I just stay a little more focused. I care more about what’s going to happen on stage than what happens after the show. I’m just happy to make it out alive. I pray, go to sleep, happy to see the next day.
“If I’m a real fan of somebody, I would honestly be intimidated to ask for a picture. I just want to talk to them”
Did you say you’re sick of fanboys freaking out on you?
I wouldn’t say that! You know, I did say it once and I wasn’t serious. I do say a lot of sarcastic stuff and people take it too seriously. Here’s the difference: I like fans, I don’t like fanboys. You can tell a real fan and you can tell a fanboy. What I mean by fanboy is that every now and again there’s that one guy who’ll take a picture with you just because he knows you’re somebody but he’s not necessarily a fan of your music. He just knows he’s going to get some likes on Instagram or something like that. You know what I’m saying? That’s wack to me because I feel like I know me as a person. If I’m a real fan of somebody, I would honestly be intimidated to ask for a picture. I just want to talk to them, say that I love them, I like their work or whatever. That would be enough for me and I’d leave it at that, you know? If I felt comfortable enough to [get a photo], then I would do that but when a person just walks up to me and is like ‘let me get a picture! Let me take a picture with you!’, they just want some likes.
On Side B of Old, you were saying that you were going to tell that dope story one last time and you put it to rest–
The next song, I start talking about it again. That’s the contradiction of me all the time as a person. I say I don’t like fanboys and then I have to go over it again. What I meant was that’s the last time in that style and then I did a song like dubstep which is totally being creative with talking about it. You know what I’m saying? The same content but a way to be creative about it. Dubstep and Dope Song are really the same song. A lot of songs are like that on the album, a lot of them should be matched together. I mean, a lot of people didn’t want me to do it. A lot of songs are supposed to be two songs in one. The same song together, you know?
Are you gonna do that same sort of thing with your new album?
I don’t know, man! You’re trying to sneak it out of me! I don’t know! I see you, I see you.
So who are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to the new Chief Keef album all the time. An FKA Twigs, I listened to FKA Twigs, that new release. Those are the more recent projects, like, Chief Keef only recently came out. I like that Rich Gang project too. I’m gonna check out this Arca album later, that’s something to get into.
Arca, huh? So you’re still a hipster at heart then?
Yeah! I just haven’t had the chance to immerse myself into it. I’m looking at actually working with [Arca]. We’re gonna do some stuff.
Tell me about the Smokin’ and Drinkin’ house party. Was that your house they used in the clip or did you rent it?
Nah, that house was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I live in Michigan, I don’t live in New York. It was a house they rented and shot the video and it was just some house rented for the video shoot. I didn’t know any of those people there, they were cast. You know? We just shot a video and we had fun. Then we went out to a bar, drank and that was that. Kitty Pryde was there that night, actually. I was hanging out with Kitty Pryde that day all day. We went and got dinner and then hung out.
“…Detroit is bad and I’m trying to bring some awareness to the situation but Michigan is great! Michigan is wonderful! If you get the chance to make it out of Detroit, then live in Michigan.”
So you’re kicking it in Michigan. Repping that right now and forever?
Yeah I can’t leave Michigan, man. It’s just my place, you know? Everybody got their place and I’m starting to realise that as much as I talk about Detroit– I talk about Detroit because Detroit is bad and I’m trying to bring some awareness to the situation but Michigan is great! Michigan is wonderful! If you get the chance to make it out of Detroit, then live in Michigan. Like, I pretty much live in the woods now. It’s very desolate, there’s not many people around me, I can have my own space as long as I want. I got a big ass house, know what I’m saying? I got my home studio here. Making my new album, you know? It inspired me to do good.
What’s your home studio like?
I got a pretty smart, decent set up. Nothing too big because I’m a recorder. I’m not trying to make beats and I’m not trying to mix nothing down here. The best thing I can do is try to get my vocals where I need it to be.
The last home studio set up I saw was in Freddie Gibbs’ Thuggin’ video and that was just a soundproofed wardrobe. Is yours bigger or smaller than that?
Nah, nah. My studio is, you know, we’re in 2015 so back in the day, they had the studios and the mixing boards and the stupid big speakers. I feel like I have the state of the art in the most smallest shit I can find. I’m like, iPad! So my shit looks like some real 2015 shit. You know? I have a small ass set up but it’s got more power.
How are you with the technical side of your music? You got any skills with post-production?
Nah, not at all. I wanna get more into it. Maybe one day I would like to be able to record myself. Maybe one day but as of right now, I think I probably need to keep it so when I step in the booth, I’m coming with some shit so the engineers don’t be looking at me crazy. I wanna be able to keep that edge, I wanna be able to keep that on my back so I stay away from it. I look at it, my studio looks nice, I wanna get to it and record it but until I get an engineer over, there’s nothing I can do. I’m more of a writer anyway, you know? So I spend most of my time writing.
I heard that Killer Mike said Melbourne has the best weed [in Australia]. Any thoughts on that?
Not the best, I wouldn’t say that. You know? I would say right now for me, the best weed in the world, and I’ve been everywhere and smoked all the weed, would probably be in Seattle. Then Denver. And LA is coming in third. Yeah.
Why do you think that is?
Seattle’s a very depressing place. Highest suicide rate. They had to find a way to get the best weed there. Drug laws are great in Seattle, so they get the best everything. Every drug in Seattle, not just the weed. The place to be *laughs*. I love it there. It’s not depressing to me at all. I love it there. I love Seattle, I need to be there. I like just that area. It’s sort of like the area I kind of live in now, you know, the way it looks. I’m kind of like a log cabin kind of guy. Secluded kind of, fireplace, kind of guy. And the northwest, like Portland, Oregon and Seattle, they have that beautiful scenery so I could see myself being there.
Should we expect any more molly anthems on the new album?
Molly anthems? I don’t know. If you look at all my albums, I think I already did too much, right? But if I do, I find another way to do it. I don’t know. I’m not really taking molly at the time, you know? So I doubt it because that’s not what I’m into right now.
I definitely got that impression from the last track of Old, Float On. You seemed really remorseful, you know? You were talking about crushing adderall to stay focused while you wrote. Have you sort of gone through a recovery phase since then?
I mean, at the time of making Old I was addicted to syrup among other things. So syrup was the biggest ill so just going through that. I guess I made that album with syrup. So.
Yeah. That’s why I was so out of it. And adderall. So I was taking so many uppers and downers. That was the lifestyle I was living and it was a bad lifestyle at the time. I guess that’s why I’m so reflective because it was like ‘where do I want to be at in my life?’, you know? I got the job that I want and now I’m just about to throw it all away, you know what I’m saying?
Well I won’t waste too much of your time then. I guess you probably have to do a lot of interviews today.
Hopefully, I think you’re the last one. Hopefully you’re the last one.
So you can get back to doing what you do?
Yeah, but I think my vibe has been killed.
“I really wanna work with Anne from St Vincent. That’s who I really want to work with.”
Is there anyone coming out at the moment who you’d want to drop some bars with?
I don’t know, I think at the end of the day, I’m more down to work with more vocalists at this point. Like that thing with Purity Ring? I had fun doing that. I wanna work with, like, The Siren or FKA Twigs or somebody like that. I really wanna work with Anne from St Vincent. That’s who I really want to work with. I want to work with Anne.
You and FKA Twigs matching up would be great.
That’s something I’m open to do.
She seems like a pretty positive person, like she’d be good to work with.
Yeah, we cool. We met a few years ago, actually. She’s great. I’m happy to see everything, like, we always knew, you know? She just knew what she wanted to do and you can’t stop it.
Do you respect that focus when someone goes out and just starts doing what they want to do?
It makes me work harder! It’s one of my biggest inspirations. I remember being with [A$AP] Rocky and neither one of us had a dollar to our name, you know? But you couldn’t tell him that he wasn’t that pretty motherfucker. We were sharing dimebags and twenty bags with each other and trying to stretch it and drinking forties and talking about what we were gonna do. Now? Shit, he got a house in London, a house in LA, a house in New York.
He’s hanging with fashion designers and he’s got a documentary too.
And he used to live in a shelter, you know what I’m saying?
It’s good to see someone making art and pulling themselves out of a trap.
He works hard, though. A lot of people don’t see that side of it but he busts his ass. A lot of sleepless nights.