Danny Brown’s fifth studio LP uknowhatimsayin¿ drops at an intriguing point in the rapper’s career. After breaking out with his second album XXX, consolidating fame with the follow-up Old and then blowing the game wide open through 2016’s landmark Atrocity Exhibition, Brown’s status as king of the underground feels assured these days. The question as he surveys his domain, is; what next?
Brown’s answer is to make his most focused record yet. A svelte eleven tracks - short when compared to the sprawling opuses of his past - uknowhatimsayin¿ is a more thoughtful affair than anything Brown has previously released. Gone are the tales of all-night benders yammered with cartoonish intensity over beats that sound like an EDM rave in hell. Instead Brown comes off as considered and in control, his flows spun out with poise and eloquence.
The production here befits the changes in Brown’s delivery. While Brown has always been a great rapper, uknowhatimsayin¿ will go down as his first hip-hop record. While the instrumentals here are laced with the psychedelic potency of Atrocity Exhibition, they also rumble and slap in a manner that recalls classic 90’s boom-bap. This change in sound is unsurprising when you consider uknowhatimsayin¿’s executive producer - none other than the legendary Q-Tip.
uknowhatimsayin¿’s features list also feels carefully curated. JPEGMAFIA, heir apparent to Brown’s throne, gets in amongst it on ‘Negro Spiritual’. Unsurprisingly this new energy turns ‘Negro Spiritual’ into one of the album’s wildest tracks, a head-spinner that would have slotted easily into Atrocity Exhibition. Besides Run The Jewels and Brown schooling younger MCs on ‘3 Tearz’ the other guest spots are reserved for singers - Obongjayar turns in vocals on two tracks while Blood Orange croons softly on penultimate cut ‘Shine’.
Danny Brown is older, wiser, and possibly better than ever on new LP uknowhatimsayin¿