Danny Brown - Live At Scala, London

The rapper doesn’t do shows, he does parties...

Detroit is a city of unrelenting misery. With the exception of Big Sean, whose fame centres around formulaic verses of cash, cars and ass, the coterie of Motor City artists to rise to prominence chant diatribes far more sinister.

Just look at Eminem and Angel Haze – or even the confederate swagger of Kid Rock. And now Danny Brown who, with his brand of desolate self-destruction, has managed to enjoy a burgeoning career, even if it’s at the ripe “old” age of 32.

But despite increments of perpetual rage, Brown is here to have a party, something he stresses throughout the experience. He doesn’t do rap shows; if you want that, you can “go to an open mic".

Dressed in a knee-length white T-shirt and black basketball shorts, he casually walks on stage sans theatrics or an overzealous introduction. The mellow-hype of ‘Jealousy’ (produced by London beat maker The Purist) only fuels the rabid crowd, agitated by a sub-par DJ set from Darq E Freaker and his lanky hypeman.

Brown douses his sloppy coif with bottles of water, spraying some at the crowd with equal measure. A mini-mosh proves to be quite entertaining during most of the show: Brown doesn’t have fans, he has a tribe – a touchy, feely one.

Moments of intimacy with the audience are met with clamouring hands, gnawing at his missing teeth and surfaces of skin, and he is indulged. Note that the audience is mostly men, full throttle, while women observe from the sidelines. But even though he’s not your typical romantic, if at all, he has something for them too, opting for “sexy ladies” instead of bitches, except when in song mode.

(One female journalist portrayed previous shows in New York and Minnesota - on Twitter and via review - as anti-women affairs. Perhaps it’s a different flex here in London, but Clash's reviewer tonight, me, who also happens to be female, and in plain view from start to finish, would strongly disagree.)

Brown breezily gets through ‘XXX’, his breakthrough studio album of 2011. Further highlights include his verse from Ab-Soul’s ‘Terrorist Threats’, and drops from his third studio album, ‘Old’, which is due out in August. An unexpected cameo from loveable Queens rapper Action Bronson only heightens the mood, and he almost steals the show during his four minutes of ‘Strictly 4 My Jeeps’.

With the exception of ‘Radio Song’, this isn’t a commercial-friendly vibe (he’s not that kind of artist: Brown’s most wide-reaching record to date, ‘Grown Up’, isn’t even in the set). Though he sounds almost cartoonish during interviews, with a screechy inflection, Brown sounds great over the microphone, possessing a demonic gruffness with a hypnotic effect that has a firm hold on the dudes in the audience.

“I’m tired like a muthafucka... I’m old!” he laments. The night ends with ‘Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine)’ produced by Darq E Freaker. A set of kids, appearing from out of nowhere, bounce around without abandon. But they aren’t in the audience. For the final minutes, it isn’t Brown who owns the stage. Exactly who does, it isn’t hard to tell.

Words: Safra Ducreay

Photos: Marco Micceri

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