February 6, 2012

My Gut Reaction: Black Milk and Danny Brown - Black and Brown! (November 1, 2011)

I'm nothing if not honest with you two, so here goes: I had absolutely no intent on ever listening to that A$AP Rocky mixtape.  I've heard his breakthrough single, "Peso", and I don't personally feel that there is anything groundbreaking or even musical about the shit.  Rocky's flow annoys the hell out of me, so I'm clearly one of the older heads Standos was referring to who feel alienated by the man's work.  That rule absolutely does not apply to all newer artists, though, which brings us to one of the subjects of today's post, Detroit-based emcee Danny Brown.
Danny is probably as known for his rhymes as he is for his douchey fashion sense, with his skinny jeans and terrible fucking hairdo looking like a coldly calculated way to appeal to the hipster crowd.  That tactic is actually working, as Danny has been creating a ton of buzz for himself as of late, but he is the epitome of that old rule about not judging a book by his cover, as the boy can fucking spit; he's pretty nice with his ridiculous, infectious, and often hilarious rhymes.  After starting off as a member of the rap trio Rese'Vor Dogs and spinning off to his own mixtapes, he caught the ear of Curtis Jackson and the G-Unit crew, who allegedly were thisclose to offering the man a record deal (he even has a collaborative effort with Tony Yayo, of all people, that can easily be found online) until realizing that Danny Brown's image wasn't what the aging dinosaurs in Fiddy's crew wanted representing them.

Danny later ended up signing with Fool's Gold, which is about as far away from G-Unit as one can possibly fucking get, and that label's hipster cred altered our collective opinion of the guy.  He unleashed more mixtape heat and a debut album, XXX, was met with tons of critical acclaim, so when it was announced in 2011 that he and Detroit-based producer-slash-rapper Black Milk, hot off of the success (relatively speaking) of his Random Axe project (on which Danny was featured on one track), had recorded an EP together, hip hop heads began to set their expectations way too fucking high, as we are prone to do.

Black and Brown!, a ten-track EP named after a song Danny was featured on from Milk's Album Of The Year, was released to a shitload of Interweb hype in the fourth quarter of last year.  Black Milk albums don't sell terribly well, so nobody expected to see this project shooting up the Billboard charts or anything, but the feedback from the EP boosted the profiles of both artists involved, so 2012 may be the year that Danny Brown and Black Milk finally earn themselves a bit more exposure.  Not that Danny really needs more at this point, though: the fact that he dresses nothing like how everyone expects a rapper to dress has guaranteed that the media is interested in at least his look, if not his story.

The beginning of this instrumental rap album intro attempts to mentally prepare the listener for the challenging, insane content that they may have been expecting from a collaboration between Black Milk and Danny Brown.  But Milk switches it up on you, converting all of the ambient dialogue and hyperactive music samples into something wholly conventional and accessible.  I hope that isn't a metaphor for Black and Brown! as a whole.  Also, the beat on here was all sorts of boring.

Milk's beat is much more subtle than I had hoped, but it works, and Danny Brown drops two verses, adopting a Shawn Carter-esque "On To The Next One" flow while he "watch[es] the day pass on prescription-filled Zoloft".  If this is your first encounter with Danny, you won't be very impressed: he spits every bar as if it's his last, but his voice is an acquired taste, and "Wake Up" isn't your gateway drug.  As a way to introduce Black and Brown!, though, it succeeds: our host is firmly established in his wheelhouse and talks his shit while refusing to compromise.  This wasn't bad.

Danny tosses another two verses toward the audience that are in a similar vein to his work on "Wake Up", except with a few more boasts and some clever wordplay.  Milk's instrumental didn't really grab me, though: it sounded like he was aiming for a fake Dr. Dre-esque beat, akin to those that Mr. Porter cranked out when he first started producing (since Dre was his mentor, it makes sense that the artist occasionally known as Kon Artis would imitate him first), and the lack of his own identity within the track's DNA renders "loosie" an automatic "skip" in my book.  At least Danny sounded alright, though.

4.  ZAP
Milk's production sounds far too whimsical for Danny to sound comfortable over at first, but once he gets around to introducing the drums, this actually knocks.  Our host's tendency to spit each and every bar as though he's literally trying to push each word between his (admittedly fucked-up) teeth is semi-endearing at this point in his career: it makes him look like he cares about his craft.  He isn't the best emcee in the world, but there is a passion within him that can't be phoned in.  Which is nice.  Black Milk throws in an unnecessary instrumental interlude during the back half of the audio track, one which sounded entertaining as hell but significantly out of place at the same time.  Such is life.

A quick, ridiculous one-verse wonder where Danny's fixation on the opposite sex meets its natural peak.  Our host goes batshit over a limited Black Milk composition, one which sounds like he created it with one hand tied behind his back, but the combination is a killer: you'll be transfixed on every word Danny says, even when he's boasting about how his fucked-up teeth assist him during sexual congress during only the second goddamn bar.  I wouldn't have minded if this had run a bit longer.

6.  DADA
I couldn't really get into this one.  Black Milk's production isn't bad by any means, and Danny Brown's scattershot bars are up to par with the rest of his work on Black and Brown! thus far, but the marriage between the two that is "Dada" is bitter.  I imagine the music and the lyrics sitting across from each other at an IHOP on a Sunday morning, reading the paper and eating their respective breakfasts and not-so-secretly hating the shit out of each other, only bothering to acknowledge each other with complaints about the noise or the temperature of the food or how goddamn expensive a stack of pancakes is these days.

7.  WTF
A mostly instrumental interlude that fares a tiny bit better than "Sound Check" did.  Still, Milk's work on pretty much all of Random Axe sounded much more entertaining.

8.  LOL
Although not labeled as such on the back cover, the version of "LOL" that appears on Black and Brown! is actually a remix of a song from Danny's Detroit State Of Mind 4 mixtape from 2010.  Which Black Milk also produced.  However, not being one to rest easily, Milk completely overhauls the instrumental, bringing listeners a brand-new unorthodox composition that erases whatever memory you may have had about the original track. Danny's lyrics are still exactly the same, and today they sound dated as shit (thanks to his need to drop Interweb abbreviations such as "TTYL" and the song's actual title into the hook), but at this point, he's pretty much grown on you, so you won't mind all that much anyway.

Another mostly instrumental interlude, this one with a badass title, one which I've just stolen for a violent, gritty 1980's throwback detective thriller.  Nah, I'm just kidding: that idea is yours for free, budding writer/directors that read HHID during their downtime.

Contains the most Black Milk-esque beat of the entire project, probably because this was lifted directly off of Milk's own Album Of The Year and served as the inspiration for the EP in the first place.  It's also the best song on Black and Brown!  Over a banger of a instrumental that demands to be stolen by other Detroit rappers for a mixtape Motown anthem, Danny and Milk each use their respective verses ripping everything apart, with Danny absolutely killing this shit (not to discount Milk's own vocal contribution, though, as he sounds excellent as well).  A fucking fantastic way to end things.

If you snag Black and Brown! off of iTunes, there's a bonus track in it for you.

I don't believe including an extra song that lasts barely seventy seconds should be a valid reason to purchase anything off of iTunes versus any other retailer (including Amazon *cough* click on the links and order *cough*), but "Nandos", short as it might be, is still worth listening to.  Danny Brown destroys Milk's heavily rock-influenced beat with ease, so maybe you should try to find this one elsewhere on the Interweb or something.

THE LAST WORD:  Alright, Black and Brown! isn't perfect, nor is is the best EP I've heard in recent memory.  It is consistently entertaining and mostly solid, though, so I have to give collaborators Danny Brown and Black Milk credit.  Milk, who by now most certainly has his pick in collaborators, chose wisely in Danny, as his soulful, quasi-experimental production work clashes in a beautiful way with Danny Brown's abrasive, shock-value-addled bars, and Danny's lyrics and delivery are all presented in an approachable, hilarious, and rewind-worthy way over Milk's instrumentals.  Not every song clicks, and the best song on here by a long shot is the one that appeared on Milk's own solo album one year prior, but Black and Brown! is deserving of all of the attention it's been getting.  It is an EP, though, so I shouldn't be disappointed that there are only ten tracks on the project, three of them being instrumentals, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I kind of was, only because I wanted this EP to last longer than twenty-odd minutes.  Oh well, you two should pick this one up anyway.  If you're a fan of either artist, this shit is for you.  If you've never heard of Black Milk or Danny Brown before, though, you should acclimate yourself to some of their earlier work first, since Black and Brown! isn't the best vehicle for them to introduce themselves with.


There's some more stuff about Black Milk that can be found by clicking here.


  1. Yayyyyyyyyyyy Black and Brown EP is reviewed! I'm surprised that you found his production on Random Axe's album to be so much better, I thought Dada, LOL, Zap, and Loosie have some of the sickest beats I've ever heard. Do you consider Black Milk to be a top-notch producer yet or do you think he still has a ways to go?

    1. djbosscrewwreckaFebruary 07, 2012

      Black Milk has been one of the best producers in the game for a while. He keeps it innovative and interesting but the beats bang hard at the same time. You could say he's one of the only newer producers to have really continued to update the boom bap style. The 'bigger' rappers mostly go over shitty electronica / dancefloor friendly / rnb bullshit beats these days. If Black Milk had come out in the 90's it would have been dope because everyone would have been over his shit, not just the more underground cats

  2. I've always been a fan of Black Milk, but Danny Browns voice got on my nerves.

  3. djbosscrewwreckaFebruary 06, 2012

    Good choice for a review. Danny Brown mostly kills it lyrically and Black Milk shows he can keep making interesting and quality beats in different styles.
    It's a shame they didn't make a full length - this is a great EP but seems a bit thrown together.
    The final track 'Black and Brown' is a monster.

  4. Awesome. Danny Brown can SPIT. Glad you reviewed some of his stuff.

  5. I'll also be honest and admit that Rocky doesn't have shit on Danny Brown musically or lyrically. Good review.

  6. I'm more of a fan of Black Milk's work ethic and creativity than I am of his beats. That being said, "The Hex" from Random Axe is one of the best songs that I've ever heard, from any genre. But I tend to respect his albums much more than I enjoy listening to them. I'll wait and see what some other commenters say about this one.

    BTW are you sure you don't want to use that screenplay idea yourself, Max?!

  7. Review.The.Mother.Fucking.Raekwon.Tape.Now.

  8. this shit dope

  9. Standos you've got to be kidding me. Danny Brown is far better lyrically, but musically ASAP Rocky is excellent. Him and Danny both have a great ear for beats.. you really didnt give Rocky enough credit in your review. Give those Clams Casino beats to other dudes and see how well they spit over them. And Wassup was the dopest beat on that album

  10. If you actually read my review, you might have noticed i actually, i dunno, praised his ear for beats? he just happens to rhyme over shitty beats more often than Danny Brown. And we really don't know whether other people can spit well over Clams Casino's beats considering the only other people he's given them to is mostly Lil' B and fucking Soulja Boy.

  11. Mr. AquariusFebruary 09, 2012

    What I don't understand is how producer like Clams Casino and Lex Luger choose to work with artists like Soulja Boi, Lil B, Waka, and Gucci Mane. Both have made great strides in 2011, but they really need to pick better artists. I'd like to hear Raekwon over some Clams. It aggravates me that the two freshest producer work with such chumps. At least Rocky has the charisma thing going for him.

    Regardless, great review as always Max. Danny is a bit unorthodox and IMHO Black is a bit overrated, but this was enjoyable. Good to see you understand the idiosyncrasies as well.

  12. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    Black Milk is dope but Danny Brown sounds like a failed rapper from the 90's and his voice is annoying and wack, I can't understand why that skinny jean sporting fag is so popular.

  13. Derek ClaptonJanuary 09, 2013

    You gotta review the Hawaiian Snow mixtape by Danny and (of all people) Tony fucking Yayo. It's probably one of the single most bizarre collaborations I can think of, made even weirder by the fact that the only guest rapper is Lil B(!?) On two songs at that.