Danny Brown, as nasty as he wants to be

by Ryan Snyder

If Danny Brown is the poster boy for weirdo, internet-born, hip-hop parvenus, the scene that proliferated around his all-in, whiplashinducing performance at Greene Street Club Friday night was astonishingly familiar. Brown was barely midway through the stoned groove of “Jealousy,” the Biggie-referencing third release off his forthcoming album OLD, when the Detroit rapper found himself wrapped in bear hugs by underage stage-crashers whose endgame was to launch themselves back into the sea of appendages, rise and repeat.

The same baby-faces with X’d-out hands that would have thrashed to the music of Agent Orange and Pennywise in the early ’90s have transferred that aimless hormonal angst to Brown’s scat-mouthed missives about everything from his fondness for ADHD meds to saluting Colonel Angus. But where that punk scene was defined by a mostly consistent set of values, Brown’s show is a little more nebulous, but it’s certainly not all about hip hop.

“This is not a hip-hop show. There’s probably an open mic somewhere near here where cats rappin’ they ass off,” Brown insisted.

“This is a party.”

Brown’s idea of a party has been thoroughly documented — he was publicly fellated on a Minneapolis stage exactly a week before his Greensboro show — and no matter how eccentric or avant garde he comes across, those tenets remain explicitly base and fundamental. He gets as much gratification in the everyday trifles that come with not having to sell crack in Detroit anymore as he does from the upshots of the debauched innuendo laced in his rhymes. “Got that income tax swag/ That bad dame in my lap, just copped her a bag,” he raps in “Lie4” — never mind the Maybachs or Bugattis, there’s just as much pride in legit income and filing W2s for those who keep an open mind.

That would have also been useful in evaluating Brown’s choice of tour opener, Fool’s Gold labelmate Kitty, whose live show only goes so far to prove that she actually exists outside of the internet rather than legitimizing her as an actual hip-hop talent. She approaches her sets with the idea that her coquettish amateurism will endear her to an audience that’s already embraced one rapper birthed strictly from the digital womb, a daunting task for a white teenage girl whose defining attributes as an emcee are vocal fry, Nicki Minaj- or Helga Phugly-cribbed growls, and a penchant for submissive poses. Song’s like “smiledog.jpg” and “#Unfollowed” suggest acute self-awareness (“You say this white girl is ruining hip-hop/ I say ‘damn right’ and take a lick of the ring pop”), but she didn’t help her cause when she called out the stone-faced hoods in the back for not digging her sound.

Brown’s favor with the ladies at least partially explains Kitty’s presence, and for a guy who looks like the love child of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Sideshow Bob in skinny jeans he has the clout to both reel them in and compel them to his bidding. He reminded the dozen or so who joined him for the sparkling new track “Dip,” another molly anthem which makes clever use of Freak Nasty’s “Da Dip,” that this was in fact a rap show and that party time was soon to come.

“I can’t wait to get off this stage and go smoke a blunt,” he said, as if he were waiting to clock out at the Office Depot. The stage divers had given way to the stage twerkers when Brown made good on those wishes. He ended his hour-long set by grabbing his most vigorous “fan” by her hand — a move of pure opportunity, but not an altogether bad one if you keep an open mind.