Danny Brown at Triple Rock Social Club, 4/26/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Danny Brown With Kitty Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis Friday, April 26, 2013
With squinting eyes and a smile lit up like a 1,000-watt marquee, Danny Brown began his triumphant return to the Twin Cities by issuing a warning to the sold-out crowd. "This is not a rap show. If you wanna see rappin' go to your local open mic, I bet them cats rap their asses off over there. This is a party!"
What took place at the Triple Rock on Friday was nothing short of just that. The Detroit MC couldn't have possibly picked a better night to land here. The first real spring evening made for an enthusiastic audience, eager to burn off months of cabin fever, and Brown's hedonistic persona set the tone for a night of timid heartland kids indulging in all sorts of ratchet behavior. From the poor kid who was passed out in the venue's doorway at 9:30 to the utterly stoked Tumblr-bros in the front row, right on down to what many people on Twitter allege was an onstage sex act, Danny Brown's live show had the power to make Minnesotans completely forget to act Minnesotan.
Poor Kitty, the night's opener, didn't get the same kind of treatment. Something of a viral sensation, the NY-by-way-of-FL rapper landed a spot on Brown's Bruiser Brigade earlier this year with the release of her D.A.I.S.Y. Rage EP. Slowly shaking off her history in more comedy/novelty oriented music, Kitty seems to be moving towards a cloudier territory with her new material. Like the headliner, the diminutive rapper's music is inseparable from her manic-pixie-geek-girl persona, with glittery instrumentals and Twitter-ready punchlines. You have to give her credit for not fronting, though; unlike some of the other blog-wave rappers, Kitty keeps things true to her suburban, white-bread roots and certainly doesn't claim to be anything she's not. That authenticity, and the unique brand of swag she brought with it, helped win Kitty the hearts of a decent chunk of the front row, but much of the crowd's reaction ran toward grudging tolerance or outright hostility.
Photos by Erik Hess
That might have had something to do with her grating tendency to babble a stream of self-conscious jokes and nervous laughter in between songs. A relatively young MC at only 19 years old, Kitty's been thrust into the spotlight thanks to Reddit-baiting lyrical content that only occasionally seemed ready for the amount of lumens pointed her way onstage. The nerves seemed to affect her the least while rapping, and her undeniably singular flavor and flow aren't without their charms, but most of the material felt half-baked. Still, you had to admire her courage. During one memorable moment, the diminutive rapper risked a walkout on the packed venue floor, rapping straight into the faces of several very vocal haters. That kind of chutzpah can take you pretty far in this business, so here's hoping this Old and Reckless Tour gives Kitty the necessary inspiration to step her live performance and lyrical material up a few notches.
By the time Brown and producer/DJ Skywalker emerged onstage the room had loosened up considerably. The shock-haired rapper received a rock star's greeting from the sold-out audience, responding in kind by sticking out his tongue like Gene Simmons and throwing up the 'horns. Revving through the lower gears on his first three tracks, Brown shifted up on the hilarious and steezy "Black Brad Pitt." The Motor City native's rapid-fire punchlines and double-time flow make for an interesting update on the sound his hometown made famous. Equal parts classic Detroit intensity and more contemporary Southern and West Coast party-rap, Danny's distinctive high-pitched bleat and winningly goofy behavior make for an irresistible combination.
Photos by Erik Hess
Mostly leaving his darker, socially contemplative material at home, Brown favors grimy, gutter-rattling beats in a live setting to maintain that all-important party atmosphere. Skywalker's trap-influenced beats and knob-twisting wizardry kept the energy level up, allowing Danny to loll around the stage like a cartoon character. While he's happy to play the role of the clown when his show requires it, it's obvious that Brown has an adept mind behind his glassy, chemically altered expression.
Twisting complex punchlines and rhyme schemes into limerick-like verses about substance sale and abuse, the Brusier Brigade leader never seemed to be dumbing things down, but instead lacing a subversively anarchic message into songs with mass appeal. Brown illustrated this with the winking "Radio Song," successfully commenting on the lowbrow appeal of contemporary club rap while still crafting a thoroughly enjoyable example of it. His fans have the option of taking that surface-level entertainment and buck-wild atmosphere at face value and walking away completely satisfied, and that versatility is arguably Danny's greatest strength. Knowing how to play to the college kids up front and old heads in back requires the kind of savvy that Brown's been honing for years in the Detroit underground, and it's a blast to watch him balance these two facets of his music. For someone who's fostered his reputation as a defiantly weird outsider, Danny Brown makes for an extremely likeable guy when not rapping, in his own particular way. Near the middle of the set, when a fight began to break out in the elbow-to-elbow floor section of the Triple Rock, Brown kept the peace with admirably even hands, cracking at the male instigators, "Dudes, this ain't even about y'all, it's about the ladies in here," and warning them against ruining the rest of the crowd's chances to get laid. This worked as an excellent transition into "I Will," Danny's rowdy ode to cunnilingus that he dedicated to the ladies who had been ruffled by the outburst.
Photo by Erik Hess
"Bruiser Brigade" had a bit of a thrash metal flavor that sent a few kids crowd-surfing, and the first gentleman to surf all the way to the stage received a genuine, heartfelt hug from the MC. Brown treated us to an impromptu freestyle because the atmosphere in the room reminded him of his early days performing at open mics, and the improv skills he displayed showed the depth of talent he possesses.
Closing the show with the raucous combination of weed-rap epics "Blunt After Blunt" and "Kush Coma," Brown implored the audience for something to smoke and was elated when a few kids off to stage left passed him just that. After savoring the experience with a moment of quiet contemplation, Brown's face lit up once again and he enthusiastically hugged the helpful fans, complimenting their stash and probably giving them the thrill of their lives. During the final song, another one for the ladies called "Express Yourself," Danny Brown displayed another unique talent in his toolbox: the ability to continue rapping whilst being twerked upon by five persistent female admirers. Vowing to continue the party, Danny gave us one more Gene Simmons grin before disappearing into the greenroom without an encore. Not that the room really needed it, as revelers spilled out into the finally warm night like kids from a busted house party. Critic's Bias: I'm a fan of XXX but relatively late to the Danny Brown party.
Overheard in the Crowd: All sorts of rumors about Danny potentially receiving fellatio from an audience member during the performance. Since I didn't see any flesh, and the rapper's since called it "a rumor" on Twitter, we're gonna call it idle talk, but some of the kids in the front row seemed pretty adamant when I asked them after the show.
Set List: Jealousy Witit Molly Ringwald Black Brad Pitt Toxic Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine) Radio Song Lie4 I Will Dope Song Dip Bruiser Brigade Piss Test/4 Loko Terrorist Threats Monopoly Blunt After Blunt Kush Coma Express Yourself
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