danny brown, the game changer
Born and-raised in Detroit, the foulmouthed genre-defying rapper is a big supporter of UK music and lost his front tooth in a KFC parking lot.
Danny Brown by Quentin de Briey
When we catch up with Danny Brown he's in Paris for Pitchfork Festival. He thinks the city is "okay" and no, he didn't have croissants and coffee for breakfast. He never eats breakfast. The social chameleon has recently completed the predictably very messy 2 High 2 Die tour - an 18-date stretch through North America and Canada with wrestling-lover and smoking buddy, Action Bronson. Brown stands out from the rap crowd not only with his looks but his sound too. Though clearly not one to shirk explicit content, he still manages to team up with the likes of purer than pure talent, Purity Ring on his genre-defying new album, Old. A real social chameleon, Danny is able to charm the world with his wide, gap-toothed smile and goofy, high-as-a-kite laugh. In between bursts of said laughter, we discuss designers, drugs and being dirty.
How would you describe your look?
I pretty much wear what I like… I don't really think about a look. Mark McNairy and Cassette Playa are my favourite. I wear a lot of Rick Owens too. In fact, I'm wearing Rick Owens right now. I don't really plan my outfits though; I'm much more about feeling comfortable than trying to impress people with my clothes. To be honest, if I'm at home somewhere I'll just wear a jogging suit and a hat and people wont bother me, you know? But I own so much stuff that sometimes I'll just grab something, put it on and then realise I'm wearing head-to-toe Balmain, like, oh shit! But I just put it on to be comfortable. I guess, I just own a lot of clothes - it's the only thing I really spend my money on to be honest.
How does that differ to when you're doing a show?
Well, for shows I'll probably wanna wear something so I don't look like the audience. I like boots on stage. I don't wanna go out wearing sneakers, you know? So I wear a lot of boots. I wear a lot of leather on stage too.
What prejudices does looking the way you do give rise to?
Everything I do has been a gradual progression - I mean I haven't looked like this my entire life. There was a time where I had braids and wore big baggy jeans. I guess one thing I could say is that the way I dress now, I don't have to worry about any police presence! They way I dressed as a kid, I could get stopped by the police at any time. Or I'd just have guys staring at me... and the last thing I want is dudes looking at me. If anything, I want females looking at me! So, I'll probably wear something a little more female friendly. Tighter jeans maybe? Try to put nice colours together?
Your hair is the best.
I don't do anything to it. I just get up and wet it and go about my day. I know a lot of people who put a lot of effort into their hair - girls who wake up every day and spend hours on it before they leave. I don't have that trouble. I just get up and go!
If you could have anyone else's hair, who would you pick?
Probably Edward Scissorhands. I would like to look like him. His hair looked real messy and comfortable, like he didn't have to do too much to it.
Gappy teeth are pretty cool right now. Did you ever consider getting yours fixed?
I go to the dentist often and they told me I might eventually have to because the bottom tooth is starting to get loose cause it doesn't get any support anywhere else, you know? So, if my bottom tooth falls out then I'll have to, cause that'd look crazy.
You've said that you think with your dick when you write. What's the dirtiest thing you've ever written?
Errrrrm that's a hard one to be honest! I guess you could take any line from Witit. A lot of people talk that kind of shit but I think I put you on the inside of it with way more detail.
My favourite line is, "Ate that bitch pussy til she squirt like a dolphin."
That's tight, that's tight!
So, in your opinion, who is the ultimate bad bitch?
That's kind of a hard one! Elle Driver?
Nice. You can go from being mad dirty to collaborating with the super-wholesome Purity Ring. How'd that come about?
I was a fan of their work and you know, I was on Twitter talking shit and before I know it they hit me back! I guess I was saying I really like their stuff and I'd like to work with them one day but I doubted they'd want to work with somebody like me, you know? But I remixed of one of their songs and hit them up and showed them some work and they were receptive to it and we actually did a few songs so that was cool.
Do you find it easy to get along with everyone?
I don't really judge people. If you're honest with yourself, we'll get on. I don't like it when people put guards up just to impress you. Whether they're male or female, that sorta thing seems to happen a lot. People just see you as some sorta rapper or somethin' and they aren't themselves when they meet you.
Charlie XCX features on Float On - how did you guys link up?
Same as with Purity Ring! I really liked what she was doing - she had a song called Stay Awake that I listened to all the time. I was on Twitter talking about her and she hit me up and asked me to do a remix! So I did a remix for her and got her on my album to return the favour. I took a liking to Charli when I saw her live show - she's super talented. I actually saw her last week in Vegas too.
You seem to have a lot of love for UK artists… what's special about us?
To be honest, when I was a kid it was pretty much electronic music everywhere in my neighbourhood… I mean, my dad was a house DJ. So then when grime first came out in the early 2000s it reminded me of that. It was way more lyrical though, cause back then it was more like chant and just saying the dirtiest thing you could think of - sorta like ghettotech but with raps on top of it, you know? I identified with that. But to take it 360 is when I first met Dizzee Rascal and talked to him and we talked mixtapes like Ghetto Tech Detroit… it made a lot of sense why I was able to get that music.
Would you want to collaborate with Dizzee?
Actually we've already worked a few times in the studio. Then when I was working on my album, I wanted him to be on Dubstep but he was actually like 'Yo! You should use Scrufizzer. To use one of the newer guys would be a better look for the scene you know? Like, we own it - we're always gonna work.' I thought that was so tight that he suggested putting on a newer guy on.
What's the best story from the 2 High 2 Die Tour?
That tour was kind of crazy. A lot of things happened that I probably shouldn't talk about.
I think you probably should talk about them…
I guess I was somewhere in this rural small town and a guy came to one of the shows and he gave me more drugs than I've ever seen in my life… to the point where I thought I was going to go to jail because I thought it was a police set up or something! I mean, it was a great show but he gave me so much shit that we in the end we had to throw it away. We rolled around with it for like a good three days then we were like 'we gotta get rid of this shit!' so we just threw it on the freeway. He gave me pretty much a molly rock about the size of a softball. It was just such a big rock that I was kinda scared to like chip it and break it, you just had to like break the littlest piece off you could. So I threw that shit on the freeway! But it was tight for like three shows - we had fun with it! I'd never seen nothing like that in my life - that shit scared me. I thought I'd leave the show and have police swoop down on me like it was a set-up. I don't wanna be the guy caught with that - that's pretty much like ten years in jail or something.
Talking of police, and sirens… tell us about your cat?
I miss her like crazy! That's all I really gotta say. She's a Bengal cat and I bought her from another city and had them drive her to me and they said she had just been screaming the whole time - that's why I gave her the name Siren. So I picked her up and took her in the house and she stopped crying. My little brother stays at my house and looks after her when I'm away… he's probably having parties and shit. He's probably throwing parties right now with Siren.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Quentin de Briey