Thursday Throwback Album Review: Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿

Each week on Thursday I’m going to be catching up on some album’s I missed at the end of 2019 due to me being without a computer. This week I finally got around to listening the latest album from Detroit rapper Danny Brown, titled ‘uknowhatimsayin¿’.

Uknowhatimsayin¿ is Danny Browns 5th full length album, and his first full official project since 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition. The album was released on October 4th 2019, is executive produced by rapper/producer Q-Tip, and has 11 tracks with features from Run The Jewels, JPEGMafia, Obongjayar & Blood Orange. Danny dropped 3 singles in the lead up to the album; Dirty Laundry and its accompanying video dropped on September 5th, followed by the release of Best Life on September 17th, and then finally the Run The Jewels assisted 3 Tearz on October 2nd, just days before the album. Since release the album has gained widespread acclaim and appeared on numerous end of year lists in 2019.

Below I’m going to review the album in 2 parts, firstly a track by track review which will be my informal and unedited notes on each track as I listened through, and following that will be my thoughts on the album as a whole. I’ll include some links to stream the album and some discussion questions at the bottom. Enjoy!

Track By Track Review

1. Change Up – Clear delivery and some real solid bars. Flows are pretty simple, and the beat is basic too. Hook isn’t too special. Not really enjoying Danny’s voice a lot on this. Good lyrics but not too enjoyable otherwise

2. Theme Song – Beat has a really mellow vibe but also this eerie high pitched synth, more interesting than last beat. The delivery is a bit more exciting too. More good lyrics and some real funny ones too. Flows are simple again. Hook is a bit catchier than the last but still not too good. Decent song but nothing special

3. Dirty Laundry – Heard this when it dropped and didn’t like it as much as the masses. Beat is exciting, sounds Circus like at times, sounds a bit too busy at other times though. Danny’s flows are his best so far, but still not too great. Some more great bars and metaphors. Song is interesting but I don’t enjoy it a whole lot

4. 3 Tearz (ft. Run The Jewels) – More average flows and delivery from Danny. Hook is repetitive and isn’t too exciting. El-P rides the beat amazingly and has some solid bars and real impressive rhyme schemes. Killer Mike also has some great rhyme schemes and his delivery just oozes charisma. Love how each artist delivers a hook each. Song drags on a bit. Decent song in the end, on the fence

5. Belly Of The Beast (ft. Obongjayar) – Beat has this busy city feel to it, is actually a real intriguing beat. Danny has simple flows again but his delivery is great and his bars are hilarious, good first verse. Obongjayar handles the hook well, short and sweet. Great second verse too, love the change in the beat at 1:51, Danny rides the odd beat exceptionally. Weird song but real enjoyable, favourite so far

6. Savage Nomad – The distorted guitar like synth is amazing, and Danny rides it real well. Danny goes hard straight out the gate, some impressive rhymes and more solid bars. Some interesting flows too, some of his best so far. Danny sounds menacing with his over confident delivery, so many great bars and metaphors. Interesting instrumental break in the middle. Danny is great throughout and the beat is real captivating, great song

7. Best Life – Production has this real old school feel to it, is nice though. Some fairly basic flows and bars on this one. Hook is short and not too good. Second verse is a bit more exciting with some funny bars and solid rhyme schemes. Production is the standout, average track

8. uknowhatimsayin¿ (ft. Obongjayar) – Real laid back vibes from the production, is simple but quite pleasant. Verses are long and repetitive in a bad way, no real exciting delivery of bars. The hook isn’t too special. Parts of the song sound amateur. Didn’t like this

9. Negro Spiritual (ft. JPEGMafia) – Starts great, really exciting flows and rhymes from Danny. Beat gives me this 16bit Video game vibe, has this really funky bass too, one of my favourite beats so far. JPEGMafia’s Hook sounds great and is a nice little addition. Danny’s second verse is solid too, some great bars and more enjoyable flows and delivery. Real good song

10. Shine (ft. Blood Orange) – Simple beat but is real atmospheric and Danny sounds amazing flowing over it. Some basic flows from Danny but more great bars and impressive rhymes. Hook is just okay, I enjoy the melodies and harmonising in the Blood Orange part. Second verse is decent too, some good storytelling and introspective lyrics from Danny. Song is nice but feels a bit dull most the time, on the fence about it

11. Combat – Beat has this real New York feel with these simple drums and the jazzy sample. Some more really impressive rhymes and bars from Danny, but the flows are a bit simple at the start. Starts to get better as it progresses, some more exciting flows. Strangely structured song, sounds a bit messy at times. Enjoyed the uncredited features from Q-Tip & Consequence. Whole song just felt lacking, not bad but not good

Album Review

Overall I found this album to be quite disappointing personally. I think Danny Brown himself summed it up pretty well when talking about the album, stating “This is just songs. You don’t have to listen to it backwards. You don’t have to mix it a certain way. You like it, or you don’t”, and quite frankly, I don’t. I mean I didn’t think this was a bad album by any means, it had some great songs and other moments of greatness scattered throughout, but overall I found uknowhatimsayin¿ to be the least enjoyable and least impressive body of work Danny Brown has dropped in the last few years.

One of the main differences between this album and the rest of Danny’s catalog is that this is a far more mature version of Danny Brown than we’re used to, sacrificing his party hits and his manic delivery in favour of a more coherent, mature, and probably accessible sound. This album still has a number of hilarious bars and Danny’s charisma and humour is still obvious, but it felt like there were far less quotables than on his usual output. The production had some high points, but despite being executive produced by Q-Tip I felt like the beats on this album were a big step down from his last couple of projects, Atrocity Exhibition especially. I also felt like the album could have used a couple of rap features, with Danny Brown having such good chemistry with so many artists it felt silly to only have one rap feature on the album.

All that being said there were certainly some standout moments and standout songs on this project. Despite lacking rap features I thought all the features worked well in the context of the songs they’re featured on. I loved JPEGMafia’s hook on ‘Negro Spiritual’, enjoyed Obongjayar’s addition to the song ‘Belly Of The Beast’, and I thought Run The Jewels really stole Danny’s thunder with an exceptional performance on ‘3 Tearz’. I thought Danny himself really shone on some songs, with super impressive flows on songs such as ‘Dirty Laundry’ & ‘Savage Nomad’, and some solid bars and lyrical ability on tracks like ‘Belly Of The Beast’ & ‘Shine’. In terms of the production I felt like most songs had something exciting about them but none kept me intrigued all the way through.

So in summary I feel that although I wouldn’t consider this album bad, I definitely think it’s my least favourite of his projects in the last few years. As someone who has listened to probably every project Danny has released, I’m pretty sure I could pick at least a couple of songs off each of his other projects (including his unofficial Twitch releases) that I like more than everything on this album. For someone who I consider to be incredibly talented I really felt like Danny didn’t show off his talent too much here, with not much variation in the delivery, a lot of basic flows, and less memorable bars than usual. The main thing I felt about this album was that it lacked excitement, with neither the production or Danny providing many ‘wow’ moments. If you’ve always found Danny Brown to be a bit too weird and inaccessible, then this might be the album for you. But as a long time fan this whole thing unfortunately fell short of what Danny Brown is capable of.

Final Notes

You can stream uknowhatimsayin¿ on Spotify here, or on Apple Music here!

Or you can listen in full on YouTube here!

‘Dirty Laundry’ Music Video

‘Best Life’ Music Video

My Favourite Songs were ‘Belly Of The Beast’, ‘Savage Nomad’ & ‘Negro Spiritual’.

What were your favourite songs from uknowhatimsayin¿?

How do you think this album compares to Danny’s other projects?

Thanks For Reading!

– Shan –

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