Written by Alex Brazeau
Truth be told, I didn’t know a whole lot about Danny Brown’s music until recently… but anyone who ends up on as many end-of-year lists as this guy did and gets reviewed at festivals as “one of the ten best sets at Bonnaroo 2014” definitely deserves some attention! So I jumped at the chance to head down and check out a rapper who’s been described as one of the best of the nu-skool, live and in my hometown to open up the 20th anniversary of Ottawa’s Bluesfest.
Two years removed from XXL’s Freshmen list of 2012 and now touring in support of his third studio effort Old (dropped back in 2013), this performance marks Danny Brown’s first ever appearance in Ottawa. Under gloomy skies, Detroit producer/DJ Skylar Tait, aka Skywlkr, kicked things off, amping the crowd up by dropping bangers like ‘Hard in the Paint’ to get everyone moving. When he was satisfied that the people of Ottawa were ready (or whenever he put out the last blunt), 33-year-old Danny Brown made his way onstage to the cheers and screams of the couple thousand-or-so fans in attendance. Dressed in all black with his leather jacket and Guns ‘n Roses tee, rocking his new green high top Mohawk fade, he hit the stage ready to turn up in just the same way you’d expect if you’ve ever seen photos of him before—a gap-toothed grin with his tongue out, mic in one hand making the sign of the horns in the air, and a red solo cup in the other.
Opening up the set with the hard-hitting ‘Break It (Go)’ he moved back and forth, from one side of the stage to the other, rocking the crowd and getting everyone excited as he jumped in the air with each loud clap of the Rustie-produced beat. The setlist was made up of tracks from Old’s B-side (the more concert/festival-friendly half of his latest album) and his sophomore release XXX. Dropping hits like Smokin and Drinkin, Handstand, Monopoly, and others, Danny Brown strung together a solid performance that truly showcased his own unique style of rap and what really sets him apart—blending tales of drugs and a life of crime with conscious, reflective rhymes, while spitting with his high-pitched voice and often rapid-fire delivery.
Brown’s energy was on point throughout the whole set and the crowd couldn’t get enough as many rapped along, hands in the air, swaying to the beat and thumping bass. Even the sun decided to make an appearance as Danny, stopped to ask the crowd who would be lighting up and passing one to him as he hit the track “Blunt After Blunt” and then followed it up by telling the crowd how much he couldn’t wait to see how Ottawa parties once his set was over. Of course, what’s listening Danny Brown without hearing his laugh…? And yes, there was even one of those too.
But if the crowd thought this was any indication the show was over, they couldn’t have been more wrong as the Detroit MC followed up with two of his biggest singles, “25 Bucks” and “Dip”. The crowd erupted as Skywlkr dropped the beat and Danny Brown spit every word… but then, just as fast as quickly as the crowd had been whipped into frenzy, Danny Brown finished the song, put down the mic, picked up his leather jacket, and calmly walked off stage. The crowd seemed to linger, a little unsure whether or not the show was over and, if anything, this was probably my only complaint (other than a few minor sound issues in the early going). It really wasn’t that big of a deal though, so we quickly brushed it off and moved on to check out our next shows—L.A. DJ and hip hop/trap producer RL Grime and Montreal-based dubstep duo Adventure Club.
Check out some more pics below from those shows!