It's a Saturday afternoon in Miami — the night of the now infamous Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight — and Danny Brown is posted up on the Intercontinental Hotel rooftop trying to figure out the TV situation for the evening. We're all down here on the dime of Broken Barrel Brewing Company in support of their new beer Oculto, a lager brewed in tequila barrel staves. It tastes like a Corona on steroids, and I hate beer, but Oculto tastes pretty good. Later that evening, the company will host this Sleep No More meets Eyes Wide Shut meets complete night of debauchery-type party called "Oculto Manor" in Miami's Wynwood District, and that's where Danny will be performing...right smack in the middle of the boxing match. "Stuff's gotta be sacrificed for work, and that's life," Danny says about catching the pay-per-view match. "At the end of the day, I'm a fan of it, so I'm going to watch it anyway." He not-so-coincidentally performed that night right after the fight ended.
The Detroit native (and still resident) is that dude with the signature voice in today's hip hop scene. His rhymes teeter between threatening and slapstick, not at all similar to Brown's demeanor when you're sitting right in front of him. He's the guy who shows up on time to interviews and buys drinks for you at the bar. He makes eye contact and laughs with his whole belly, flashing a new row of grills, completing his once missing set of teeth. He's also a comedian.
When asked what he does first when he gets to a hotel room, he throws some slang that I'm pretty sure is a euphemism for taking a s**t. "You got to christen it, you know what I'm saying?" he says. "I brought Wet Wipes with me this time. That's my new thing. Because hotel tissues be trash now."
It's been nearly two years since Danny dropped his third studio album Old, yet he never really seems to leave the conversation. Earlier this year he was a part of Eminem's D-Town manifesto "Detroit vs. Everybody," a cut that almost had the nation racing to the studio for respective city follow-ups, but nobody showed out for the occasion. "I mean, Detroit is a real rapping-a** city. It's not too many rapping-a** cities," he says as a possible explanation for the lack of responses. "They have their sounds and their movements and their scenes, but Detroit, we've just been rapping and rapping and rapping."
Danny sure as hell has. When he's not rapping, he's touring. And when he's not touring, he's being Danny Brown, one of hip hop's strongest characters.
So in March it was the 5-year anniversary of The Hybrid. How is the Danny Brown of The Hybrid different from the Danny Brown of today?
It's not too much, to be honest. I was probably like 28 or something when The Hybrid came out. But not too much. I have a little more discipline now.
I saw on Twitter how you were saying you were getting too far ahead of your schedule for putting out the next album because you didn't know when it was dropping. So, what's going on with the release of that?
I mean, you know, we're just ironing things out. You just can't put out stuff. That's what I had to learn with the last project — you've got to go through so much stuff with the music. You've got to go through the sample clearances and stuff. I want to be early on that and late to a party.
Is that sample stuff still a problem?
Yes, it is!
Do you see it coming out any time this year?
I want it to.
Every two years, you've had a project in 2011, 2013...2015?
Yeah, see look!
So what kind of mind set do you have to get into? Is there an “album mode” Danny Brown?
Nah, because I'm always kind of to myself a little bit, and that's when I do most of the stuff. I'm kind of always kind of doing that. That's how I live anyway.
So you're the type that you can go on tour and record a little? Because there's some artists that have to lock it in.
Mm-mm. I don't do that. My thing is the writing part, so I focus more on that. That's what I mean by that. I'm always tinkering at writing. It's like as if you were writing a novel or something; you're writing a book. It's more so than the raps and the actual songs is doing studying. So I do a lot of that. It might be a documentary, it might be a book, it might be listening to an old album you've never heard before but it got rave reviews. You know? Something like that. So I think the studying part I do a lot of.
What are you currently taking in? Any books, albums, things that you've stumbled upon lately?
Yeah, I've been doing that. Cuz is retarded. I f**k with cuz. So I've been watching his documentaries and listening to his albums and stuff.
When you're getting into writing mode, do you feel like you need to be completely sober? Do you need to be a little buzzed?
I mean, I smoke weed all the time, so I'm never really completely sober. That's just a relaxing thing. Sometimes I feel like I never want to rely on any substance to write, because then it could be a problem. So I might get high and little s**t here and there, but I also make sure that I write sober. And I see the difference.
What's the difference?
When I'm sober, I'm a little more meticulous.
Yeah! When you're high, you're like, “Woo, this hot!” When you're sober, it's never good enough.
Where do you get more introspective and more in your feelings?
When you high. When I'm sober, that's when I be writing that ratchet s**t. I be turned up then.
You're always touring. What's on your rider right now?
Cigarettes and condoms, and we need to take that s**t off.
Which one do you need to take off?
Both of them!
[Danny's manager interjects with "Keep the condoms."]
Yeah, cigarettes could go. I don't need free cigarettes all the time. They never give you good cigarettes anyway. Some Newport 100s. Those are crackhead cigarettes. Some menthol golds? I done smoked all type of weird cigarettes this year because of that rider.
So what's on the schedule for the next few months?
Just recording, staying in the studio. I got a few shows here and there. Same ol', same ol'.
Are you going international?
I think I go to Croatia. That's the only thing I remember. I'm always going to London so that don't count. But I think Croatia.
(Photo: Danny Brown via Instagram)