KUMD Album Review: uknowwhatimsayin¿

Feb 14, 2020

Credit Danny Brown uknowwhatimsayin

uknowwhatimsayin¿ is the 7th studio album from Detroit rapper, Danny Brown. The rapper is known for his distinct voice, energetic delivery, and provocative lyrics. With eleven tracks running just 33 minutes, this album is like a strong espresso shot of rap. With his energetic, infectious personality and bright ad libs, Brown delivers an album that is anything but boring. 

The album’s highlight is its choice of instrumental beats. From the straightforward boom-bap style of the album opener, “Change Up”, to the off kilter Dilla-reminiscent 3 Tearz,  It is apparent that Brown has a good ear for beats. In an era saturated by trap drums, it’s easy for rappers to pick similar sounding beats. It is refreshing to hear production that prominently features samples, as well as acoustic drum kits. With the more natural-sounding percussion samples, there is enough space in the mix for vocals and background instruments to shine. 

While they are few and far between, all of the guest features on this album deliver. From the ferocious bars provided by Killer Mike and El-P on “3 Tearz", to the Pharell-esque hook provided by JPEGMAFIA on “Negro Spiritual", Brown shows himself to be a deft collaborator. However, those who are familiar with his previous work may be left wanting. The long time A$AP Mob collaborator is often known to hop on cypher-style tracks, where his distinct voice causes him to stand out and shine among his peers. It is easy to imagine many rappers, from Kendrick, to Freddie Gibbs, to Bennie the Butcher, adding quite a bit of flair next to the Detroit rapper on this album. 

While Danny Brown is a very talented rapper, who skillfully flows over ear-catching production, this review cannot truthfully be categorized as “glowing”. Those who have known Danny Brown from his previously snaggletoothed, crazy-haired persona, will recognize his vocal delivery and comedic bars, despite his new haircut. However, his voice, which makes him so easily recognizable, can also sound grating. On tracks like “Best Life”and “Change Up,” he sounds smooth and charismatic, while on “Negro Spiritualand “Savage Nomad,” he approaches an irritating register. There are effective examples from previous albums where his vocal register is low and punchy (Gremlins, 25 Bucks), and examples where his signature higher tones fit perfectly with the tone of the song (Grown Up, XXX). However, many of the vocal performances on this album are not up to the bar that Brown has previously set. 

Overall, uknowwhatimsayin¿ is a satisfying return for Danny Brown. For many, who see him as a unique and vibrant character, embroiled in the lore of modern rap, it will bring satisfaction to hear his return. For newcomers, his voice and comedically vulgar lyrics may be a turn off. This album is worth listening through twice end to end, to pick which songs are worthy of being put on a playlist, and which are worth skipping when they come up on shuffle.

Try this album if you like: MF Doom, Freddie Gibbs, Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson