6 or 7 months ago, Danny Brown along with JPEGMAFIA blessed us with their collaboration album Scaring the Hoes, Vol. 1, and I’d easily call that my top album of the year when I first reviewed it, and it still holds up to this day. However, that isn’t the only thing that Danny has coming out this year.
Aside from the Scaring the Hoes: DLC Pack that dropped in July, he had been planning on a sequel to his 2011 album XXX with Quaranta. It’ll also be the final album released on Warp Records as he plans future releases on his own imprint label, Bruiser Brigade Records. We had one taste of a single with “Tantor” and now here we are. 11 tracks running for 34 minutes, and that familiar question: How was it?
For those that don’t get with the album title meant, Quaranta means ’40’ in Italian as in Danny’s age back in 2021, just like how XXX meant 30. For the tone of the album, things are very somber and confessional. One more thing about the album title: it’s also a similar homonym to ‘quarantine’, as the album was written during the start of the pandemic back in 2020, around after his previous album was released. He was dealing with divorce, moving around and of course, his stint of going to rehab. The first track, the title track, got him starting out like this:
This rap shit done saved my life
And fucked it up at the same time
That pain in my heart, I can’t hide
A lot of trauma inside
A lot changed since triple X came out
Bought a few cars and a house
Almost had a spouse, got caught up, she was out
Now I’m sitting here, questioning what life is about
“Can you seperate the life from the music?”
I was clueless, now a nigga foolish
Nigga, you 40, still doing this shit?
When you gon’ stop? But God gon’ make you quit
Came from hardships, but changed perceptions
“Tantor”, the single from the album does have that standard frantic Danny Brown flavor you recognize with a rocking and grungey sample coming from the band Tantor with production handled by The Alchemist and it’s about as weird as it can get. “Ain’t My Concern” on the other hand continues on with that introspective part of him, whether it’s on the rap game and how it’s mostly doing the bare minimum or chasing trends until they are no use to anyone. Then while that’s happening, his tour got canceled and his aunt was dying at the time (around 2020…. yeah, you get it).
Got a Mexican homie named Chinese Mike
In an all-black Cutty and he got that white (White)
If you ain’t got that green then he might see red
Put a knot on your head then we might see dreads
Straight hair white ho with them pinky toes (Hahaha)
Jumping in like Greg Louganis
Scraped his head against a diving board (Style)
A cyborg with vocal chords, deeper than an ocean floor (Style)
None of these rappers ain’t eating like me (Nah)
“Dark Sword Angel”, while sounding like the name of a 90s OVA, delivers on some hilarious bars and punchlines, from him giving Dave Chappelle laced weed to how he came from that era of offensive hip-hop. The first line of this is basically stating that after this album, Danny is going independent on his own label with Bruiser Brigade Records. “Y.B.P.” describes Danny in his youth days of being…. well, young, black and poor as it says on the lyrics: from being on food stamps, WIC & some non-profit stuff to dealing with family in the house and just surviving daily life in Detroit. Plus, we get a great guest feature from Bruiser Wolf on this.
Detroit city, that’s where I live
Feels like “Poetic Justice,” you get killed at the drive-in
Who gon’ front you some work? Who gon’ front you some work?
We was fresh from the dirt, put you on a t-shirt
Wanna run like Barry, shoot like Zeke
But in the hood with a nine on me like Rodney Peete
Motor city, the Motown, the Fab Five
Police violence, that’s how Malice Green died
Coleman Young, Dennis Archer, Kilpatrick
Pissy mattress in the alley doing backflips
Uh, these hoes ratchet, daddy’s absent
In comes the next single “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation”, where the topic is everyone’s favorite thing: GENTRIFICATION!! Yup, where all the white people come in because it’s cheaper here and in comes things like Starbucks and organic gardens and everything going expensive that the non-white people can’t afford it (you get the message). Then things really get honest and heartbreaking on “Down Wit It”, where he recounts how he messed up his relationship by cheating on her and that led to him drinking a lot to numb the pain. Yeah, this isn’t just the flamboyant and wacky Danny Brown here. Hell, I’m sure that his long-time producer, Paul White (who produced this track) wanted to call him to see if he’s OK. Also, if you notice here, Danny is using his normal voice more than his usual squawky voice.
The next few tracks still go in that direction with “Celibate” where he compares his past lifestyle where he felt trapped to now where he no longer feels that way, and we also have MIKE on the feature who kills it on here with his verse. Oh, I should mention that the features are very sparse with the aforementioned ones being Bruiser Wolf, MIKE and Kassa Overall provided vocals in “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation.” ZelooperZ is a feature on “Shakedown” but he’s more on the chorus there and Danny Brown still delivers on bringing up that part.
You don’t like me now
When I made a mess, always there to wipe me down
Now that you’re not around, felt like Miles without Francis
Always question everything but you had all the answers
Everything my fault, thought that love could be bought
It was all sugar ’til it turned to salt
Felt like I was trapped until I got caught
Thought I had everything until I took that loss
But cheaters never win is what some might say
“Hanami” explores a lot of the qualms of Danny in the rap game from wondering if he should still be there despite it being a young man’s game (him and Andre 3000 shares similar thoughts to that) and not being up there in the mainstream and charting like most rappers, to depression, financial troubles (which I guess because of the stories I heard about Atrocity Exhibition and its samples costing a lot of money) and most of the stuff I mentioned earlier in previous tracks. The finale track “Bass Jam” has Danny reflecting on how his mom used to play older music growing up and reminisce on that.
Remember back when it was hard for me to sleep
Mama played them old school jams on repeat
A little Sade sent me on my way
Dreamin’ ’bout the shit that I’m doing today
Cleanin’ up the house, Mary J on cassette
Smokin’ on a J, sauce on the TV set
Runnin’ home from school, Loose Ends on blast
Tyin’ up loose ends, runnin’ low on cash
Pops get gone a week, now she pagin’ my Dad
Came in with some pizzas like nothin’ had happened
Now we just laughin’, jammin’ to the oldies
Dеalin’ with emotions, never hеard, “I’m sorry”
Going in this album knowing about his time in rehab when Scaring the Hoes was released and the fact that he wanted out of his record contract to go on his own did clue me in on some things about this album. It’s very melancholic, depressing as all hell and Danny is being honest with himself about how things went down and he doesn’t paint himself as a savior or ‘all woe is me’ type person. He said that he fucked up and he got to live with that but he’s trying to get better and he did and I applaud him for that. Quaranta succeeds as a spiritual successor to XXX as it shows growth in him and looking back at his career while contemplating on how it’ll go in the future.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY IT! Here’s best wishes on Danny going indie.
QUARANTA is on Warp Records and is available on CD, vinyl, digital download and streaming services.