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Atrocity Exhibition

by Danny Brown

Released September 27, 2016 via Fool's Gold Records / Warp Records

Reviewed September 29, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Ain’t It Funny (81%), Really Doe (56%), When It Rain (26%)

You’re drawn in and pushed away by the Atrocity Exhibition; because, in a culture enamored by men destroying each other, Danny Brown chooses to destroy himself. Long before the release of 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, XXX and Old both highlighted Brown’s dependency on drugs and the avenues it subsequently led him down. But neither are as grotesque or pervading as Atrocity Exhibition. Any set of eyes would think to look away, but the album is so incredibly entertaining. “How much worse can this get?” is a question constantly left in the wake of each track; but this never regarding the quality of the music, but rather the quality of life for the musician behind it. Behind Brown’s eyes, the world spins, its floor made only of pins and needles, as his stomach churns. He never stops going, like a disillusioned energizer bunny, Brown trudges through the pitfalls of addiction in a way that almost feels triumphant. The bars keep coming, but there’s never a moment where Brown’s piercing vocals feel severed from the beats that create such a visceral listening experience. Danny Brown has been making his bed for a long time, surrounded by white lines and dead cigarette butts. Atrocity Exhibition is just the first time he’d decided to lie in it for an entire project. – Ben (Synth) (10/10)

When Ian Curtis crooned “The sickness is drowned by cries for more”, chanting “This is the way...”, Danny Brown was apprehended by self-loathing, regret and the need to escape escapism. Atrocity Exhibition studies addiction with a nuance and maturity unseen on XXX, explicitly and introspectively criticising his self-anguish, guised as hedonism. His trademark vocals accentuate the album’s chaos, navigating dense and cohesive production. Instrumentals sometimes build with the slow introduction of individual stems like on “Tell Me What I Don’t Know,” including left-field timbres like whistles, vibraslaps on “Dance In The Water,” or various obscure samples that appear to merely cameo; yet without them, the songs wouldn’t be the same. Sparingly implemented guest vocals flesh out personality, and the kinds of contributions brought to the table do wonders for the album’s pacing, too. Five years later, Atrocity Exhibition remains ahead of the curve with its perfectly crafted instrumentation and approach to vulgarity that exemplifies the very lowest a human can sink to. This ain’t the way, stay outside. – Cam (10/10)

Danny Brown established his presence in the game through vivid lyricism about drug-riddled sexual escapades; Atrocity Exhibition fundamentally sticks to the same themes, but expands upon them to create Brown’s opus. Combining the sounds of post-punk, techno, and soul into an unsettling version of hip-hop, Atrocity Exhibition creates a grim, unpredictable, and anxiety-inducing atmosphere that reflects Brown’s erratic mental state. From euphoria to absolute despair, the production evokes the paranoia and anxiety on display in Brown’s lyricism. Behind his characteristically nasally delivery lies Brown’s beautifully-penned stories of a deeply troubled soul; there is an overwhelming sense of helplessness as we hear how deeply entrenched these self-destructive behaviors are in his everyday life. The odds are stacked against him and he knows no other way than the way he has always operated; drowning the pain in copious amounts of drugs is more comforting than facing the reality of a world surrounded by darkness. When the trip comes to an end with “Hell For It,” we see a different side of Danny Brown. The closing track serves as the only positive note in what is an incredibly dark 46-minute listen. As the record comes to a close, the self-proclaimed “Greatest Rapper Ever” seems absolutely determined to make it and inspire those in similar situations to escape the darkness that surrounds them. – Dominick (10/10)

Atrocity Exhibition is quite simply that, a purging of demons fully on display for the audience to take in. Taking an agonizing look at trauma, mental illness, and addiction through the lens of someone on the brink is an exhilarating thrill ride that makes you re-evaluate your own existence. Paul White’s production pushes hip-hop to its limits with an esoteric sound palette that borders on straight post-punk at points. Switching between a deflated, depressed cadence and an out of control nasally ball of energy, Brown effortlessly portrays the schizophrenic nature of his life during this time period. Brown brilliantly examines these issues with his unmistakable storytelling that’s part hilarious and part terrifying making this one of the most personal albums ever released. – Jared (10/10)

Considered by many to be his magnum opus, Danny Brown delivers a masterful performance on Atrocity Exhibition. With its somber start, we are led to believe the always eccentric Brown is taking a more methodical approach to his music. This is a nice and refreshing mix up, but it’s soon met with bangers in the form of “Pneumonia” and “When It Rain.” However, with the increase in energy, we do not lose an ounce of precision in lyrical quality and production. It carries his usual feel, but in a more refined way. This album should be cemented as a classic for any Danny Brown fan. – Daniel (9.5/10)

Ben (Synth): 10/10 | Cam: 10/10 | Dominick: 10/10

Hadley: 10/10 | Jared: 10/10 | Daniel: 9.5/10

DeVán: 9/10 | Pax: 8.6/10 | Pablo: 8.5/10

Peter: 8.5/10 | Alan: 8.4/10


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