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Concert Series: Danny Brown

Opening Acts: Bruiser Wolf & Hook
Writing / Photography by: Trent "Pax" Lowder

Anticipation was heavy and palpable for a crowd of clearly die-hard Danny Brown fans. They resembled a Danny Brown memory quilt of sorts, as tour t-shirts and merch drops from all eras of his long and varied discography could be seen peppered in the sea of people—from the straightened hair days of 2011’s XXX and 2013’s Old to his most recent releases in 2023’s Quaranta and SCARING THE HOES, his cherished collaboration with JPEGMAFIA. I even asked a few fans which album from the fiendish rapper they would consider his best and got a different response almost every time. It was clear that regardless of personal favorites, every fan wanted to walk down Danny Brown Lane and admire the entirety of over a decade of him being heralded as a top-tier rapper.

Bruiser Wolf

As soon as Bruiser Wolf took the stage and began gently tumbling out witty punchlines and humorous entendres, the audience instantly settled their fidgety excitement into head-bobbing appreciation and more than a handful of genuine laughs. His elegant, confident tone carried his storied lyrics of dope entrepreneurship and sexual escapades, but his persona and image elevated it into “dapper” territory. Sporting an Adidas soccer jersey embellished with his own name and a straw boater hat, Bruiser gave off the playful and inviting vibe of your fun uncle at a family reunion. His stage presence most closely resembled that of a pastor giving a sermon, pausing briefly after funny one-liners for dramatic effect, animated praise hands, and crowd-work that plainly fueled his vigor.

The audience quickly realized Bruiser is unlike any other hip-hop performer they’ve probably experienced, and by the time he finished up “I’m a Instrument” toward the back half of his set, he had hammered that sentiment home with lyrics of “Nobody sounds like this / I got my own sound.” But perhaps the most climactic moment of his performance came at the very end, when he pivoted away from his toe-dancing exuberance and performed the more tender “Momma Was a Dopefiend.” As the lights turned lower, he removed his hat in respect and dedicated the song to his late mother and father. Bruiser’s cracking voice had a depth of emotion and rawness that the crowd received warmly, though it contrasted quite drastically from the rest of his 25 minutes on stage. When all was said and done, he exited the stage to roaring chants of “Bruiser, Bruiser, Bruiser!,” having won the love and fanship of another crowd.


Hook (or I Love You Hook), out of California, was a totally different flavor than Bruiser Wolf. Where Bruiser was like smooth caramel, Hook was a sour patch kid. Her sound is intrinsically disorienting—with layers of video game-esque synths, lo-fi trap drums, and her signature monotone, dry humor pulsating the venue. At first, the crowd seemed stunned with the juxtaposition of the two opening sets as she stood almost motionless in the shadows behind the DJ table for her first track; but when she emerged under venomous red lights to the forefront and began warming up to the crowd, her hyper-trap sound and earnest lyrics started kicking everyone back into motion. Her set had a slower build, but towards the end she seemed to be teleporting across the stage—one moment down low face-to-face with the crowd, the next atop the amps looming 12 feet over the audience. The lighting kept her in relative anonymity, usually lit from behind in an eerie red cast which contrasted to her pretty hilarious lyrics like “I ain’t always chipper / I ain’t Happy, no Meal.”

She was simultaneously an imposing entity and the funniest friend in the group chat throughout her performance. She certainly brought to mind a few artists I love sonically, but where some of those artists’ personalities resemble a character that’s been rehearsed, Hook’s bashful composure and swag came off as very authentic. She would rap about playing a Nintendo DS but make it sound like a diss track, and her performance definitely stayed on brand with the other artists of the night in the sense that it was completely original and all her own.

Danny Brown

Frankly, I did have questions about what this tour would look like for the main character. Determining exactly how an artist who has always elevated himself through his zaniness was going to go about touring for an album that is lyrically, his most introspective—and sonically, his least fanatical, was an interesting thought experiment. To be clear, it wasn’t necessarily a worry so much as a passing consideration; I know he’s fully capable of putting on a party and a performance simultaneously (I witnessed his set at MusicFest NW 2015, simply unforgettable).

All the same, when Danny Brown finally stepped out, the crowd's continually growing eagerness spilled over and he was welcomed to a fervorous roar of cheering. Beginning his set with the titular track of his newest release and the namesake of the tour, “Quaranta,” he had an air of stoicism. It was slightly alien compared to the off-the-walls nature that had propelled him into the limelight early in his career, but paired with the futuristic robe he was adorned in, he very well could’ve been ferried to the venue on a U.F.O. Though the kick-off to his set may not have been what a fan might expect from Brown, there is so much depth and soul-searching within the tracklist of Quaranta that the crowd could not help but be mesmerized upon his entrance. Perhaps it is his relatively recent sobriety or just the eventual maturation that all people eventually befriend, but Brown’s spirit felt harnessed and channeled into emotional expression directly.

That sentiment took a backseat slightly when the newer material eventually faded into the early hits most casual fans would recognize. When the choppy beat of “Monopoly” emerged from the transitional fuzz, the crowd went berserk. The energy only multiplied when “Smokin’ & Drinkin” commenced, and finally, it exploded into a mosh-pit with “Dip.” Brown’s presence during this run of songs cranked up a few notches, smiling and laughing as he turned the microphone to the crowd who would recite the lyrics without fail and implement his patented growly voice modulations. Following the few tracks off of his earliest releases, he pivoted to a number of his verses from SCARING THE HOES. While relatively modest in the back sections of the concert hall up to that point, “God Loves You” was when the spirit of the room crescendoed; even the furthest back of rows on the balcony could be seen jumping up and down to the choir-laden beat.

Danny could scarcely be heard during “Really Doe,” which seemed to please him as he took a few moments off the mic to bask in the fans’ appreciation for the track. He really hit his stride with some of his more avant-garde tracks like “Dirty Laundry,” “25 Bucks,” and “Jenn’s Terrific Adventure,” which found a nice middle ground between the precise cutting lyricism of his newest work and the party anthems of old. This groove suited his current live performance presence best; he was having fun on stage without needing to push himself too hard. Ending with a track that almost all fans can agree is one of his greatest, “Grown Up,” the song’s overarching theme wrapped up the concert in a very fitting way.

The questions I had regarding Danny Brown’s new material’s performability were answered rather satisfactorily. His energy was still very much alive, but transformed from that of a larger-than-life Rock n’ Roll star to someone who’s lived, felt, and communicated a pretty eclectic experience and is in a stage of reflection. His musical persona has gracefully transformed in a way not unlike a star basketball player might in the later portions of their career. He’s smoother, wittier, and more centered now—all of which is reflected in his performances. Brown has always been an honest and raw musician, but where that used to result in a flashy, electric, “I don’t give a fuck” attitude, it now surfaces in a calculated and poignant demeanor that acknowledges the past but is focused on the current. As he recited the lyrics to “Grown Up,” a song about the stages of life and what it takes to make it to the next point, I understood that Quaranta, and this tour, were just the latest stages of Danny Brown navigating a wild and impressive career.


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