Danny Brown was sitting in his dressing room before his Thursday evening set. The Detroit rapper was plopped on a leather couch, his tight black pants hugging his legs. Fumes wafted over his Grinch-green hair as he passed a smoke back toward Skywalker, his tour DJ. Thumping bass from the Houston-rapper Beat King echoed through Brown's headphones.
With a provocative catalogue detailing Detroit hardships and drug-fueled-rages, one might assume that Brown’s demeanor would be equally rambunctious. However, the 33-year-old is reserved and in tune with his career’s current state.
He sat down with the Los Angeles Times to discuss his career progression.
You were in New York last night, then flew here to Los Angeles, and are then flying to Australia. For many people, that would seem pretty glamorous, but I’m sure that’s also pretty grueling.
I don’t know how I can really explain it. I used to ... get on Greyhound buses and go to other cities and sell drugs. This is easy to me [laughs]. I can understand that someone else might get homesick, but I’ve always been a different type. I was locked up a year and didn’t write nobody a letter. I’m not like that. I understand some people can’t take the road; it can be tough. I’m just a special case in that sense.
When you travel and have to connect so many flights, it sometimes feels like you’re not even there.
Yeah, I really only see the green room. I’ve been to like Paris or something like that. I don’t really know the cities but I know how the green room looks. I know how the hotel looks. It’s like I’ve been around the world but I ain’t been nowhere.
What’s it like returning home to Detroit then?
I just stay in the house when I go home. I relax and get my rest. That’s when I take care of myself to be able to go out and do this. That’s just pretty much how it goes.
What does that entail? I know you’re a big fan of cartoons.
Yeah, that’s what I do! I go back and I sure as hell don’t party. I go back and watch 'Adult Swim.' I smoke and work on music for the most part. I write a lot when I’m at home. I feel like I’m always working constantly, constantly.
I’ve been trying to write on the road as much as possible now so that I can at least relax and all. And then I can tinker stuff in the studio, play around with these ideas. When I’m at home, that’s when I’m trying to write songs. When I’m on the road I’m working.
I enjoy your new track “Attak” [with Scottish producer Rustie]. When you’re collaborating with other artists and you’re both on the road, does it feel inauthentic? Just throwing ideas back and forth.
For me, for the most part, I can only work on music when I’m at home. If I’m not at home, I can’t really do nothing. So at this point, I used to do a lot of features and stuff, I’m not really looking to do features [now].
I work with people that I want to work with. Like the Rustie thing, [he’s] someone that I’m a huge fan of, I enjoy working with him. When he reached out to do the track, of course I’m down to do it.
For you then, what makes you want to work with another artist? Anyone come to mind?
I mean, for the most part, really just sharing the same views and how I feel about music. I met Annie [Clark] from St. Vincent the other day. We were talking a lot. I’d love to work with her.
Is that a possibility?
I can see it happening. You know, we kicked it, and we vibed on that level of music. I can see it happening.
You have done a number of collaborations over the years. That has changed.
I mean at this point I’m just trying to work on my stuff too, so I can’t really be wasting verses. In the past, I had time. I was doing shows, but I’m not doing as much as I’m doing now.
I really don’t have the time to do everything. I have to limit myself with what I can and can’t do. If something is really important, or if the money is right, I have no choice but to do it. But for the most part, I’m not trying to work with nobody else at this point.
A big part of rappers’ careers is focusing on longevity.
I don’t know. I never really think about it like that. I think that’s when you start to mess it up and get weird. I think you got to take it one step at a time and that’s how you make it.
Track by track, show by show.
Yeah. You got to look at all of it. You know that could be the last. So if you take it like that, you’ll always be around. But if you’re thinking for the future, ‘I could do this, I could do that’ -- you can’t really do that.
Music’s too fickle for that. Sports you can think like that. Not music. You don’t know. You just got to be able to adapt to the times and be able to reinvent yourself.
I feel a lot of artists try to reinvent themselves and end up outdoing it and can’t go back.
I just look at the past and look at everyone else’s mistakes and what other people succeeded with. Just try to incorporate that with what I do in today’s age. ‘Cause, like you say, everybody that try to have longevity, it was a calculated thing.
If you look at it with the way they presented their music, they market it, in the way they wrote songs, in the way they presented songs, the singles they pick, everything has to be calculated right. It’s almost like catching lightning in a bottle in some sense.
You’ve always been an honest rapper both with material and your social life. Are other rappers putting on an act by constantly hyping their party mentality?
I mean, they always in the studio! So if you in the studio, I guess that’s your party. That’s the party they be talkin’ about. They talk about the party that be goin’ on in the studio.
They might go to the club after they make the song that they partied in the studio to. That might be their after-party to the actual party. I guess, in a sense, they not lying, they are partyin’, just not probably the way they presenting it to the public.
Being that you've performed all over, are there any places that you haven’t been yet that you’re looking forward to?
Not really. It’s just not like a big deal. Even somewhere like Amsterdam, where you feel like you’ll like it ‘cause I love smoking weed. It’s just boring to me. I smoke mad weed and get paranoid at people not speaking English [laughs]. I freak out and just stay in my hotel again.
I’m walking around and it’s just weird. And all the bikes. I mean, it’s cool, I get it.
The bike lanes can be vicious.
The bike lanes is like 'Frogger' man. If you don’t look around you’re gonna get hit. The last thing I’d want to do is get hit by a bike.