When Danny Brown turned 31 earlier this month, the occasion marked a bigger milestone than it would for most people. Brown's 2011 breakthrough, XXX, alluded to his then-age of 30 in its title as well as in its opening and closing tracks. As that free download album finally receives a physical release, with a limited double-vinyl plus bonus 7" edition due out on April 21 for Record Store Day, the idiosyncratic Detroit rapper looks to be on the brink of something big at an age when too many MCs are already considered washed up. "Us older rappers can say it, and we know the outcomes of the street, but the kids are living it," he acknowledged in a recent Village Voice interview.
"Grown Up," which premiered yesterday at the Fader, is, like all things Brown, a hybrid. Produced by Brooklyn-based Party Supplies, who recently teamed up for an entire mixtape with Queens rapper Action Bronson, the track in one sense shows his age — it's tough to imagine Chicago teen gangsta-rap sensation Chief Keef contemplatively reflecting on his childhood over summer-BBQ vinyl-scratching (at least, not just yet). In another way, though, this sun-baked celebration of just how far Brown has come has the potential to appeal to his widest audience yet.
The clearest precursor for this Scion-sponsored cut, which you can grab below for the price of an e-mail address, is Ahmad's 1994 West Coast hit "Back in the Day," though listeners of a certain age might just as easily be transported back to any number of songs taped off the radio in the early '90s. Brown's high-pitched yawp isn't even so far off from Ahmad's off-kilter vocal style. Party Supplies provides one of Brown's flat-out prettiest instrumentals yet — cheering kids, organic percussion, lazy-Sunday chord changes — as the rapper with the Arcade Fire hair simultaneously revels in and exemplifies the yawning gulf between his current blowing-up status and his tough Detroit childhood (aspects of which he discussed recently in an endearing video interview with the inimitable Nardwuar). He's careful not to romanticize his days eating Captain Crunch for dinner, but he's comfortable enough with himself to treat the subject a little more seriously than his onstage goofball persona might suggest.
Nobody's getting any younger, of course. Hell, Ahmad himself was only 18 when he had his hit way back in the day (so maybe that Chief Keef nostalgia trip is coming up soon after all?). "Grown Up" is grown-folks music that offers a little hope for the rest of us. Happy 31st, Danny Brown.