When Danny Brown and Purity Ring’s Megan James performed the rapper’s collaboration with the electronic duo, “25 Bucks,” earlier this year on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, this synth-haunted personal reflection on the cycle of poverty ended with a warm, proud embrace between Brown and James.
That type of cathartic resolution never comes in the track’s NORTON-directed video, which suits the unsparing tone of of Brown’s outstanding 2013 album Old (finally out on vinyl this month). Instead, we see Brown and James lip-syncing as they wander through frozen scenes in line with the song’s sharply observed lyrical details about life “trapped in the trap.” They’re in the same room, but they never cross paths.
It’s the harrowing underside to songs like superficially molly-celebrating “Dip,” which Brown performed last month on The Arsenio Hall Show and in a recently unshared Kimmel clip (below). But even there, when he’s rolling, there’s a mortifying ambivalence as he concludes each verse, “And I don’t know what I’m doing.” He does, and he wants you to see.