Black Milk and Danny Brown

Black and Brown EP

(Fat Beats; 2011)

By Chet Betz | 6 December 2011

I guess I overrated this year’s Random Axe because Black and Brown has all the fiery qualities I liked about the Random Axe project made more concise and inspiring and free of Guilty Simpson. And, as long as we’re being honest, of course Danny Brown is a more magnetic and engaging rapper than Sean Price. Of course he is. Still, despite having nothing but accolade to give this EP, I can’t take the rating too high. Maybe because it is an EP, or maybe because Danny Brown’s XXX presents an unfair comparison of what this particular rapper is capable of in 2011.

All the genitalia blowing and sucking that’s mentioned in Black and Brown feels a tad trite compared to how that sucking was contextualized (along with other hedonistic or just plain twisted touchstones) amidst the scarred emotional landscape and ruthless self-portraiture of XXX. In Black and Brown it’s just some more dirty rapping from a very clever rapper. What helps the material fly, though—beyond Danny’s wit and ferocious flow—is the structure of the EP, which favors short tracks and almost random bursts of musical interlude, and the nearly unhinged fervor that Black Milk injects into his work here. Many of the beats on XXX were morose if brilliant, the different producers coming together to deliver a heady balance of electro-grime with hip-hop (this EP’s “Jordan VIII” would have fit right in), while Milk’s approach on Black and Brown is pretty singular and in-your-face, something like heavy chunks of acid-jazz, funk, and fusion thrown in an industrial-grade food processor.

The progressions are surprising but immediate, the sonic ingredients gritty and hot; it’s like Dilla off the deep end. Musically, tracks like “Zap” and “Dada” are just crazy, but what’s even crazier is the way the EP trades closing momentum for a rhythmic lurch between rap tracks and the instrumentals “WTF” and “Dark Sunshine.” On either side of the very evocative latter are the two closest things to singles on Black and Brown, the acerbic “LOL” and the grand finale title track, re-contextualized from its original appearance on Black Milk’s Album of the Year (2010). What was mostly just a minor highlight amidst ambitious, long-form beats on AOTY is here—after an erratic twenty minutes’ worth of wonky samples, brutally chopped breaks, and bountiful scuzz—a sublime closer, its dramatic strings, steady drum line, and coda chorus of cuts sounding like something breaking free of the record’s prior turmoil and soaring upward. But still about blowjobs.

Which is okay because this is the sound of the blown and the blowing, speaker wires sparking as Milk pushes red everything and Brown eats the black between the mic mesh and his own fucked front teeth. It’s hungry, vicious synergy that the Detroit duo’s got going here and one can only hope that it’s something they can eventually translate into something longer than an EP, or at least something with more depth. Still, as far as appetizers go, Black and Brown has plenty of bite.