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The Student News Site of Oregon State University



Danny Brown at Wonder Ballroom 3.29.24


I recently had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite artists, Danny Brown, at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom.

Although critically acclaimed among several music publications, Danny is far from a household name. However, his contributions to hip-hop are undeniable. Being a trailblazer of experimental hip-hop, Danny has helped popularize the unique sounds and flows that define the genre. Going as far as creating the hip-hop label, Bruiser Brigade, Danny has created a near monopoly on the most unique hip-hop artists in the Detroit metropolitan area. Possessing not only one of the most unique voices in music but one of the most unique minds, Danny has made a living creating music and giving performances like you have never heard before.

With the show being set to start at 8, I was pleasantly surprised when Raphy, the DJ for the first opener, came on around 7:40 to give a quick DJ set to set the mood. Funnily, I recognized Raphy from the merch stand where I had bought a t-shirt from him for one of the openers, Bruiser Wolf.

Right around 8, Bruiser Wolf came trotting out. An artist I was somewhat familiar with thanks to his features on other Bruiser Brigade members’ songs and Danny’s promotion on social media. Although he had a rather quick set, Bruiser Wolf left an impression on the crowd. Having a unique voice that could give Danny a run for his money, Bruiser Wolf built a connection with a crowd that was mostly unfamiliar with his music. My personal favorite song from him was “I’m A Instrument,” a song paying homage to his uncanny delivery that was packed to the brim with witty bars.

Following Bruiser Wolf was rapper Hook, who herself had uncommon delivery. I enjoyed the beats behind her songs, but unfortunately, the bass and timing issues with background vocals made the actual vocals hard to hear at times. Nevertheless, I appreciated the instrumentals and the crowd closer to the stage seemed very engaged with her set.

Not even two minutes after Hook left the stage around 8:55, Danny Brown came out and wasted no time. He immediately got into four songs from his 2023 album Quaranta, a sequel coming more than 10 years after his big-break album, XXX. Only after the fourth of those songs, “Dark Sword Angel,” did Danny introduce himself. The crowd didn’t seem to mind his late introduction, especially when the instrumental for the most popular song off of the aforementioned XXX came on, “Monopoly.” A song I have seen Danny perform live before, it again did not fail to garner word-for-word sing-along from a majority of the crowd.

This song came as a warm-up, being a good bridge between the thematically heavy and unhinged songs in Danny’s discography. Starting to ramp up the intensity, Danny followed this with “Smokin and Drinkin” and “Dip” from his album Old, a higher BPM album that was crafted for parties and festivals at the peak of Danny’s performing career. Next came the big guns, with a run of six songs from Danny’s collaboration with JPEGMAFIA, Scaring the H***. Being bookended with “Steppa Pig” and the title track “Scaring the H***.” However, I could not live with myself if I did not highlight the chaos that “God Loves You” brought. Being a usually docile concertgoer, I could not help but partake in some moshing when this song came on.

As if he had unlimited ammunition, the seemingly fatigued crowd got their second wind when it came time for a run of songs from Danny’s most popular and critically acclaimed album, Atrocity Exhibition. However, this run only consisted of three songs, as I will be honest, Atrocity Exhibition delves into some extremely sensitive themes like drug and sex addiction, mental health, and death that are not the most suited for concert speakers. Nevertheless, the three songs that Danny did play brought out more energy from the crowd than any of the previous songs did.

As if the ears of the fans in the crowd were yearning for Danny’s voice over the familiar instrumentals, absolute bedlam occurred when the beat for “Really Doe” graced our ears. This run of songs was a bit of a blur, but I do vividly recall “When it Rain” and “Ain’t it Funny” not only following, but matching the energy that “Really Doe” brought.

Now in the latter half of his set, Danny brought songs to match the energy decline, playing slower and vocal-focused songs like “Dirty Laundry,” “Y.B.P,” and “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation.” Notably, Bruiser Wolf came out to fulfill his duty as a feature on “Y.B.P” and “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation” welcomed live drums.

Before the planned outro of “Grown Up,” Danny gave both his thanks to the crowd and an apology for the “short” set. Despite the set being an hour long, which I thought was perfect, Danny noted being 43 years old as a contributor to the shortened nature. However, an even bigger factor that he mentioned was sobriety, as this show landed on the first anniversary of Danny’s sobriety. With drugs being an extremely prominent theme in Danny’s music, addiction and its consequences have been no stranger to Danny. Having routinely had two to three-hour sets in the past, Danny mentioned alcohol use as the fuel behind those, something that in hindsight seems obvious when looking at his past on-stage antics. However, having turned a new leaf in his life, Danny has since gotten help for his addiction and we were able to celebrate his “birthday” with him, as Bruiser Wolf and Danny’s entourage brought out a birthday cake to celebrate his sobriety. Following this small celebration, Danny performed “Grown Up,” but the crowd was still hungry.

After around a minute of unrelenting “Danny” chants, he came back out for an encore, performing “Side B (Dope Song),” a song that seemed to satisfy the crowd.

Walking out of the venue, and even now, a couple of days detached from the performance, I am more than satisfied with the performance. I had a good baseline for my expectations, as I had seen Danny live before on the Scaring the H*** Tour with JPEGMAFIA. However, my expectations were shattered, which I can say was thanks to the crowd’s energy, Danny’s energy, and the contribution of his openers, notably Bruiser Wolf. There is so much to marvel at when it comes to Danny’s sound, personality, and contribution to hip-hop, all of which helped contribute to a memorable performance.

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