Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity
As part of our States of Independence summer takeover, 50 American indie icons have volunteered to take the Dazed Pop Quiz; a quick-fire Q&A about what they love and loathe about life in the USA. Check back here every day for more from the series.
Danny Brown’s idiosyncratic psychedelic rap patter and punk-as-fuck attitude has made him one of the most exciting MCs to emerge out of the American underground since the reign of Ason Unique. With countless cameos and three albums under the belt of his skinny jeans, the Detroit native has managed to build a hardcore fanbase without once compromising his artistic independence. It seems like nothing or no one can faze this green haired live wire. After all, this is a man who once received fellatio while performing on stage without dropping a bar. So what the 33-year-old will do when he supports fellow Motor City alum Eminem at Wembley Stadium tomorrow night is anyone’s guess. One thing’s for certain though: 70,000 people are about to get turnt the hell up.
Which living American do you most admire and why?
Danny Brown: Arthur Lee from Love. I see myself in him in some ways. He's just the guy that didn't care about anything else but the music, no matter what other people thought. Sometimes he went through a lot of bad things because of it too. He had more confidence in himself than anyone else and that's the way I see myself too. I’ve learnt from the mistakes that he's made, because I don’t want to make them either.
Were your friends surprised that you liked psychedelic music?
Danny Brown: I had different sets of friends, but my friends from the hood were like, “You trippin'”. I listened to it on my headphones most of the time so they wouldn't know what I was listening to. They'd always hear me listening to shit. I remember one time we were at a crack house, we were selling crack at the time, and a Korn video came on and I was like: I bet any of you can sing this song word for word. They were like hell no you can't sing this shit. I sang that shit word for word and fucked everybody up. They were like, “What the fuck is wrong with you man?!”
Which living American Do you most despise and why?
Danny Brown: I don't like the Miley Cyrus thing. My girlfriend has a daughter who’s thirteen now, and her dad's locked up for murder. So I’m that little girl’s dad now. My daughter watched Hannah Montana growing up and now look at what Hannah Montana is doing!? Kids can't separate what's real from fake at this point. She's obviously a talented individual, she just really cheapening her brand. She doesn't have to do those things. Someone else can do it and do it better.
So if Miley asked you to be on a track you’d turn her down?
Danny Brown: No, no, no. Not for the cheque. It might be the last one. You always need another cheque. You gotta pick your cheques wisely, like playing blackjack.
Whose face should be on the $100 bill?
Danny Brown: It should be Donald Trump. That would be tight. I’d want it to look real, make his hair plugs really stick out.
What hair advice would you give Donald Trump? Everyone loves your hair.
Danny Brown: Nah man I'm too broke to give Donald Trump any advice. Donald Trump needs to give me advice.
What's your favourite quote on America?
Danny Brown: My favourite rap lyric about America would be Nas: “That buck that bought a bottle could've struck the lotto”.
What three words describe America today, what would they be?
Danny Brown: Infinite ratchet possibilities.
Are you a fan of DJ Mustard then?
Danny Brown: I went into the studio with him once. I think he thinks I’m some fucking weirdo. I came to the studio wearing some a Rick Owens sleeping bag and like the tightest jeans ever with some boots up to my knees. I was with some weird girl too. He probably thinks I'm some black goth, I was really Emo that day. I wouldn’t like me if I was him.
What’s your ultimate American album?
Danny Brown: I guess it's a cliché at this point but it's Nas’s Illmatic, It gave me an imagination. The first time I heard illmatic I’d never been to New York in my life but I felt like I was in the middle of Queens projects. I never had that before. I was like 13 years old. I was like, damn, I could rap about my hood and what's around me.
Are you a black Goth?
Danny Brown: I'm Emo, I'm very sensitive. I really like being sober recently. I haven't been doing a lot of the shit that I used to. I guess at one point in time I was masking a lot of my emotions.
What did you learn from the person who gave you your first break?
Danny Brown: It was Tony YaYo from G-unit. He came to Detroit and I bought him some weed. I played him a few songs and he flew me to NY the next day for four months. Ever since that day I haven’t looked back. 50 didn't like the way I dressed, he wanted to market me in a different way to what I was but I was stuck in my ways. I knew I was right. That could've been my last chance. But I was like, whatever, I'm the best rapper ever. If I die one day, people would figure it out 30 years later. As long as I continue to make the best music I can, as long as I get the best props I can. I've made it this far and I've got 50 Cent saying my music is good so – it's good.
When and where were you the most happiest?
Danny Brown: I guess probably on stage when it's going good, when the show is tight. Also when I’m at home. But that’s also the place where I've had some of the most depressing times because I've got too much time to think. I kinda like being in my head. But that’s when I get into trouble when I think too much.
When you got a blowjob while performing was that the happiest moment you’ve ever had on stage?
Danny Brown: Nah, cause I felt bad for a lot of people. They came to the show and had to see that, you know? I live with it.
What high school clique where you in?
Danny Brown: I guess I was in the fashion guys. We were the best-dressed guys in school. Like the guys that wouldn’t go to school the day that Jordans came out and then would come in like 4 O'clock with the new Jordans on. Always trying to hit the 24-hour sales and trying to find the cheapest Versace t-shirt you could get. All about shopping. All about being fresh and showing your clothes off at school.
What's been the worst fashion mistake? You've got a few to choose from?
Danny Brown: Probably that Rick Owens sleeping bag I wore to Mustard’s studio. It’s a sleeping bag you tie around your neck, it covers your whole outfit and you look crazy. It cost like $2,000. Now it’s just sitting in my closet collecting dust. Sometimes I shop when I’m depressed or bored and that's when you buy your worst shit. Me and (A$AP) Rocky – we both do that. That was one of those times I spent money on the dumbest shit ever.
What food reminds you of home?
Danny Brown: Fried chicken livers and gizzards. I love it! Fried chicken liver and gizzards you get 1/2 pound mix and put hot sauce on it. Everyone says I’m disgusting, but it's a Detroit staple.
What smell do you associate with the city of your birth, Detroit?
Danny Brown: That smell of the chicken and liver, the grease from the constant frying and stuff. My neighbourhood just smelt like shit was frying all the time.
What's the best road trip you've been on?
Danny Brown: I was in LA for a few months and one day we randomly decided to go to Coachella. Like, fuck it, let’s just go. We couldn't get in to the festival but one our friends had a party so we were gunna go there. We went shopping first and got clothes and got drugs to fuck with. Then we went up there and did it. I never did stuff like that being from Detroit. I don’t like to drive. I'd rather fly. I don't want to be pulled over and have, like, police problems. I'm not really a road trip kind of guy. I get carsick.
Where did you first fall in love?
Danny Brown: I don't know if I've ever fallen in love. I'm the Grinch. I love girls but I’m not the holding hands in the park kind of guy. But I guess I'm in love with the girl I’m with right now. We met in Detroit and then we fell in love and we've been living together ever since.
What would make you leave America forever?
Danny Brown: I don’t think anything would make me leave but I wanna leave and go to London and make an album. I might not wanna come back if I came to London. Detroit and London have a lot of similarities. London still keeps me grimy, still makes me work hard, gives me that edge. The claustrophobia makes my music that much better.
What noise reminds you of America?
Danny Brown: Arguing. When I was lying in bed I would hear people arguing all the goddamn time. Hearing people have domestic disputes. And they still do it now like a motherfucker.
What is your favourite American building?
Danny Brown: The Renaissance in Detroit. You can see it from anywhere you at. If you’re on any main road and you look in the sky you can see it. It's just one of those things. It's the only thing we got. They gotta make sure it’s looking good.
What's your ultimate American film?
Danny Brown: The Shining. Danny riding the big wheel. The turns he makes, you can't make those turns in real life. Kubrick was just doing tricks just to do it, if you didn't catch it, you didn't catch it.
What’s the US's most over rated tourist attraction?
Danny Brown: That’s a good one; I’ve seen them all. I’d say the Grand Canyon. How long can you stare at a big-ass hole for? After 20-30 minutes it’s like, yeah I get it.
What’s the most underrated US tourist attraction?
Danny Brown: The Vegas strip. Sin City, man. I stay at the Bellagio, and only because it's a lil' ratchet. I can smoke my weed and they don't really trip.
What's your favourite slang phrase from American culture?
Danny Brown: Anything E-40 says.
What's your ultimate American guilty pleasure?
Danny Brown: Reality shows. Early series of The Real World was the shit. I don't get much time these days to watch TV but if I'm in a hotel room I end up putting one on and then watch like 50 episodes of that shit. I spent a day watching all that Kardashian shit.
Who's your favourite Kardashian?
Danny Brown: Khloe.
She does like rappers.
Danny Brown: I might have a shot then. Maybe then she’ll realise that she’s gotta be with a good rapper.
What law would you change or invent?
Danny Brown: I guess if I would change a law, it would make prostitution legal. Like if somebody wanna sell their body, then that’s on them. There should be no policing on you selling what you were born with. And if I could invent a law, I think you should get the death penalty if you rape someone or abuse children.
When was your last run in with the cops?
Danny Brown: I don't have them often...but oh, my last run in with the cops I was in customs and had some [marijuana] wax. I forgot I had it in my wallet. They didn't really understand what the fuck this shit was and they had to let me go. My experience with cops and the law system is don't fuck with it. If you're gonna play that game make sure you've got money for lawyers and bail and shit.
If you could change one thing about America what would it be?
Danny Brown: Marijuana should be legal. It’s not a drug. Let it be free, if people wanna be high let 'em be high. It's already happening. Like in Denver they're doing it and it's become a much better place with them legalising marijuana. Detroit is somewhere that totally needs it. I could take 1000 Xanax and die. You can get prescribed all types of crazy shit.
Which fictional American do you most identify with?
Danny Brown: The Grinch. My mum used to read me a lot of Dr. Seuss books – that was the beginning of me rhyming. I think the Grinch is just cool. Out of all the wrong he did he came out good at the end. That's what I identify with. You see how he goes wrong and you think he's an asshole but at the end of the day he’s got a heart.
If you could vote for Obama again would you?
Danny Brown: I can't vote because I'm a felon. Politics isn’t in my world. I live in my world of rap music and video games and marijuana. He’s not in my world so I don’t care.
Where in the States would you ride out the apocalypse?
Danny Brown: I'd go to Vegas, baby. It’ll probably start there. Go out with a bang.
If you lost it all tomorrow what would you do the day after?
Danny Brown: I guess I'd go to the studio and start again.
What will America look like in 2050?
Danny Brown: Everything’s digital. Everything gonna be controlled, I wouldn't say by robots, but it'll be more of an electronic world. I wanna be around in 2050 I think it'll be a better place. The good die young, so I'll probably be around.
Finally, does the American dream still exist?
Danny Brown: Yeah! You talking to it!
Follow Tim Noakes on Twitter here @TimNoakes