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May 9, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Danny Brown, hipster-thug-nerd | Concert preview

Danny Brown

Danny Brown at the 2013 Capitol Hill Block Party (Lindsey Wasson / The Seattle Times)

Detroit’s Danny Brown has been pumping out solo mixtapes consistently since 2007, the year he released “Detroit State of Mind” after finishing a jail sentence for violating probation (stemming from a youthful drug offense).

But his 2010 and 2011 full-lengths “The Hybrid” and “XXX” showed him stepping out of the somewhat generic braided-hair street hustler role he had carved out and into more adventurous, experimental territory.

Now a world-touring headliner (he performed at both Sasquatch and the Capitol Hill Block Party last year), Brown plays the Showbox Saturday, May 10.

Although he’s now 33, he’s separated himself from the legions of wannabes, also-rans and copycats populating rap music today by being a true original.

He doesn’t disguise his past, but he doesn’t glorify it, either. Instead, he has assumed a hipster-thug-nerd persona who mixes humor and darkness in equal measure. All this is on display on his excellent 2013 album “Old.”

While some of his success may be due to his fashion-forward style (not to mention that by-now-signature high-tapered, blown-out haircut and chipped front tooth), most of it can be credited to his diverse musical taste, the kind that stems from having a father who was a house DJ in Detroit, and his refusal to stay in one lane.

Brown takes equal inspiration from Dizzee Rascal and David Bowie. Without sounding forced, he can switch from spitting harrowing tales of poverty-stricken Detroit life over dark boom-bap beats to boasting about designer drugs and fast women over modern electro-trap bangers.

Even from a technical standpoint — lyrics, punchlines, cadences, voice control — Brown can do multiple styles better than most MCs can do one.

One of Brown’s hidden talents is his tastemaker ability to recognize up-and-coming artists who have a shot. Just by following him on Twitter, one can learn about acts like Bay Area “cloud-rap” pioneers Main Attrakionz and Atlanta’s incendiary Young Thug, long before they’re covered by mainstream blogs.

One of Brown’s latest discoveries, a 20-year-old Detroit rapper named ZelooperZ, will open for him Saturday.

ZelooperZ is featured on “Old” track “Kush Coma” and has an album titled “Coon N the Room: Eating Ramen Noodles While Watching Roots on Bootleg.”

ZelooperZ could well be poised to continue this new wave of self-aware, street/conscious hybrid rap from the Motor City.

Danny Brown

9 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $20 (206-628-3151 or

Comments | More in R & B/Hip-hop | Topics: Concert Review, Danny Brown, Old


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