Ryan Muir for SPIN
Last year, the Detroit rapper Danny Brown put out a mixtape entitled XXX. Its title was a double entendre of sorts, both a reference to the über-dirty lyrical tendencies of Brown, as well as the fact that Brown was nearing the age of thirty and despite flirtations with stardom (he was a hair away from a record deal with 50 Cent's G-Unit label), just hadn't made it happen for himself yet.
Released on the indie tastemaker Fool's Gold, XXX more or less resuscitated Brown's career and cemented him in hip-hop's landscape. In the past few months, Brown has appeared on the covers of Fader and XXL, as well as become the go-to rapper for the indie rock set. Considering the tenuous cycles of hype that govern the hip-hop landscape, it's not a bad position to be in.
This is all to provide context for the curious position Brown found himself in last night, performing on the rooftop terrace of Spin Magazine, to a crowd of Spin staffers, various music industry types and other guests. Events such as last night's are always odd, rife with people who always seem to be involved in music in some capacity, or are at least interested in being seen around people who are involved with music in some capacity. However, Brown delivered the best-case scenario, giving a performance so arresting you couldn't really look away.
Standing at eye-level with the audience, Brown looked captivating, sporting a designer shirt, a haircut that looked lifted straight from the television show Fraggle Rock, and impossibly tight pants. His thirty-minute set trended mostly towards his new material, covering XXX staples such as "Blunt After Blunt" and the profanely sexual "I Will," as well as even newer songs such as "Witit," which UK wunderkind Rustie employed to expert use in his BBC Essential Mix.
Brown enjoyed himself onstage, bringing out his tourmate Schoolboy Q and finding an especially enthusiastic audience member and putting his arm around him, allowing his new friend to act as his hype man for a few songs. When his new associate blanked on a line, Brown just laughed.