Duality is a theme that has defined US rapper Danny Brown since his commercial breakthrough album XXX. Yes, he is a singular voice in underground rap – the reputation of his signature yelp and oddball tactics preceding him most places. But beyond any cursory initial readings, though, his music and public personas have always been fissured.
XXX was bisected in theme and mood: the rugged, bare knuckle first half leading the line and protecting it’s more introspective and world-worn latter half. It’s follow up, Old, was even more obviously divided – the melancholic posturings getting out of the way first this time for the bruising festival rap finishers. At a micro level even songs like ‘Kush Coma‘ sectioned themselves in mood and content – vital, thrilling music about worrying numbness.
When stories surfaced of Danny’s approach to his forthcoming Atrocity Exhibition – holed away, focussing on recording individual brilliant pieces, weary of being seen as only the oddball – it felt like we might see his most unified record to date. The music that surfaced suggested this too – Danny was in his own world, operating by his own rules and cosmic constants.
All of this makes the story behind ‘Rolling Stone’, his collaboration with Petite Noir all the more surprising and special. As Danny tells it, Noir reached out on twitter and a conversation started. Noir would eventually send an instrumental and hook that just happened to fit well enough into Brown’s vision that the song become an 11th hour addition to Atrocity Exhibition – practically like lightning hitting the same spot twice.
The track features Petite Noir’s recognisable bass and guitar playing over sluggish percussion and a forlorn main synth line floating in the distant breeze. It’s a mood not too far from what one might expect from the Noirwave pioneer, but something about the combination with Danny Brown’s performance pushes the music further into the ethereal.
Stream the song and hear more about the track’s inception and Atrocity Exhibition’s influences below, with ‘Rolling Stone’ starting at around the 26 minute mark of NPR Music’s podcast All Songs Considered: