Danny Brown is one of the most eccentric rappers in the game right now. His songs tackle subjects as diverse as drug addiction, sex, depression, and feeling like “the Black Brad Pitt.” With a distinctive voice that sounds like Kevin Hart mixed with the Joker, Danny Brown has built a devoted audience since the release of his first album in 2011. That audience came out to see him on Friday night, and they were treated to an unrelenting performance that was so dense and stimulating that it felt more like a rave than a concert.
The site of the concert was a brand new event space called Big Night Live, located in the new Hub on Causeway project in front of TD Garden. Billed as a “luxury music hall,” the space has two huge LED screens, room for 1,200 people standing, and 30 VIP tables with “bottle service.” Fans in the front responded to the music by moshing, while the VIPs in the back were able to sit back on leather seats and absorb the show.
Zelooperz, from the Detroit hip-hop collective Bruiser Brigade, opened with a blistering set. Bathed in dark red lights, the lanky rapper jumped around the stage to hype up the crowd. He was followed by Ashnikko, a new face on the scene who has been gaining popularity thanks to her inventive music videos and a shout-out by Miley Cyrus on Tik-Tok. She closed with a song called “Invitation,” a blunt feminist anthem that called out sexual assault and its perpetrators.
The combination of hardcore rap from Zelooperz and funny, biting lyrics from Ashnikko perfectly set the stage for Brown, who started off the show with his single “Dirty Laundry” from his 2019 album uknowwhatimsaying¿. Dressed simply in a white hoodie and brown overalls, Brown’s hustle and work ethic became immediately clear. Song after song, he took no time to rest or banter with the crowd. Instead, the tracks flowed from one to the next, grabbing hold of the audience and not letting go until the very end.
A large portion of the set was devoted to his earlier albums, each of which is influenced by Detroit-techno music and electronic rock groups like Radiohead. The music hall, with its bright screens, surround-sound speakers, and industrial-chic aesthetic, was the perfect venue to experience these songs.
As a performer, Brown lives up to the high standards he sets in the studio. Each of his songs requires rapid-fire delivery, and he did not stumble once. Instead, during a particularly difficult line, he would stand perfectly still and laser-focused, rattling off tongue-twisters like “Verbal couture/Parkour/With the metaphors/The flow house of horror/Dead bolted with metal doors.”
After 20 songs, Brown finally took a break to chat with the audience. He drew roars of approval when he praised the quality of Boston’s seafood, especially our lobster rolls. Then, he suddenly launched into a mini stand-up set about how he sympathizes with Bowser instead of Mario when he plays Nintendo. “Mario is just a plumber,” he observed, cackling. “We never even met King Koopa’s wife. He was just trying to live his best life.” The room exploded as they recognized the beginning of “Best Life,” another song off his new album.
Finally, Brown closed with “Combat,” a reflective song about his journey from selling drugs to making music.
“Used to chop grams on my Grandma’s faucet,” he reflects. Even now that he is able to make music, his past is still a part of him. “It’s the life that we chose, friends become foes/Nobody to trust, that’s the way life goes.”
Danny Brown’s ability to jump between different thematic tones while maintaining the same original voice is what sets him apart from others in the music industry now. With his celebrity increasing, and his willingness to showcase new stars like Zelooperz and Ashnikko, Brown’s influence in the pop culture will only continue to grow.