It’s time to listen to what Danny Brown is sayin’ at August Hall

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Danny Brown is not out here to waste time. When he swaggered forward, the lights played catch-up with him and the audience was left turning every which way to see what the fuss was about. And by the time his first bar dropped, Danny Brown had built a mansion out of the hardwood floors that comprise the stage of August Hall. He was comfortable, confident and ready to spill life lessons and street smarts over punky, experimental beats.

Daniel Sewell, the man behind the Danny Brown moniker, is approaching the doorstep of 40 years old, but that’s not stopping him from being one of hip-hop’s most energetic and charismatic rappers. Much of Sewell’s material revolves around early years of dealing drugs to get by and his late entrance into the game. He’s not bitter about his delayed rise to fame, using this gestation period to reflect on the adventures and hardships that brought him to this point. His recent album, uknowhatimsayin¿, is his most meditative yet — one in which Sewell offers advice to his listeners through both tragic and funny stories. It’s not like his delivery has become less punchy or like time is finally catching up with Danny Brown. He’s deliberately taking this moment before he blasts off again

The night began with fellow “Bruiser Brigade” member Zelooperz taking the stage to electrify the crowd with fiery party anthems. Zelooperz danced on stage as if he was at the center of his own mosh pit while rapping over famous beats like Kanye West’s “Real Friends.” Next up was TikTok star Ashnikko, who came out with her patented neon blue hair. She wrapped her set up with the consent conscious banger “Invitation” before leaving the space open for the headliner. Both openers had a dialogue with the crowd, in which they showed off different quirks and mannerisms to help put audience members at ease with their persona. 

Despite an entire career spent building an eclectic and goofy character — a persona that draws near-unanimous praise from critics — when Brown came out on stage, it was all business.

Brown’s rapping style was conversational enough that even the most raging audience could melt away, leaving one to hone in on each line and witticism. When going in on specific personal topics such as his upbringing, or when rapping at a feverish pace, Brown would prop one leg up against the speaker, relegate his hand to his hip and lean forward like a father speaking to their child. Past exploits were transformed into fable-like tales with distinct morales. 

This does not mean that Brown has become complacent on stage. His lectures are folded into berserk songs, which promote his trademark freak-out vocals that squeak through the microphone at frequencies the human ear should not logically be able to pick up. At the end of the day, Brown just wants to get out there and rap, or as he would rather say, he’s “just trying to heat a beat like a stethoscope.” It was clear that all he needed was his DJ, a few glittering visuals and a microphone to assert his place on the throne —no backing track or guest features to help him catch a breath. It was Danny Brown’s show, and he wanted to let the crowd know that.

It took an entire hour before Brown addressed the audience, commenting that he would usually make jokes at the crowd’s expense, but since the people were hyped beyond his expectations, he would settle on performing a few extra songs, like “Combat,” produced by the legendary hip-hop icon, Q-Tip. Brown spoke so rapidly, as if he was freestyling, that it was challenging to gather every piece of information he relayed. Only through his intermediate giggles and his signature punctuation, “You know what I’m saying?” was the crowd able to digest his machine-gun flurry of words. While audiences may be familiar with Brown in conversation on his comedy show or Twitch streams, there was a mutual understanding between him and the crowd that night. Brown was there to spit heat, and the crowd was there to mosh to his otherworldly music. And he was happy to oblige San Francisco, as was evident by the night turning out to be as explosive as a concert could be without turning into a hazard. 

 Highlights: “When It Rain,” “Dirty Laundry,” “Combat”

Contact Jake Lilian at [email protected].