Danny! Payback(Okayplayer Records) Buy it from Insound
My favourite thing about this record is that Danny! (that exclamation mark annoys me too) is clearly besotted with other hip hop artists, yet also original in his own way. There’s hints of Kanye on the first track Overture, an overlong strings and trumpets piece that has the odd sample of an angelic female singing various syllables of “Bay-bee,” all backed up by Danny! repeating a plea for divine forgiveness in that machine like style. There’s appropriations of Eminem’s lyrics on Myintrotoletyouknow and Even Louder and a definite hint of The Roots throughout the album, possibly why Danny! was signed to ?uestlove’s (that question mark annoys me too) label. Like some of the best bands and artists, the influences are shouted out from on high, but you don’t find yourself saying, “Oh Nas did this better. Oh Jay-Z has already done this.” They’re similar enough to display that love of classic (and to an extent modern) rap and different enough to operate as a style in their own right.
Then there’s things I hate, truly despise about this album. I was under the impression that rappers had started cutting back on skits and spoken word pieces in between songs. But oh no. Those pretentious pieces are here. And in full force. Confidence is always a key part of being a great rapper, but that overconfidence that makes you think people want to listen to your reoccurring spoken word piece is a key character trait of being shit and annoying. And that running time is so difficult. It’s almost 80 minutes, that’s too long. That’s Sufjan Stevens territory. And that is unacceptable. There’s just no need…
So while it may fall into “more is less” territory, if it were trimmed down, it would be a sublime succinct album. Did I say trimmed? I mean go at it with a chainsaw, cut all the flab. Only get the songs. After that you’ll end up with a bold album of strong beats and soft soulful sounds.
The album opens with a soul inflected trio of tracks, they call to mind the best of the Native Tongues movement, those laid back beats, those simple samples. Then, around the time the album reprises Overture for no reason, the album takes on this electronic feel; sharp, backbreaking beats, sped up songs. In between all the mentions of how Jay-Z is a fan of his, most of the raps shine through as silly yet smart, even a little bit funny which is increasingly rare in rap. The madcap Go That A-Way is so stunningly ridiculous, moving from a fairly standard, upbeat sound to the insane ramblings of a madman. Everyone loves that on an album.
In fact, a decent part of the album seems like the insane ramblings of a madman. Those ramblings settle into two categories, the first are random name checking references to social network sites, those references will age so badly. The second category is what many would call “beef”. Do It All Over Again would have had an interesting moment of anger at other artists but the names of the other artists Danny! mentions are messed up to prevent a libel case wrecking the release of this album. I wish they weren’t. Aside from that one moment of intrigue that’s ruined by wise decision making on the lawyer’s behalf, the anger Danny! has for other rappers, the general rap audience, people who don’t adore his music becomes more and more tiresome as the album goes by. I know little of Danny!’s past career, nothing that isn’t on his Wikipedia page, but from what I understand of the situation (he was upset that people ridiculed his first album The College Kicked Out for being diminutive of Kanye West) there’s no substantial reason to be angry. Public Enemy were angry about continuous racism in society, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was fuelled by a fucked-up relationship. Danny! is angry that someone didn’t like his music.
The more you think through Payback, the worse it gets. The more attention you pay to his lyrics, the more attention you pay to that needless run time, the more you forget about the great bits of the album. The great feel of the songs (apart from I Don’t Wanna Hear That Shit which is such a fitting title), the funny side to the lyrics, the general lack of sexism and homophobia (how bad is it that, that’s something to commend an album for). It’s like a Jason Statham film, leave your brain at the door, don’t think, enjoy it for what it is. And once you’ve listened in full a few times, you’ll want to make your own director’s cut of the album, and when you do you’ll be left with eleven or so brilliant tracks. But in its current form, it’s getting that 6/10 rating. Don’t be too angry Danny!.17 October, 2012 - 14:46 — James McKenna