Daniel Dewan Sewell (born March 16, 1981), better known by his stage name Danny Brown, is an American hip hop recording artist from Detroit, Michigan. He is known for his individuality, being described by MTV as "one of rap's most unique figures in recent memory." In 2010, after amassing several mixtapes, Brown released his debut album The Hybrid. Brown began to gain major recognition after the release of his second album XXX (2011), which received critical acclaim and earned him such accolades as Spin's "#1 hip hop album of the year" as well as Metro Times' "Artist of the Year". In 2013, he released his third album Old, which reached number 18 on the US Billboard 200 chart and spawned three singles, "Dip", "25 Bucks" and "Smokin & Drinkin".
1981–2009: Early life and career beginnings
Danny Brown was born Daniel Dewan Sewell on March 16, 1981 in Detroit, Michigan. When he was born, his mother was 17 and his father, who is half Filipino, was 16. Brown's talent for rhyming came at a very young age as his mother would read Dr. Seuss books to him as a child. So when he started to speak, he would talk in rhyme. His father was a house DJ who exposed Danny to all the music he would spin as well as music from the likes of Roy Ayers, LL Cool J, and A Tribe Called Quest. Danny Brown had always wanted to be a rapper, for as long as he could remember: "In kindergarten I'd say I wanted to be a rapper and people'd just laugh at me. 'That's a pretty funny job,' they'd say."
His young parents did their best to shelter him from the Detroit street crime and gang life: "My parents ain't really want me out the house. They did as much as they possibly could to keep me in the house with whatever the newest video game was. But you know you can only keep a kid in for so long. Plus that had me sheltered, so once I did get away I used to disappear for like four days." His two grandmothers helped provide for his family. His mom's mother worked for Chrysler, she bought four to five houses. "To this day we still got those houses. She owns three houses in a row on that block. She raised her three children and a host of others in the middle house; the one to the left she paid cash for in the 90's from her long time neighbor; and the one on the right was her parents home that she inherited when they died. She also owned two other homes on the east side of Detroit one in which Danny Brown and his family was raised. The fifth house also located on the east side was occupied by his aunt and her family. "On the East Side, I used to get beat up all the time. [Laughs.] I had nobody over there and I'm the oldest with two brothers and a younger sister. And I'm kind of not really gangster like that. [Laughs.]", said Brown in a 2012 interview. While originally from the Dexter-Linwood way of Detroit, Brown later moved into the Hamtramck. He heavily associates with Detroit in his music.
At age 18, Brown became a drug dealer: "Once I got above a certain age, all that parent shit stopped. My mom and my pops split up. Once my pops left, I was the man of the house. I always told myself I was going to be a rapper my whole life. I was selling drugs since that's what all my friends were doing. And it was kind of like something to rap about maybe. Although his intentions were to stop once he got in trouble with the law, Brown was already too accustomed to the lifestyle: "I always told myself once I got my first case I was gonna stop. Then I got my first case, but I didn't stop. I got distribution and manufacturing and possession with intent to distribute. I was 19 [at the time]." His run-ins with the law didn't stop there either: "I caught my second case loitering with some weed, but it violated my probation but I ran and I didn't go to court. I just ran for like at least 5 years. But once I got caught I had to do 8 months. When I violated my probation, I got my second case and I was scared. I had warrants so I couldn't really slang like that cause I didn't wanna go to jail. I was broke in the hood. I had nothing else, so I just started going back to studying music and trying to become a rapper. After he did his time, Brown began to take his passion seriously and turn it into a career: "I got out of jail in '07. I took it serious from that time but it took a lot of shit to happen in my life to get me confident to know I could do it. I had more confidence when I got out of jail because the day when I got out of jail I started selling weed. I ain't had no money after the first two months, like, 'I was way better off in jail.' By then I was already making my New York trips and going to recording studios so I was already serious when I got locked up. When I got out it was like, 'It's now or never.'"
Brown began his career in a hip hop group called Rese'vor Dogs, alongside fellow Detroit-based rappers Chip$ and Dopehead. In 2003, the trio released an independent album titled Runispokets-N-Dumpemindariva, under Ren-A-Sance Entertainment and F.B.C. Records. In the summer of 2003, the group received mild rotation on Detroit radio stations with their lead single, "Yes". After growing up on hip hop and tuning his rhyming skills in the city, Brown landed the attention of a Roc-A-Fella Records A&R Travis Cummings, where Brown was soon in New York recording in other artist's studios. After the lack of success with the Roc-A-Fella situation, Danny Brown returned to Detroit and eventually linked up with producer Nick Speed.
2010: The Hybrid
In 2010, Brown befriended fellow American rapper, Tony Yayo of G-Unit, and together they recorded their collaborative effort Hawaiian Snow (2010). The G-Unit association led many to wonder if Brown would eventually sign with 50 Cent's G-Unit Records. But Brown, who favors fitted jeans and a vintage rock-inspired wardrobe, didn't fit with G-Unit's image: "It was a real thing. 50 was with it; he just didn't sign me because of my jeans. He liked the music, but he didn't like the way I looked," Brown told MTV. "I understand where they were coming from with that, but you gotta understand where I'm coming from too: I'm from Detroit."
After recording and releasing four volumes of his Detroit State of Mind mixtape series and other free self-released mixtapes, Brown released his first solo independent studio album, The Hybrid (2010), on Washington, DC record label, Rappers I Know. It was this album where Brown began to use his trademark high-pitched voice: "The first song that I ever rapped [with the high-pitched voice] was 'The Hybrid,' that's why we called it 'The Hybrid.' I think that was [when I found my voice]. That was the statement that I can rap and I can do every style of rap." The album came to fruition after he had written the aforementioned song: "The Hybrid started out because I started working with Hex Murder. Hex was managing me at the time and I had started recording in Black Milk's studio. We were working on a project and I had came up with the song 'The Hybrid,' so that gave me my whole intent on what I wanted to do with my next project. I started writing a new album and that's the album that I wrote. Then I hooked up with my homie Magnetic and he would just look out for me and gave me free studio time—so I would go record from 3 in the morning til 6 in the morning, because we were using the free time when nobody was there. Then I hooked up with Frank from Rappers I Know. I liked what he was doing with his blog. He looked out for me and helped me out a lot and then we put it out and the rest is history."
In 2010, Brown also signed to Brooklyn-based independent record label Fool's Gold Records: "My manager [Emeka Obi] asked me who I wanted to sign to and I said there's two labels I want to sign to: XL or Fool's Gold. He knew [people at] Fool's Gold. He saw Nick Catchdubs in a burrito spot, asked him about it, and Nick said he'd get back to him. Q-Tip and A-Trak went and ate lunch around last March. A-Trak told Q-Tip he was thinking about signing me and Q-Tip told him to do it. A-Trak called me and signed me. I met Q-Tip but I know Ali Shaheed more. Ali Shaheed is kind of like a mentor to me. Around the time of The Hybrid, I met him through Frank from Rappers I Know and he just started showing me love. We talk on the phone a lot."
Brown made his biggest commercial and critical move to date in 2011, when he signed to Fool's Gold Records, where he released his album XXX, as a free download. It received numerous critical accolades, including being named the best hip hop album of the year by Spin. Pitchfork gave his album an 8.2 out of 10, stating "If XXX was nothing but debauchery and desperation, it would quickly devolve into an endless slog. Thankfully, Brown is also hilariously funny, an endlessly inventive rapper driven to cook up outrageous variations on standard rap boasts." The publication later went on to name XXX the 19th best album of 2011. XXX was also named the 6th best album of 2011 by Passion of the Weiss, calling the album "an uncomfortably honest self-portrait made even more remarkable by the fact that Danny Brown is alive to tell the story."
On November 1, 2011 Brown released his collaborative effort with American record producer Black Milk; an extended play appropriately titled Black and Brown!. On November 28, 2011 Brown released the music video for the XXX-cut, "Blunt After Blunt". The video was directed by fellow American rapper ASAP Rocky, who also made a cameo appearance. In the wake of his success with XXX, Brown began touring with Childish Gambino in March, 2012. On March 13, 2012 Brown released the visual treatment for the brandUn DeShay-produced track, "Radio Song", from XXX. The video was directed by Alex/2tone.
In 2012, Brown was featured on the cover of XXL, as part of their annual "Top 10 Freshmen list" along with fellow rappers Hopsin, French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly, Iggy Azalea and Roscoe Dash, among others. It was announced in February 2012, that for their Spring Style issue, FADER enlisted both Kendrick Lamar and Danny Brown to cover the front pages. In an interview singer Jennifer Herrema revealed that Danny Brown will be featured on the second album by The Avalanches. Later in the year Brown confirmed that he was working with The Avalanches on a song called "Frank Sinatra" On Brown's official website, he confirmed that he would be performing at the 13th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos. Brown signed a partnership deal with Adidas Originals, which is Brown's latest sportswear.
In February 2012, Danny Brown was featured first on the cover of the publication The FADER, in its 78th issue. On March 22, 2012 Brown teamed up with Scion A/V to release a new song titled "Grown Up". The music video for "Grown Up", later released on August 20, was also presented by Scion A/V. In August 2012, it was rumored that Brown was working on a new album entitled Danny Johnson, to be entirely produced by Johnson&Jonson (Blu and Mainframe), however Brown later denied these rumors and confirmed that the album had already been released for free in 2010, under the title It's a Art. In August, Brown also performed at the 13th annual Gathering of the Juggalos. In September, Brown teamed up with Scion A/V once again to release the debut project of his rap group Bruiser Brigade (a hip hop collective featuring Brown, Chip$, Dopehead, Trpl Blk, Zelooperz and in-house producer SKYWLKR). The project was a four track extended play (EP) eponymously titled Bruiser Brigade.
In October 2012, Brown was featured on the soundtrack to the film The Man with the Iron Fists, on a track titled "Tick, Tock", alongside fellow American rappers Raekwon, Joell Ortiz and Pusha T. On October 24, 2012 Brown released the music video for a song titled "Witit", taken from the deluxe edition of XXX and his OD EP; later that day after Complex kept referring to his next album as Danny Johnson, Brown took to Twitter to reveal the correct tentative title to be ODB. From September to November, Brown appeared alongside Schoolboy Q and ASAP Mob as supporting acts for ASAP Rocky's 40-date national Long. Live. ASAP Tour.
In December 2012, Brown announced ODB had been completed. He explained that the album won't be as consistently humorous as XXX, but said that people will be surprised with the outcome: "The new album is done. We're pretty much just figuring out a way of presenting the right way to get released...the title of the album for now is ODB. I can't really elaborate on what that means until the album comes out, and then they'll get it. I don't want to give too much because then it'll be a much more rewarding listen for my fans." He continued, "It's a rewarding listen when I listen to it. I don't know if I laugh as much - I think I laugh when it's over with, and that's the difference between this album and XXX. With XXX, you laugh throughout it, and by the time it was over with, you were like, 'Oh that wasn't too funny.' This one, when it's over, you're laughing hysterically...it's not necessarily what's being said on the album, but the album [itself], like, 'I can't believe he made this.'" Rolling Stone magazine named Brown's single "Grown Up", the 41st best song of 2012.
On December 17, 2012, in an interview with Pitchfork, Brown revealed the album would actually be titled Old. The album, set to be released under Fool's Gold, will be released to music retailers unlike any of his previous releases. Brown said it's about "75% done" and in the mixing stages. The album was announced to include contributions from ASAP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Kitty and Purity Ring, the latter of whom are contributing production, along with a hook from vocalist Megan James.
In January 2013 it was announced that Brown would be performing at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. In the summer of 2012, someone alerted the proudly D-list celebrity Kathy Griffin to a YouTube video. In a joint interview with Noisey, Danny Brown and ASAP Rocky—two rappers she wasn't familiar with—had agreed that they'd like to have sex with her. Griffin, never one to turn down an opportunity for weirdness, invited them both to appear on the Valentine's Day episode of her talk show Kathy. On February 14, Brown appeared alongside ASAP Rocky and Russell Brand, on Griffin's late-night talk show where they played a dice game called "Suck breast? Kiss stomach?" and discussed the possibility of having children.
On March 1, 2013 Brown and American record producer Baauer, announced their upcoming "Worst of Both Worlds" Tour. For the trek, the Fool's Gold signees started off in Houston, Texas on April 9 at Fitzgerald's. The brief trek, which only hit the West Coast, made stops in Austin, Texas, Tucson, Arizona and San Francisco, California. They played both weekends of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, wrapping up the tour on the second weekend (April 20). On March 8, Brown announced another tour in promotion for his upcoming album, the "Old & Reckless" Tour, featuring American female rapper Kitty, accompanying him. For his first-ever headlining tour, Brown began at SXSW on March 15, with a pair of shows. After completing his "Worst of Both Worlds" trek with Baauer, he was joined by Kitty for stops in St. Louis, Missouri, Ann Arbor, Michigan, New York City, New York and Madison, Wisconsin. The tour concluded at Indianapolis, Indiana's Deluxe on May 14. In March, Brown also won his first award ever at the 2013 Woodie Awards, winning in the category "Best Video", for his work "Grown Up".
On March 18, 2013, Brown revealed in a Twitter post that Old would be released around the time XXX came out, which was mid August. On March 23, it was announced Brown signed a management deal with Goliath Artists, which also houses names such as Eminem, The Alchemist, Blink-182 and most recently Action Bronson, who has previously collaborated with Brown. On May 3, Brown announced through Twitter that Old would feature guest appearances from Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, Mr. MFN eXquire, Scrufizzer, A$AP Rocky, Ab-Soul, Charli XCX and Purity Ring. He also revealed the production on the album was handled by Paul White, Oh No, Rustie, Skywlkr, A-Trak, Darq E Freaker and Frank Dukes. After an unfinished version previously leaked earlier in the year, Brown visited Tim Westwood on BBC Radio 1xtra in June 2013, to premiere the official version of "Kush Coma", a song featuring ASAP Rocky, taken from the Old album. On July 23, Brown was featured rapping alongside Insane Clown Posse, in the music video for their song "When I'm Clownin'".
On August 12, via Twitter Brown expressed feeling less than a priority at Fool's Gold Records: "Man #OLD fuck around and never come out ... Smh," tweeted Brown, referring to his forthcoming album, Old. Brown then threatened to leak the album himself: "I'm a fuck around and leak that shit myself if niggas don't get it together." Subsequently, Fool's Gold Records founder A-Trak, announced that Old is indeed in the label pipeline, with a music video on the way. On August 26, 2013, via Twitter Danny Brown announced Old would be released on September 30, 2013. Old debuted at number 17 on the US Billboard 200, selling 15,000 copies in its first week of release.
On October 3, 2013, Danny Brown and A-Trak announced their 'Double Trouble' Tour. In November 2013, Brown was featured in the interactive music video for American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's 1965 hit single "Like a Rolling Stone". In January 2014, Brown guest starred in the Fox animated TV series Lucas Bros. Moving Co., voicing a character named Jumanji, in the season one episode "A/C Tundra". Danny Brown's song "Witit", was also featured in the episode. On January 22, 2014, Danny Brown made his network television debut with a special performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Joined by Purity Ring's vocalist Megan James, Brown performed "25 Bucks", off his critically acclaimed album, Old.
On March 21, 2014, it was announced that Hot Soup, one of Brown's early mixtapes, would be re-released as a double LP and 7" with 7 bonus tracks for Record Store Day. It will also be released on CD, with a bonus disc of instrumentals. Along with Hot Soup, Brown will also release Old as a double LP and a box set. On March 25, 2014, Brown appeared The Arsenio Hall Show, where he promoted his third album Old and performed the single "Dip", from said album.
On July 10, 2014, Danny Brown opened for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, in front of 37,500 people in Marlay Park, Dublin. On July 11 and 12, Brown opened in front of 100,000 fans for Eminem's sold out concert at Wembley Stadium in London, England. In November 2014, Brown appeared on the song "Detroit vs. Everybody", alongside Eminem, Trick-Trick and Big Sean, from the Shady Records compilation album, Shady XV.