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Rapper Danny Brown: 'I'm Taking Better Care Of Myself'

Danny Brown has tweeted about issues like anxiety and depression. His new album is called <em>uknowhatimsayin¿</em>
Tom Keelan
Courtesy of the artist
Danny Brown has tweeted about issues like anxiety and depression. His new album is called uknowhatimsayin¿

Detroit rapper Danny Brown made a name for himself over the past decade as a party boy rapping about drinking and drugs in his signature high-pitched voice.

But now he's older, approaching 40, Brown's re-branding of sorts, branching out to other forms of entertainment.

Earlier this year his comedy talk show Danny's House premiered on Viceland. He's just come out with his fifth studio album, uknowhatimsayin¿

Speaking to NPR's Michel Martin on All Things Considered, Brown says the new album — executive-produced by Q-Tip — is "the least stressful album I made."

He talks about how he got into hip-hop at a young age, how his style developed and feedback he's received after being open about anxiety and depression issues.

Interview Highlights

On what he likes about the new album

I think it's my first time I feel like I'm talking to people more so than just rapping about what I'm doing or what's going on. I'm more so giving people advice, to up-and-comers, people that been through what I've been through, stuff like that.

On getting started rapping in kindergarten

I went to school one day and it was show and tell. But I didn't know that it was show and tell and I had nothing to show or tell. So I [was] just like, forget it, and just rapped in front of the class — and then everybody went crazy. So I was like, I don't know, maybe I got something. Then I rapped for my cousin ... and he was like, "You didn't write that!" I was like, "I didn't, I just kind of came up with it."

So I kind of knew by the way people were responding to it that I had something. So I just kept going.

On breaking into the industry in his early 30s and developing his sound

I just think growing up in Detroit [there] was never really an outlet. It wasn't like I can go downtown and get a record deal. ... And then the whole open mic scene here and it was just the street rap scene. I just never really fit all the way into either them.

But me, I just would take like Greyhound buses to New York and just go out there and hustle my music. ...

I just didn't really know myself back then. I was probably rapping like everything else. I didn't really find my own sound at the time. Once I started doing it my way and figuring out who I was then that's when things started taking off. ...

I was influenced from all different sides of hip-hop. As much as I like the East Coast stuff, I like the West Coast stuff, I like the down South stuff and also like the underground alternative stuff or even the U.K. stuff. So I just think I was just taking everything and just putting it into my arsenal like a blender. I would get my influences but then I would try to figure out a way to make them mine.

On tweeting and being open about anxiety and depression

I think [when tweeting about anxiety and depression in 2014] I was just overworking myself. You can't be burning the candle at both ends. It was getting to the point I was going to have to choose one or the other. It was either going to be me partying or me working. So that's all that was.

And I just had to take a lot of time off for myself. Putting out albums today and just touring and touring and touring. Then after a while you start living unhealthy, and once you start living unhealthy you start thinking unhealthy. So that's all that was. I'm taking better care of myself now. You know a healthy body is a healthy mind. ...

It feels good, especially when I get messages from other kids telling me how much I helped them with similar type of problems. So I figured that's what I'd do it for in some sense. Like when you put out that type of energy as negative, it could be you get some positive stuff back. Everybody helping each other, reach one teach one type of thing.

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Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Dustin DeSoto