Danny Is Dead!
1911 Music/Badenov Records
ow that “Fiascogate” has crushed the dreams of the Okayplayer message board junkies who’d hoped to anoint him the rightful heir to the Native Tongues conscious rap throne, they’d be well served to redirect their dork-outs (like Buggin’ Out, but nerdier) towards 24-year old South Carolina MC, Danny!, a rapper/producer who reminds me of what everyone hoped Lupe would be pre-Fiasco fiasco.
Of course, the attention paid to fucking up “Scenario” was wildly overblown and only received the coverage it did because a) it was on national television and b) instead of apologizing, Lupe got more defensive than Ann Coulter at a Hanukkah celebration. I’m all for people having their own opinions, but I think most of us can agree that Hammer was not more important than Tribe. And if you don’t agree, go listen to “Pumps and a Bump?” again. If anything, the debacle merely proved that underground heads were wrong in the first place to even think Lupe would be the next Tribe, De La, or the J.B.’s (this, of course, being categorically impossible).
However, if it were possible, I would hope that the next Tribe would have a better sense of humor than Lupe, who despite being a very good rapper has a comic ability roughly akin to your average Lesbian Tax Attorney and/or Bill O’ Reilly. What’s often missed when discussing the whole “Tribe is the Greatest Rap Group Ever” theory (admittedly, not a bad theory), is the fact that the entire Native Tongues crew were a bunch of funny dudes. For every “Scenario” there was an “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” for every “Electric Relaxation,” Phife would describe himself as the height of Muggsy Bogues, with the complexion of a hockey puck. Shit, De La were one of a handful of rappers to ever successfully utilize the comedic interlude.
Which brings me to Danny!, a 24-year old South Carolinian who released two studio albums and two beat records before realizing some minor success with last year’s Charm, an LP that earned him a spot on the Grammy short list and a deal with Def Jux. Like Lupe, Kanye, Little Brother, and every other rapper that ?uestlove has kissed with his neo-Native Tongue, Danny!’s identity comes in opposition to the gangster posturing of the “mainstream.” He went to a liberal arts college, his rhymes are clever and complex, his beats are a Fruity Loop bowl of 9th Wonder and The Ummah, and his influences are unmistakable. A loose homage to De La Soul Is Dead, Danny Is Dead! aims to emulate De La less in actual content and more in that record’s idea of being a third way between the daisy age and dope boys.
What ultimately makes the record so likeable is Danny’s wit and sense of self-awareness. He boasts that he’ll use his fame to get Raven Symone’s phone number. (I hope that’s wit, at least.) On “Rhyme Writer Crime Fighter” he imagines himself as a rhyming super hero aiming to get home in time to watch “Seinfeld.” On “Press Conference,” he admits he doesn’t get a lot of love outside of the two or three people who know about him. Hell, the full name of his website reads “DannySwain…but who cares?” Don’t worry though, this isn’t on the MC Paul Barman “It’s funny because I know how bad I am” tip, Danny! has punch-line humor too, bragging that’s “he’s on iTunes, you’re on iSuck.”
With his official Def Jux debut slated to drop whenever El-P gets off the year-long touring treadmill, Danny has flashed enough potential for one to think that he has a shot at greatness in the future. Yet for that to happen, he’ll need to transcend his influences and create his own De La Soul Is Dead, rather than merely try to re-create it. In the meantime, Danny Is Dead! is enjoyable enough to leave you willing to listen to his request to “Let, Let Me In.”