Cleanin' Out My Closet
Danny Brown has a clearer view on life after going to rehab last year. The brilliant Detroit mainstay is still cooking up rhymes, beats and his lauded podcast while coming clean.
Interview: Joey Echevarria
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Spring 2024 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Danny Brown is a changed man. Being clean and sober will do that. However, when it comes to his unique brand of hip-hop—one that blends introspective commentary with pure comedy—the 43-year-old rapper hasn’t lost his edge at all.

With nine mixtapes, four EPs, three collaborative projects and five studio albums to his name, the Detroit native established himself early on as an alternative hip-hop darling throughout the 2010s. Fan-favorite projects such as 2012’s XXX and 2013’s Old earned him stripes.

But as time went on and Danny found more success, he personally hit rock bottom in the early 2020s. Struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism while still living in Detroit, Danny relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2021, to try and make a change. The move brought the eclectic MC closer to his longtime girlfriend and, at the same time, presented him with the opportunity to use his dynamic personality for a new creative venture: hosting a podcast. In 2022, he launched The Danny Brown Show, a weekly podcast that is described as a place where he explores “the craziest stories and most unbelievable corners of the internet through the lens of Danny’s hilariously unique point of view.” The show has been a success for the rapper, allowing him to connect with a new audience and show off his engaging personality.

Yet, Danny refused to give up rapping to focus solely on being a personality. Last March, he dropped Scaring the Hoes, a joint album with JPEGMafia. While Danny was flourishing creatively, personal inner turmoil continued to spiral. Following some negative comments he made about his management and label, Warp Records, on an episode of his podcast that same month, Brown made the bold decision to check himself into a rehabilitation facility to be treated for alcoholism.

Danny emerged from rehab a month later in a better place. In the summer, he hit the road with JPEGMafia for the Scaring the Hoes Tour and then, last November, unleashed his sixth solo album, Quaranta.

On a Zoom call this past January, Danny openly and honestly discussed his struggles with sobriety, being a podcast host, his passion for creativity and funny personality, the state of hip-hop and more, all while dog-sitting his two chihuahuas and his girlfriend’s daughter’s dog.

XXL: How do you feel about the success of The Danny Brown Show podcast over the past two years?

Danny Brown: It’s fun. I don’t even think about the success or nothing. I just actually have fun doing it.

How did you gravitate to the long-form content the podcast entails? Does it fulfill you creatively?

Yeah, definitely. Because it was never really my idea to do it. [Comedian and writer] Tom Segura is like, one of my close homies. He just was always like, “Man, you should do a pod, man. You’ll be so f**king funny.” I just was like, “I don’t know. Anybody can just set up a camera and a mic in a room and say they got a podcast,” you know? But I was like, “I’m down to do it if I can do it with y’all.”

And then, you know, they told me they was moving to Austin, Texas. I was coming back-and-forth from Austin because my girlfriend lives out here. My life was getting crazy in Detroit. It just was like a no-brainer. I was like, “F**k it. I’m moving to Austin, too.” Then, we started it up from there.

With so many rappers jumping into the podcast space, do you feel like there’s a certain amount of oversaturation?

Podcasts are just oversaturated in general. The podcast bubble has bust, but I think it’s cool. I know a lot of artists that I liked growing up, I felt like I knew them. So, I feel like it connects the fans more to the artists.

You’ve always leaned into comedy through your rap lyrics and now with the podcast. What value does incorporating your sense of humor into your work hold to you?

That’s a big part of my personality. That’s just a huge part of me. I remember being a kid, and I always would say, “I want to be a rapper.” You know when the teacher asks you what you want to be when you grow up. Muthaf**kas would laugh at me. It got to the point, I just started saying I wanted to be a stand-up comic. That was always in my head since a kid.

At the start of the year, you made a resolution that you would like to try your hand as a stand-up comic. Is that still the case?

Mm-hmm. I’m at the point now where some of the people that I look up to in comedy keep telling me, “You need to get on stage, man. You just need to just do it.” The only thing that really scares me about comedy is the same thing with music. I know I’m going to have to bomb for, like, 10 years, and that’s just too much emotional strain on me already.

I went through that with rap music. Why would I want to put myself through that emotional turmoil again? But the thing is about comedy is it’s ageless compared to how rap music is now, you know?

Your most recent album, Quaranta, speaks deeply to that emotional turmoil you mentioned. Do you feel like a certain weight has been lifted from you in delivering the project?

I know I’m tired of trauma-dumping. A lot of people are in the hurt business. You know, in the business of selling depression or something like that, and I probably had a lot of that in my music. It’s to the point now I just want to make music to make people feel good.

I’m always going to talk about what I’m going through in life, but I feel like with this one, it was just more focused on that because I was going through a lot at the time. Just with my alcoholism and being addicted to drugs and s**t. So, now I’m clean and sober, and life is just a lot easier for myself. I always was using drugs and s**t and just getting f**ked up all the time as a way to escape. At this point in my life, it’s just like I’m not so much focused on the negative aspects of everything that’s going on.

When you were coming out of rehab, you described the experience as one that humbled you. Do you still feel that way now that you’re nearly one-year sober?

I think it was great for me to be honest, man. [Before], I didn’t really have nothing to base it on. Especially people from my community, they don’t go to rehab. It’s kind of a looked-down-upon kind of thing, and the only thing I can base it on was like, going to jail. I’m like, F**k.

Around that time, where it was getting closer to me to go in, I was getting way more f**ked up and all that kind of s**t. But I actually had a great time in rehab, as dumb as that sounds. Once you realize the root of the trauma and why you doing what you’re doing, you can fix it then. That’s what rehab did for me the most, was let me understand why I’m doing what I do. Once you get that cleared up, then you can tackle the problem in some sense.

What do you think of the current state of hip-hop?

I feel like now it’s in a better space than ever. Now, with these kids, they can just post they s**t on TikTok or online somewhere and it’s like, you like it or you don’t. It ain’t just what the masses is pushing to you, or what the machine is pushing to you. We just came full circle to where you just got to let everybody rock. It ain’t really no rules now. Everybody got a chance now, so the cream gon’ rise to the top.

Are you keeping up with the rap scene in Detroit?

I love everything they’re doing right now. Veeze and Babyface Ray, I really like them. I feel like they represent a different side of Detroit we haven’t seen before, which has always been there. Detroit always been having the street dudes and everything super gangster, but them just some fly n***as, you know? On some player s**t.

It’s more people like that in Detroit than the over-glorified gangster muthaf**kas. [In] all those new guys that’s coming up, you see the diversity in what Detroit is. I hope it inspires people from Detroit to see all these different styles and sounds that come from it to let them know that they don’t have to be a certain way to get their music out now.

Last summer, you were on the road with JPEGMafia for your Scaring the Hoes Tour? What was that experience like for you?

Well, it was my first tour sober. So, I was really worried about that and how it was gon’ play out. Touring can be boring, it could be lonely and I would get f**ked up all the time just out of boredom. Then, before you know it, you gotta get f**ked up again just to feel better to get on stage.

So, now you in this f**king never-ending revolving door kind of situation. But that tour, I learned that when I was getting on stage, that was like, the most fun I had out the day. It was almost like a form of therapy for me because then it made me feel good. You get a high, a rush. That became like my drug, getting on stage.

You’re headed out on the Quaranta Tour this spring with two legs, one in North America and one in Europe. Are you working on your next project ahead of the tour?

I’m in the beginning stages where I’m just talking to people because that’s what I do a lot. We talk it out, just throwing around ideas. Every day I do something musically, whether it’s me making a beat, or writing a song or just trying to mix some s**t. I like to sit on music anyway. That’s how you know when it’s good. When I can sit with the music, it be like, Alright, I know what to use and what not to use.

Sometimes, I love a song and then three months later be like, Oh, no, that s**t sucks. There’s nothing worse than putting out some s**t and then everybody like that s**t, but you don’t like it. Now you on stage, you got to perform it and you’re like, F**k, I hate this song. I want to get to the point where I’m just only doing s**t that I love.

What’s left for you to accomplish in the hip-hop space? Is there anything left behind that you feel like you owe to yourself?

I would say it’s a lot. As time go on, just try to make the best s**t I can possibly make. I feel like one thing I really realized is that music is going to be around way after I pass. You got these artists that made an album 50 years ago, we still talk about them. I want to make that legacy project to where it influenced somebody 50 years later type s**t. That’s where I’m at with it now, trying to make some legacy s**t.

I still got a lot left in me when it comes to music. I’ve been getting more into producing music now. I mean, I always made beats and s**t, but I just always felt like people made beats better than me. These past few years since I’ve been living out here [in Texas], just every day chopping away at it.

So, I feel like I’m at the point now where I could really start to use some of my stuff. And I guess just more so working with my artists back home, all the guys in Bruiser Brigade like Bruiser Wolf, and Fat Ray, and Quentin Ahmad DaGod, Zelooperz and, you know, just really trying to get them more on board. Get them with more ears and eyes on ’em.

Listen to Danny Brown's Quaranta Album

Danny Brown photo
Pooneh Ghana

Read Danny Brown's interview in the Spring 2024 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Gunna and conversations with Metro Boomin42 DuggTeezo TouchdownJim Jones and Maino a.k.a. Lobby Boyz, That Mexican OT41BabyDrillRapsody, comedian Druski, actress La La AnthonyBigXthaPlugRob49Reuben Vincent, singer Tyla, actress La La Anthony and producer Tate Kobang. There's also a look at how social networking has a chokehold on rappers' feelings, how hip-hop in 2024 is experiencing more wins than losses, and the ways in which kid rappers are thriving thanks to social media.

See Photos of Gunna's XXL Magazine Spring 2024 Issue Cover Story