Danny! – Payback (review)

Genius is a complex and often misunderstood attribute that lends itself to fearless eccentricity. Within Hip-Hop it is particularly rare to find this trait, as most producers and MCs operate within safely predetermined constraints for their art. Danny Swain has never hesitated towards boldness, initially operating as an independent wunderkind wearing hats both behind the boards (well renowned for quirky sampling) and on the microphone rapping. Despite his professional trajectory hitting a slump as he forged a botched affiliation with (now defunct) Definitive Jux Records, Danny is presently aligned with major powerhouse Interscope Records; his seventh album Payback aiming for consideration in the mainstream’s reindeer games.

Long time followers of Danny’s arc are familiar with his well documented frustrations towards the music business. Payback finds him on the verge of a meltdown after arduous efforts of catching a break using sheer talent in a climate that rewards imagery and gimmicks. The album’s plot leans towards art reflecting life, centering around the plight of a rapscallion reaching his breaking point and ending up on trial for vague miscellaneous infractions. The audience is taken on an elaborate ride hinting towards vigilantism as former allies, envious competition, and rappers with poor business acumen bear Danny’s reckless wrath. With guests ranging from modern avant-garde to chart toppers and Grammy winners, he meets the duplicitous challenge of sticking to his guns in attempts of netting new fans.

An acute interpretation gathers Danny’s battle for redemption on Payback as an extended metaphor for the self-examination of an artist at his wits end. While he carries a brash self-confidence, razor sharp wit and precise rapping ability, he remains forced to question his function in an industry that doesn’t value progressive artistry. This gives probable cause to explaining the album’s overage of features, suggestive of a scheme to creep through what would be an otherwise small window of opportunity. On the surface the project could be compared to the run of the mill Hip-Hop compilation, but understanding Danny Swain is realizing his creative mind is nothing if not conceptual. A look at the grander scheme shows drastic measures taken in hopes of attaining an ever elusive spotlight, and a possible mockery of what the music business has become. Long established supporters should find themselves amused, inspired and empathetic towards the brevity employed in our protagonist going out on this subversive limb. In the end, Payback examines whether the masses are adept so as to grasp the method of Danny’s madness, or if he has preyed on the notion that they likely won’t be.

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One Response to “Danny! – Payback (review)”

  1. Hump Jones Says:

    The fact he’s so slept on makes me kinda despair for the future and collective intelligence of the human species. I just don’t fucking get it.

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