Interview: Danny Brown Talks Finding His Voice, Old Man Rap, Kitty Pryde & What He Learned From Jail

Interview: Danny Brown Talks Finding His Voice, Old Man Rap, Kitty Pryde & What He Learned From JailPhotography by Todd Diederich

How did jail make you social?
Because you have to talk. Think about it. You’re locked up for eight months, and you’re just going to be in that bitch not talking to anybody? I’m shy, and I don’t really want to talk to nobody, but somebody’s going to eventually talk to you and after a while. As shit goes on, that shit’s going to be your home, and they’re going to be your homies.

I was fucking with niggas I would never fuck with on the street. Like, niggas who, my life is so fucking 360 from what their life is. I can’t even really talk to them about the shit that I know about. They was just straight hood niggas. That’s it. I was on some whole other shit, back then. I was wearing skinny fucking oranges and shit. [Laughs.]

I’m pretty sure you were the only one wearing that.
Yeah. I had a hook up with the laundry dude. I used to get small pants and extra, extra large shirts. That shit used to look crazy. Because you know you have to get your own size, just medium top and medium pants, but just, how you get them small pants and that big-ass shirt. That was my jail shit.

I ain’t going to front, I kind of shot a lot of moves in jail. That’s Detroit slang for like, making shit happen. [Laughs.] I don’t know. I’m that type of guy. I didn’t have a bad time in jail, no homo, not fucking. [Laughs.] I was shooting moves, man, making shit happen for myself. I wasn’t worried about shit. I was eating good, bruh. I was eating Burger King and shit. [Laughs.]

Really?
Yeah. I had COs bringing that shit in. I ate that everyday for lunch, I didn’t eat what the regular inmates ate. That took me a while to get, it wasn’t like that until like, my last three months. But my last three months, I lived like a king, before I was let out that bitch.

How did you manage that?
Because I had a job in registry. When you work in registry, working where they first bring the inmates in, you’re actually dealing with a lot of the prison guards and you’re like the fucking coffee boy. A lot of inmates want that job, that’s like the number one job to get. I just got it by luck.

What happens in that job is, when everybody gets processed, whatever that person has, they throw it away. But if you get cool with a guard, they’re just going to give it to you. I was in a county and you can’t smoke cigarettes in a county jail. But guys would come in with cigarettes all the time—or come in with weed or whatever they got—the guards would take it and give it to me.

What happens is, most inmates that have that job, they go and sell the cigarettes back to the other inmates. But me, I wasn’t no bum-ass nigga. I didn’t need no money in jail. So I was smoking everything. You had to fuck with me to even try and get a cigarette or anything for like, four months of that shit. So I was kind of running shit.

Wow.
So nobody would put their hands on me and nobody would do shit. Everybody was riding for me because they wanted to get cigarettes. And I wasn’t like a hoe-ass nigga that was just cussin’ them. Like, I smoked them, but I showed love, too.

I was the type of nigga that if niggas was watching TV too loud at night, and I was trying to sleep, I’d come out like, “Y’all niggas want a cigarette, man? Turn that TV down.” And I’d throw a cigarette on the table. Niggas looking at it like it’s crack because they can take one Newport and roll up like five cigarettes out of that shit.

You were a man of the people.
Yeah. So after a while, just from me being down there, I got cool with the guards. The guards, every now and then, when they would go get lunch, they’d ask me what I wanted because I was just wavy like that and shit. They were like, “Yeah, you cool,” and they’d grab me shit. So after a while, I wasn’t even eating jail food anymore.

Wow.
Yeah. Back to what I was saying, like usually when they would give the inmates shit, they would try to sell it, and you can tell when somebody’s hustling, in jail. I wasn’t hustling. So the security guards were just like, “Damn. This guy’s cool. He ain’t really doing nothing bad. He’s just doing his time and really trying to go home. He’s a really cool guy.” I never told them about my music, and now they see me on magazines and shit. Like, I run into them every now and then.

What do they say to you?
They just be happy for me, kind of. I mean, it ain’t too much they can say. I was an inmate, to them, at one point in time, and now they see me on magazines and shit like that. So it’s like, “Damn. I can’t believe it.” I think they usually see an inmate and think they’re coming in and they’re coming back. They probably thought I was coming back, regardless of who I was. They thought I was going to get back in the streets and I was going to be back.

It’s like the intro to Ready To Die when Biggie was walking out of his jail cell, the guard is like, “Aw, yeah. You guys always come back.” And he’s like, “I got big plans…Big plans.”
That’s pretty much how my movie started.

I think it goes back to what you were saying, that everything you went through was a build up to you being in this game.
Yeah, because even just being in jail and having that job working registry, you’d have new inmates coming in all the time, and I’m the guy expected to sell the cigarettes. So they’ve got to holler at me before they get registered and get back to their floor like, “What’s up with the squares? You got the squares on deck?” and I’m not selling shit.

So a lot of motherfuckers in there hated me, too, but they wouldn’t do shit to me, because like I said, I pretty much had protection, because I had OG’s and was giving the big homies cigarettes. So they couldn’t really do shit, but motherfuckers used to yell crazy shit to me all the time.

That’s kind of like blog comments to me. That’s how I’m able to take what a motherfucker says on Twitter. I was locked up and motherfuckers were saying crazy shit to me. I’d get pissed off and want to scrap, but I wanted to go home, too. I wasn’t trying to catch no tickets and get extra time. So I could take any criticism in the world after I took that.

Right. It’s like, what is anyone going to tell you?
I’m talking about, you’d even get the guys that would be coming back to the counties from upstate, who were still like, doing court shit. Sometimes they be snitching and shit like that. So I’m the guy they expect to get cigarettes from because usually that’s the guy who’s selling cigarettes, and I’m not selling cigarettes. So I was the bitch-ass nigga, everyday. And I’m the guy that’s got to feed them, too, because I’m the guy that gives you sandwiches and shit.

Really?
Yeah. It worked out good, too, because I also had to feed the female inmates. And that’s how I was able to pass the time, I’d ask them to show me them titties for a cigarette. I’d see some titties everyday. That was cool.

I would get their inmate numbers and I was writing them bitches. I wasn’t even writing nobody on the outside. I was writing all inmate bitches, at one point in time, during our time together. I was living it, man. [Laughs.]

That’s so crazy. Who would’ve thought going to jail would be the best thing to happen to you?
[Laughs.] It kind of was, but it sucked, bro. I’m not trying to sell you no fairytales. A whole eight months, everyday of that shit sucked. It wasn’t happy times. I mean, seeing them titties was cool, but you know...it was bittersweet.

I’ve done a lot of interviews with rappers that have been to jail, and I try to get them to talk about it, and they don’t even want to talk about it.
Because they was probably getting sonned in that bitch. [Laughs.] I had the squares. You couldn’t fuck with me. If you wanted to get some cigarettes, you better be cool. They called me Snoop because I had braids. You’d better be cool with Snoop.

I kept my shit braided, too, because there was this one dude who used to braid his sister’s hair. So he knew how to braid hair, good as hell. I kept my shit crispy. They’d be like, “How are you crispy braided in jail everyday?” Cigarettes.

It’s crazy how cigarettes is currency in jail.
It’s the biggest thing possible. Like, if you smoke them, you’re used to that shit everyday. You have a cigarette every fucking 20 minutes, if you want to. Then you go to jail, and it’s...I mean, unless you’re going to the penitentiary upstate, and if you’re going up there, that means you’re really doing a lot of time.

I guess if you want to smoke cigarettes that bad, that’s cool, but my little eight months was county time, and in that shit ain’t no cigarettes. County, a lot of people say, is worse than the penitentiary, because it’s just straight nothing.

It’s bad conditions, all the way around. I went a whole fucking summer with no TV and no fucking air conditioning. Just niggas on the floor with no TV and no air conditioning, just hot, playing chess, eating tuna mac and shit. I was like, “Y’all niggas is wack.”

Switching gears, I wanted to ask about your relationship with Kitty Pryde. What’s the deal with that?
I mean...[Laughs.] I mean, it is what it is, man. I don’t know. It’s kind of crazy. But yeah, I guess. [Laughs.]

What was your reaction when you first saw that video?
I mean, I heard the song way before I seen the video. I already knew about it. She had told me about it.

Oh, you know her?
Yeah. I’ve known Kitty for months. I listened to her music way before this. Like, I’m real cool with her manager Walker, because I’m super homies with Main Attractionz.

So you guys met through him?
Nah, we met through Twitter.

Oh, was she just hitting on you?
Nah, I wouldn’t say it was like that. I was more-so checking out her music, and I liked it.

How did you find her music?
She hit me up, and it was just one of those times when I did click it.

So you weren’t surprised when you saw the video? You kind of knew it was coming.
Yeah. We kick it.

Like, on the phone? Or do you hang out together?
[Laughs.] I don’t know, man.

[Laughs.] It’s so funny how you were so open about jail and so closed about this.
[Laughs.]

Well, I’m not sure how old she is, so maybe you shouldn’t say anything about this. [Laughs.]
I mean, I know it. So it’s all good.

Okay. [Laughs.] If that’s the case, you know...
I’m not saying anything like that. I’m just saying, at the end of the day, it’s a music thing, man. We just make music together.

What is it about her music and new music in general that interests you?
Anything that's true to the heart. To me, hip-hop was always supposed to be like a representation of yourself. So if she was trying to make Nicki Minaj records or trying to bust punchlines and metaphors, it wouldn’t be kind of real. So her music, to me, is authentic. It’s her. It’s totally her personality, so it works.

Right, and that’s something that’s very true for you, too. Danny Brown is really Danny Brown.
That’s the rules of hip-hop. So I follow them, and she follows them. It’s almost like some...I don’t know man. I’m going to say it’s almost like some 1970’s shit going on over here with me and Kitty. There’s some real hippy shit going on.

Tags: danny-brown, fools-gold
blog comments powered by Disqus