Danny Brown: “My influences are a lot of different people and a lot of different things so I’ll just timeline it.
“When I was in kindergarten, my mom used to send my cousin’s cousin to babysit us. He was maybe like 19, and he came to pick me up from school. I remember, my mom just had my sister.
“It was raining like a motherfucker and he was like, ‘You gotta run though cause it’s raining hard. Plus I just got this new LL Cool J and I’m trying to bump this shit man. I ain’ttrying to bullshit with you.’
I was looking at the cover, reading the credits—I could nearly read them. It was LL Cool J’s Radio. He threw that shit on and from the first beat, I knew a rapper was what I wanted to be.
“We ran home. He knew I liked rap so he fucked with me. We went in the basement. He ain’t even cracked the plastic off the [vinyl] yet. He got a razor blade and took the plastic off. I was looking at the cover, reading the credits—I could nearly read them. It was LL Cool J’s Radio.
“He threw that shit on and from the first beat, I knew that was what I wanted to be.
“We listened to it in its entirety and he smoked a joint. He was like, ‘Don’t be touching my record when I’m gone.’ As soon as he left, I was right in that basement listening to that shit.
“I remember whenever my pops picked me up from school, he was always listening to the newest, hottest shit in his car. He used to pick me up and bump Ice-T’s ‘Pusha Man’ all the time. I used to find N.W.A and Too $hort tapes in his car but he would never play shit around me but I knew that shit was dope because I could just look at the artwork like, ‘What is this?!’
“I remember he started playing A Tribe Called Quest a lot around me like, ‘Listen to this.’ Then I started seeing my friends have other music I had never heard of. I remember my friend first gave me Spice 1 and I just went crazy like, ‘Oh my fucking God you gotta give me [a copy] of this shit.’
‘[Because of Spice 1] I thought I was from Cali. I was wearing flannels and Dickies and Chucks and getting my hair braided. I didn’t even have enough hair to braid yet. I went through that phase and I think my pops didn’t like that shit because he knew what that was planting in my brain.
Whenever my pops picked me up from school, he was always listening to the newest, hottest shit in his car. He used to pick me up and bump Ice-T’s ‘Pusha Man’ all the time.
“One day my pops came in—this was when Discmans with CDs first came out—he gave me a CD of Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers. I was the first nigga in the hood with a CD. I checked it out the first time and I was like, ‘Ehh whatever.’ But something eventually clicked with me and I was like, ‘Oh my God this is amazing.’ From that time I started wearing bubble coats and Timbs and shit. [Laughs.]
“That’s when I wanted to study more about New York rap. Everybody was listening to Tupac and I started listening to Nas and Wu-Tang. I was just going through my East Coast phase, that went through all the way through until I dropped out of high school.
“My parents kept us in the house so we got the Internet when it first came out. We got Napster and I was downloading free music like crazy. So I started to get more and more up on underground music, I started getting into Def Jux. From that, I started reading Blender magazine. I started listening to Grime.
“A little bit before that phase I had started listening to Korn and Rage Against the Machine because I wanted to see what rock music was about—just to train my ear to listen to that type of shit. Now I can listen to something like Joy Division and all type of crazy rock. I was training myself in music in general, I knew what I was doing.”