For years, Detroit-raised rapper Danny Brown has been creating his own lane in the rap world with critically acclaimed albums full of eccentric, experimental flows. His lyrics and videos have often had an undercurrent of horror mixed in with his energizing beats and quirky humor. But now, he's curating a new world and letting audiences in on his other talent as a hilarious host on his new VICELAND show Danny's House, where he brings the silly fun of anything-goes late-night TV to the talkshow format.
The first two episodes of the show feature segments like Brown and A$AP Rocky debating which alien pictures are most attractive, and Brown pressing comedian Ilana Glazer about how they're going to live with artificial intelligence. We sat down with him to hear more about why he wanted to get into talk show comedy, his vision for the season, and what to expect from his Q-Tip-produced upcoming album U Know What I'm Sayin?
VICE: When did you decide that you wanted to get into TV?
Brown: I've always been interested in sketch comedy ever since I was a kid doing that in high school drama class. I used to do sketch comedy and improv all the time like when we used to have The Second City [improv theater club] in Detroit. But then I got into more rap stuff. Now, when I'm around other comedians, they're like, "Man you're fucking funny." I remember kicking it with Hannibal Buress one time and he's like, "You can do it. You might not understand how to write a joke yet but you have talent and you know what's funny."
Your show feels pretty nostalgic. Did you want it to feel like an old-school sitcom?
We wanted to have a real public access feel to it, almost like, "This shit shouldn't be on network TV," real late night underground shit. It builds off of a little bit of Pee-wee [Herman] influence, a little bit of Wayne's World influence in there. But we didn't want it to seem like interviewing people on a talk show. We wanted it to seem like two friends having a conversation.
Is that why you chose a basement setting for the show?
The basement set is because, being from Detroit, the basement is where we always hung out. The basement is like the playroom when you're a kid. Most of the time the floors are concrete so you can dribble basketballs and be noisy without your mom yelling at you too much. Then when you get older, that's where you want your room to be. You want your room in the basement so you can sneak girls in the side door at night. But if you stay too long, next thing you know you're 28 years old still living in your mama's basement and that's not a good look (laughs). That's Michigan, though.
It was cool to see celebrity guests that fans might not expect you to be friends with, like comedian Ilana Glazer. How did the two of you become friends and how do you choose your guests?
We became friends on the internet just like everybody else. She followed me. I followed her back and we just started DMing. If she's here or I'm here, we just grab dinner and stuff like that. I went to her crib and we smoked and watched this past season's premiere of Broad City. It was tight. But for the most part we wanted people on the show that are really funny and that I have some type of connection with, like A$AP Rocky, and ScHoolboy Q, or Hannibal Buress. I'm not an interviewer type of person; it's good to bounce off of other funny motherfuckers like that to keep things going.
Do you feel like the show has become an avenue to talk about topics you bring up in your music as well?
I try to keep it pretty separate. I mean, of course, I'm Danny Brown. But I don't want to be rapping on the show or kicking freestyles. This is my chance to be fun and funny. When you're rapping, you have to try to be tough or cool. But this gives me a chance to not be cool and just be goofy and silly. And I like that.
You've also been a leader in helping people bring out their eccentric sides in the rap world though. And TV talk shows are pretty stiff. Do you think of this as a parallel mission to shake things up in the world of TV?
If that happens, that would be amazing. But I don't think that was the initial thought. Once I [saw the show] I was like, "What the fuck? They're about to put this on TV?" It's great that our world is more open than it used to be ten years ago. That's just thanks to the internet and YouTube, shows like Broad City that came from the internet. But I think the main thing for me is, I just wanted it to be funny. There was a trend when a lot of rappers were doing movies and TV, and they weren't really good at it. That was the main thing—to make sure it's genuinely funny, and everything else will fall into place after that. If it opens up the door for more rappers to get things like this, then I'm all for it. But I don't want to shake it up in the sense like, "he did some crazy-ass shit on TV and now they don't want to give anybody else a chance," and fuck it up for everybody.
You have an album coming up after wrapping up a three-album trilogy with your last record Atrocity Exhibition. Are you starting another similar long-tail project now?
No this one is more of a stand-alone. This is my first time working with Q-Tip as a producer, bouncing ideas back and forth. This album is a new beginning. It's a refresher. I feel like a new rapper again. And not too many people get that chance, so I feel like I'm blessed. I try to re-identify myself every album, but with this one, I feel like it's a culmination of all the things I've been doing my entire career. All the ideas are fleshed out and paid attention to in detail, really really meticulously. I can't wait for people to hear it.
What other artists did you bring on as features?
We have Run The Jewels on there, Blood Orange, and JPEGMAFIA. It's cool. And we have an artist from London, Obongjayar, on two songs. He's great. I think I'll be working with him in the future, too.
How do you think working with Q-Tip as a producer is going to affect the album?
This was the least stressful album I've ever had, because it's almost like I'm the actor in his movie. He's directing and producing it, and all I have to do is show up and read my lines. It was a lot less stressful for me, because usually making these albums is a lot of sleepless nights. Before I was working with beatmakers, and now I'm working with a producer. I didn't really realize the difference, but now I know. I was never into post-production. If I did a song, that was the song. It was almost like catching lightning in a bottle capturing these emotions. But with this one, we went over everything line by line, piece by piece, until [we felt] like it was perfect. People are going to be able to see that a lot of work went into it.
Tune into Danny's House Wednesdays at 10p.m. on VICELAND.
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