Despite enjoying the music, this writer had difficulty coming up with direction for his review of Where Is Danny? I’m not alone in my confusion, though. Def Jux, which nabbed Danny! as a result of a contest with MTVU, seems uncertain how to effectively market the South Carolina emcee/producer to new listeners. Desperate to categorize him, some journalists inaccurately compare his multitalented approach and his quirkiness to Kanye West. But whatever Danny! is doing, it’s working to a certain extent: his last few discs have helped him build a convinced fan base, and his album Charm made for a Grammy nomination short-list. Fortunately, Where Is Danny? (a free-then-online retail collection) breaks the rules.
For his Def Jux debut, Danny! changes as much as he stays the same, stepping up his skills while finding comfort in the elements that got him here. He usually handles most of the production on his own, but he enlisted Alex Goose (of “The Blueprint 3 Outtakes” Internet fame), and Goose mirrors Danny!’s style so much that you can’t tell the difference. His mix of carefree soundbeds and somberly soulful beats works cohesively, with instrumental interludes connecting any stray pieces. He adds cartoon sounds and a small R&B sample to the otherwise boom bap sound of the Von Pea-featured “Hoedown Showdown,” and jubilant horns and strings fuel “Wake The Fuck Up Man (You’re Trippin Man).” Danny! has notably stepped up his rhymes, adding multisyllabic flows while still understanding how to not take himself too seriously—an endangered species in rap. “Scrambled Eggs” celebrates breakfast food, while other tracks name themselves after Cheers actor George Wendt and joke about selling heroin to Ellen DeGeneres’ children. But comedy isn’t Danny!’s only strength; “Mama I Want To Fucking Sing” narrates his mother’s lack of support for his music career, while “Still Love” regrets prioritizing music over a significant other. With beats that go down easy, rhymes that entertain and eccentricity that charms, Where Is Danny? should definitely an impression on new listeners.
The album has its flaws, but nothing that prevents its enjoyment. Though Danny! has stepped up his rhymes, his mic presence lacks a certain punch. While his voice is perfect for lighthearted tracks like “Tattered Fedora Flow,” it isn’t as effective on songs like “Lost One,” which bites the structure of Jay-Z’s Kingdom Come single and fails despite its vivid, heartfelt lyrics. And the disc flows so well that it works to a fault, as short song lengths and the aforementioned mic presence issues make it difficult to find standout selections, forcing the listener to pay more attention than he/she naturally may. But in an era where it’s common to find scatterbrained albums with disjointed production rosters and only a few worthwhile songs, an album that plays best as a whole product is a good problem to have. Danny! has crafted and perfected a formula that is his own, and it works—whether you can classify it or not.