As the annual orgy of parties surrounding Art Basel Miami Beach – North America's largest annual art fair and currently the most popular excuse to spend a December week in South Florida – got into full swing Wednesday night, one of the most intriguing soirees on offer paired Danny Brown and artist Shepard Fairey. So is Brown, the Detroit MC known for his aerodynamic hairstyle, oddball fashions and schizophrenic rhyming, a fan of the iconic street artist behind the Obey brand and the Barack Obama "Hope" poster?
"To be honest, this is my first time hearing about him," Brown told Rolling Stone before his performance. "I'm not really into, like, art. The most art I'm into is video games."
Fairey knows music, though. He was on hand to DJ, and he primed the crowd for Brown with an eclectic and occasionally perplexing (at one point he mixed stoner-rock greats Sleep into a Baltimore club track) set that spanned hip-hop, metal, punk and funk.
The venue, Bardot, is a lounge more abundant in ambience than stage space, and Brown took the opportunity to perform amid the crowd, security guards keeping any would-be overzealous fans at bay. Beginning his set with "Witit" (a bonus cut from the deluxe edition of his 2011 mixtape XXX, for which he recently issued a brilliant video inspired by the aesthetics of No Limit Records designers Pen and Pixel), the fashion iconoclast performed a half-hour set clad in a ski cap with snowflakes on it. Perhaps most notable was "I Will," a highly descriptive and enthusiastic pledge of allegiance to cunnilingus, also from XXX. Brown's DJ dropped out the beat before the final verse, giving the rapper extra space to get his point across a cappella.
Brown, a veteran of Detroit's underground rap scene who was at one time courted by G-Unit before finding a home at DJ A-Trak's boutique label, Fool's Gold, said he has just completed work on his upcoming album, which he's calling ODB. "It's not called ODB, but it's ODB for now – that's the initials of the album," he explained. "I don't want to release the real title until the album comes out. There's so much I want to tell people about it, but there's so much I want to leave as a surprise."
The album, his first since his critically lauded mixtape made him a media darling and a hipster favorite in 2011, will be out in the early spring, he says. It won't be preceded by a single. "At Fools Gold, we don't think about singles and videos and stuff like that," Brown said. "I guess the song that everybody's feeling the most, we'll shoot something to . . . I'm more of an album guy than a one-song person. You can't really get an idea of me from one song. I may not even have the same voice on certain songs."