On the first episode of Danny Brown’s psychedelic new Viceland show, Danny’s House (which premieres Wednesday night), hip-hop’s resident Animaniac doesn’t waste any time with small talk or late night pleasantries. He dives right into the thick of it all—and I mean it all. Lying on his back, wearing a mustard-colored robe, he gazes up at the stars—which turn out to be glow stars tacked onto his basement ceiling—and ponders the awesomeness of the universe: how it seems like it all goes on forever, but how maybe it just ends at “one of those boring gray rooms,” and about “the whole UFO and alien thing,” and the possibility that aliens would come and enslave us all…
Suffice to say, if you’re seeking answers to the universe’s most profound mysteries, you’d be better served tracking down old episodes of Cosmos. But if you, like A$AP Rocky (the show was taped before his recent arrest and incarceration in Sweden), are suspicious Schoolboy Q might be an alien, then Danny Brown is your Carl Sagan. “Schoolboy Q ain’t an alien, I seen him take a shit at a truck stop,” he explains in his unmistakable corkscrew of a voice.
Brown’s show, set in a basement not so different from his childhood one, is the latest from Derrick Beckles, the Canadian comedian largely responsible for the trippy public access aesthetic of recent late late night comedies like The Eric Andre Show and Hot Package. Beckles’s idea was to do Danny Brown’s version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, which amounted to sticking Brown in an ‘80s basement and bringing notable friends (Rocky, El-P, Luenell) and anthropomorphized objects (a telescope, a microwave burrito) around to shoot the shit. But Brown also didn’t want the show to just be a rambling half-hour of slightly stoned musings. “I wanted it to have some kind of depth to it,” Brown says. “I wanted it to have a concept or a topic. Because I'm not good at interviewing people or some shit. So it's supposed to feel like two homies get too high and then next thing you know you just talk about something a little too long.”
GQ: How did Danny's House come about?
Danny Brown: It's always been something I wanted to do, ever since I was in high school drama class. I was always into doing sketch comedy. I used to skip school a lot. But I used to go to drama class. That was the one class I always went to. And my drama teacher always wanted me to do plays and stuff. But I would never do a school play because I always thought that was kind of corny for some reason. But after [being in the 2018 Matthew McConaughey movie] White Boy Rick, I started getting my teeth fixed, and from me getting my teeth fixed I couldn't really work. I couldn't go outside with missing teeth everywhere, you know? So I was in the house a lot, and I was like, “Fuck it, I might as well use that time wisely.” So I started taking acting classes. And I got the bug a little bit. I reached out to Derrick [Beckles, the show's Executive Producer] and Derrick was just on board for it. He came up with Danny's House.
Did you learn anything in that drama class that you carried with you?
Just the ability to not seem like I'm trying too hard. I'm still getting better and better. I'm not saying I got this shit. Definitely still at the amateur stage. But I kind of understand it more, the beats and timing and stuff like that.
It seems like that amateur approach is part of the show though.
Definitely. But that's me understanding how not to try hard. Because it could be me thinking I'm fucking Jay Leno or something.
On the show, you talk about things like ghosts, robots, and aliens. Are those things that you have a lot of conversations about in your actual life?
No, but we wanted to have that YouTube conspiracy feel. Like a motherfucker who's stuck in his basement and he won't leave, and his friends show up, like, “You gotta get out of the house, man.” And next thing you know he's on some shit that he seen on the internet. We wanted to have that feel too, because nowadays that's how a lot of motherfuckers are.
Do you have a dream guest?
What would you talk to Dave Chappelle about?
Shit, you gotta come up with the most off-kilter shit that I can possibly think of. Probably about Trump. I don't know, talk about how the supplement vitamin industry is a con. I feel like he'd have a lot of insights on that.
Do you have experience with that?
Hell yeah! [Laughs.] Everyone thinks they can get a magic pill to make them think longer or diet loss pills or some shit. That shit don't ever work.
What's the dumbest one you've bought?
The ones they say makes your dick bigger or something, I don't know.
In the first episode of Danny’s House, A$AP Rocky says you were the first person to give him Viagra.
I had a friend of a friend who used to work in the pharmacy industry and he'd be able to give me a lot of prescriptions. So I'd just have a lot of different shit. And we were on tour, and when you're on tour you might be getting a lot of action. So you might be wanting to be strapped up, because life comes at you fast. You want to be prepared for it. At that amount of it, man, it's just like anything else—like basketball or football, you get beat down. If you going hard every day, stuff don't be working the same no more. There ain't no such thing as a fine for using performance enhancements in the bedroom. All fair in love and war.
I'm just picturing you with a coat full of different pills.
Thank god that guy went to jail. I'm done with that kind of stuff. I don't do that no more.
Did you have any bad experiences?
I wouldn't say bad experiences, because I'm at the age where I'm not experimenting no more. I know what I'm doing. But I know I'm at that age too where I can't be living like that. So you got to clean up. Health is wealth. It's bad because now I just sit around and I'm getting fat and shit. You stop smoking and doing drugs and you just want to eat everything. I guess my taste buds came back or something.
Is there any food you're obsessed with right now?
Buffalo wings. For some reason, the spicier the better. I've never been a spice guy, but now I just want anything that's real spicy.
That can give you a bit of a high too.
It fucks me up! I'll be fucked up the next day. I'm thinking about getting some today, but I gotta start living right.
As you're getting older, has what you want to do on stage changed?
If anything, I would say before I would go out and just try and have as much fun as possible. But now I want to just sound as good as possible. It's one thing to go out and jump around and act crazy and shit. But it's another thing to have it sound as close to the record as possible.
There are a lot of objects in the background of the set. Were there any that held special meaning for you?
Definitely. All the pictures on the walls were pictures of my family. So that was one thing that was crazy, being on set seeing my baby pictures and shit. That definitely was a real mind fuck in some sense. But it made me more comfortable and it made me focus. I was looking at pictures from back when I was selling crack and stuff and I'm like, “Fuck, now I got my own TV show, shit. I gotta take this shit seriously.”
What was your house like growing up? Did you have a basement?
Yeah! I'm in my basement right now talking to you. That's one thing about Michigan, most houses have basements. And they become man caves, or my basement was like a playroom for the kids. So we're playing video games or running around making noise. In Detroit, the basement is always cement and shit, so you can dribble basketballs in the basement without making too much noise.
You share intimate personal details pretty casually on the show.
Is that something you're just comfortable with, or does being in a setting like the one you grew up in make you more comfortable?
That's just how I am in general. I think I'm more of an open book than anything. That comes from where I grew up. I think it's just a neighborhood thing. We call it the “crack it and bag it” type shit. Like you might say the most deep personal shit that you shouldn't be saying out loud, but if you say it in a joking manner, I don't know. But once you live like that, you ain't got nothing to hide. It's like living and accepting responsibilities. When you can say whatever you want or say how you fucked up or say sorry to somebody, it just makes you more open to anything.
In one of the episodes, you talk about losing your virginity at 13 years old. How did that affect you?
It just was one of those things. Everyone has a little girlfriend at that age. We'd been talking about, “We gonna do it.” And a perfect time was that my sister, who's older than me, was having a sleepover, and [my girlfriend] was going to come to the sleepover. I wasn't supposed to be around the girls and shit. I was supposed to be sleeping at my grandma's house, which was right next door to my house. But I snuck back to the sleepover. We did our little thing. And as a teenage boy, your loins are on fire. You just can't wait. But I remember going back and telling myself, “Damn, that's not really all that like I expected it to be.” We were at that age, you don't know what the fuck is going on.
Do you feel like [losing your virginity at a young age] gave you confidence going forward?
I don't think it gave me confidence because I didn't hit it right. I was like, “Hold up, I gotta get my stroke together.”
You did a bit on the show where you had Nikki Glaser give her high school self advice. If you were giving your high school self advice, what would it be?
I would've told myself to go to school. I skipped school a lot and was in the streets or whatever the fuck. But I wish I would've experienced more of the school stuff that school people experience. Those school interactions. I do think it helps you socially. Going to college, I don't know. But that's probably why I'm so open, because I didn't have to deal with high school stuff. I went to school but I didn't go to school.
Did you have a chip on your shoulder?
Yeah, everyone graduated, and you feel like a fucking loser. But it gave me more drive to make it in music.
You do a lot of cool things on the show. But if Viceland gave you an unlimited budget for an episode, what would you do?
I would probably pull some elaborate David Copperfield stunt or some shit where the odds of me living or dying—no, probably book the guest I want, where you can call their bluff and make them come. Like I could be able to talk to Donald Trump or some shit.
What would you ask Trump?
We'd have to talk about Stormy Daniels. I'd talk about the hair too. I'd want to know about the plugs.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Originally Appeared on GQ