Rap Map #9: Danny Brown

Once again it’s the Rap Map, where we talk to our favorite hip-hop artists about their favorite videogames. Danny Brown’s mixtape XXX was named hip-hop album of the year by SPIN Magazine. Fresh off a tour with Das Racist, Brown spoke with us about his early gaming experiences, how videogames inform his writing process, and how he wants to create the realest game ever made.

What sort of videogames did you play as a child?
I guess I played all the games that the normal kids played, like Super Mario Bros.…my first console was an Atari, because I’m old (laughs). There wasn’t too much you could do on that. I guess Space Invaders was my favorite shit on that. Pole Position. I loved Pole Position. I guess my favorite game for Nintendo was probably Contra, just like everybody else.

What other stuff did you for fun as a kid?
I listened to rap music, actually. That was my number-one hobby, because I couldn’t cuss or talk about the things they were talking about, so to me that was just the most entertaining thing in the world. I just listened to a lot of vulgar rap music as a kid.

Do you feel like you were imaginative?
Yeah! I was actually talking about this to my brother the other day. I played with action figures almost until I was fourteen. When Wu-Tang came out, I would listen to the 36 Chambers album all the way through and take my action figures and it was like they were Wu-Tang. Spider-Man was Ghostface because he had the mask. Stuff like that.

What were some of your favorite action figures?
I liked the Marvel Comics action figures. I had every one of the Street Fighter action figures, too.

At what point did you decide to be a rapper?
I actually said that I was gonna be a rapper when I grew up on the first day of school in first grade. The whole class laughed at me, because it wasn’t a real job and stuff. So I always wanted to be one. I rapped at my fifth grade graduation. I always was better than what someone would expect me to be, because I was always so young. Now I’m old.

Why did you think you didn’t look like you could rap?
As a kid I was always goofy, always tall and skinny, I had these big buck teeth before they fell out, and I just was awkward-looking. I was tall as hell with small feet, so girls used to clown on me for that all the time. I just was awkward. I didn’t get all the way together until, like, 8th grade, when I started actually fucking and shit. My mom dressed me all the way up until I was in high school. 

I’m a really big fan of the tiger jacket that you wear. Where did you get that?
It was actually a piece I’d been looking at for a really long time and hadn’t been able to afford until now. It was a Jeremy Scott Tiger Tux for Adidas, but I was on tour with Das Racist and actually came across it in Miami, and they actually charged me double what the actual retail price was. I wanted it that bad. Now I feel like I can’t wear it no more. Like I wore it out. Sometimes a lot of people expect me to be a tiger.

What drew you to it?
I’m from Detroit, and so I was like, “Ooh! I’ll get that with a Tigers fitted, that’d be sick!” And I’m a sucker for animal print. It’s a fun piece at the end of the day.

How do you feel about the idea of “play” in a general sense? When you rap, you’ve got two personas in a way.
I think that’s just my actual personality. When I use a high-pitched voice, that’s me having fun. I’m partying, I’m off pills. I’m loud. I’m funny. Know what I’m saying? And I think when you get the low voice, that’s my inner conscience. That’s me sitting back and telling you about shit, or telling myself about shit through my music. And that’s really what it is. It’s just my emotions (laughs). I guess you could say it’s a Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde kind of thing. The high-pitched voice is me taking drugs and doing whatever I do when I’m outside of my house and not alone and shit. And that’s the way I’m gonna be and how I’m going to hide how I am when I’m by myself, you get what I’m saying? I’m gonna be over the top and extra-animated, because when I go back to my own zone, I’m totally sober. I do it all the way, and then I come back home and just and laid up for three days.

Do you still play games?
I play videogames all the time now. This year’s actually been a weird year for games for me, because I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to play them as much as I want to, but my girlfriend plays videogames all the time. She plays videogames, and I’d never really met a girl that played games. I still play a lot, but mostly I play a lot of sports games. This year, FIFA has taken over my gaming life. I play NBA2K here and there.

Would you say in a way that games influence your raps?
I think with me being so A.D.H.D.-I can sit down, but I can’t really do one thing for a particularly long time-I think videogames actually help me to make music. Because they force me to sit down, you know? I can sit down, put a beat on and play a game, and I might have a song by the time I’m finished with the game. 

If you could design a videogame, what would be in it?
I’ve always had this idea for a game in my head. And it’s probably a game that no one could ever make. Are you familiar with a computer game called Dope Wars? It’s all about selling drugs. I would make that game a third-person shooter, with the same strategic shit that goes on with that game. It’d show people what it’s actually like to sell drugs. It wouldn’t have an ending. You’d always either die or go to jail.

You can download XXX here.

-Drew Millard