Interview: Danny Brown Talks Festivals, Kitty Pryde & Cloud Rap @ Bonnaroo

Photo by Lauren Schwartzberg/RESPECT.

After his knockout performance at Bonnaroo last Thursday, I buttonholed Danny Brown and his manager Emeka Obi in the backstage lot to nab an interview with Detroit’s sabertooth spitter. We “chopped it up” outside of his trailer, me loitering awkwardly on the porch, him leaning against the door, and some girls smoking blunts filled with leaves and flowers just inside. Danny was ready to unwind, so I kept it brief; this was less of an interview, more of a chat. But I saw dude twice later that night — once in the VIP section during Yelawolf’s set, and then onstage with Kendrick during his encore. That bottle of Henny never left his hand.

Danny’s a “chill bro” who knows tons about hip-hop, and XXX is still underrated. He’s writing his next album right now, and since SKYWLKR, Paul White, and some U.K. grime producers are involved, we can expect another endearingly frenetic release. For now, check out our unabridged conversation:

I’m curious, how do festivals work? Do you play festivals a lot?
I mean, I have been this year.

How do they work? Is it like you and Kendrick — the rap people — do you guys all bond together, like “Yo, let’s kick it tonight”?
Kendrick’s my homie!

And Mac Miller, also the homie!
I said, Kendrick’s the homie!

So you hit him up and you guys go check out artists and stuff like that, or are you off in the artist section chilling?
I mean, most of the time, we always working, so it ain’t like we can really hang out at this shit.

But I know you’re a super music head.
Yeah, I’m saying every time we kicked it at festivals and shit, either one of us has gotta automatically leave. It ain’t like no hangout thing. Like we see each other, we work, and that’s it. We just don’t have time.

At a festival like [Bonnaroo], the headliner is Phish. It’s random that you’re here, a little bit.
I just played Primavera Festival, and it was just me and ASAP Rocky on the bill. Only rappers. Obviously I’m just that cool rapper right now to fuck with on this type of shit.

You didn’t even have to do the chorus for “Blunt After Blunt.”
I’m just saying, this my lane. That’s all it is.

Your fanbase is so random.
I just opened up for Primus and shit. In Houston. At a Houston festival. That was the last festival I played, Sunday, that was Sunday. What’s today? Thursday? I had a few days off. Now I’m good. Now I have Atlanta; I start the Childish Gambino tour after this.

Is it different performing for a festival as opposed to being on tour?
I love festivals because you just do yo’ thang, and then whatever happens happens. You can’t tell who feeling it in the back, so you can’t really see the shit.

You ever been to a festival as a guest?
Never. Only time I ever been to a festival… I mean, I always used to be an outsider looking in and shit. I wasn’t really into the music business or nothing, just go to South by Southwest or some shit like that, but I knew of all the shit. Me personally, I can’t wait to play Leeds festival. I’m trying to be on that level.

Kitty Pryde.
What’s up? That’s my girl.

Do you really text like that?
What you mean? Text like what?

I don’t know, she said she was texting you. You tell me!
Oh, yeah, we talk! That’s my girl!

What does she get out of your music? You’re talking about the nastiest shit on there, and what is she, she’s like 16?
She’s 19.

She’s 19. What does she get out of your music?
Because it’s smart. It’s smart, and she’s smart.

She just graduated high school!
She’s in college.

I thought she was working at Forever 21.
She work at Clare’s. No, she’s a smart ass girl though. She’s smart as fuck.

What did you think when you saw [the video for “Okay Cupid”]? With your name scribbled down on [a piece of paper]?
I mean, I knew what it was. She got a boyfriend, it ain’t like that.

Oh, she’s faking?
It ain’t necessarily faking. She got a crush on me, but it ain’t really shit.

And you got a crush back?
I mean, she’s cool. I like her. I wouldn’t do that to her. At the end of the day, I’m too much of a bad guy.

I just think it’s funny ’cause you’re rapping about Adderall and growing to be 30.
She’s smart. But at the end of the day, all that shit is like, I don’t know, man… A lot of people hear it for what it is, but when you look at the undertones of all this shit, you gotta be a smart person to really dig deep. And I guess she felt through that, she know I’m not just done through the lyrics and shit. You know? I’m just saying shit to make motherfuckers laugh.

She’s part of that whole Lil B, based, Beautiful Lou and all that — the Tumblr shit.
I wouldn’t say based, I would say she’s more so cloud rap. More so Main Attrakionz. I mean, they have the same management. Beautiful Lou is more so cloud rap. A lot of people get this shit confused.

What’s the difference between cloud rap and based music?
Cloud rap is Imogen Heap samples. [Laughs.] That’s it.

So Jason Derulo is cloud rap, then.
I would say Main Attrakionz is the inventors of it, and I don’t know who else falls under the umbrella. I mean, I might do a cloud rap song.

I just think it’s interesting that she puts you with Riff Raff, Lil B, and then Danny Brown. Lil Ugly Mane, you know [him]?
Yeah. SpaceGhost. I think she just really fucks with motherfuckers that hollered at her. But I knew about Kitty maybe four or five months before this shit. One morning, she just hit me up, like “Yo.” Just hit me up! And I was like, “Alright,” and I just checked out her music, and I really listened to it. I was like, “This little bitch kinda smart!”

She’s kinda smart, right?
Yeah. I get it. I’m not dumb. I love Kitty Pryde, man.

You worked so hard to get to where you are right now. Kitty Pryde makes a YouTube video and she’s in the New York Times the next day. Your reaction, please.
I talk to her all the time. My reaction is she was born for this. At the end of the day, she just realized she could rap. Me personally, when I was her age, the Internet didn’t exist like this, so I can’t be the person that be like, “Ugh.”

You were super deliberate, intentional about it, like, “I’m trying to be a rapper.” And now I feel like people just rap by accident.
It’s different with everybody. I really believe that not necessarily she might be a rapper, but she’s a star. Just something about her. She’s smart as fuck, she can write. I don’t know. But even if you listen to her rapping, the way it’s delivered, if you can deliver it like that…

It’s adorable.

You’re like the opposite of that.
That’s why it works, though. I love her, man.