A baby-faced Danny Brown sits slumped in the corner of a grubby, London dressing room, giggling and toying with his smartphone like an unruly schoolboy. If it wasn’t for the long draws on an electronic cigarette and snaggletooth smile, he could certainly belie his 32 years. He’s a latecomer to the music industry but Brown — real name Daniel Dewan Sewell — is just starting to make his high-pitched mark on the industry, following his critically acclaimed 2011 album ‘XXX’. Aside from his distinctive voice, the Detroit-born rapper has a one-of-a-kind style that references “old school pimps,” “f—ing tight Rick Owens pants” and Miami money. He shares how his look and life came together.
First of all, how did you chip your teeth?
I got hit by a car. I was riding my friend’s bike and he was like, “Bring me my bike,” and I just ran into the street without looking.
Nasty. You’re from an area of Detroit that’s not known for fashion, so how did you get into it?
Because of my dad – he wore all the best sh—. When I was at high school, I could go and raid my father’s closet and get Versace, Moschino, Dolce & Gabbana — other kids’ parents didn’t own those clothes.
You like extremely skinny jeans but are you scared that they’re going to cause fertility problems?
If anything, it’s better because I’ve got support. Before, I was wearing big ass jeans with boxer shorts, balls swinging everywhere [laughs] And now we’re tight; it’s no problem.
You used to be a drug dealer – was it important for you to have a unique style?
I was not dressing like my homies at all. I was probably the first person in Detroit to wear True Religion. We would take trips to Miami or L.A. and see the real rich people and I was always attracted to that — but when I was actually selling drugs I was bummy as the f—ing beat.
You did a stint in jail for drug-related crimes. Is it true that you even managed to customize your prison uniform?
I was actually wearing skinnies in prison. I knew one of the top guys at the laundry and he would give me extra small pants and extra large shirts – and I had my hair braided all the time. I was cool.
The music industry is pretty cutthroat. Do you think that your time in prison has helped you navigate the business?
I think selling drugs and being in the music industry is not that different at all. Everybody is pushing for the same thing: to get money. You do whatever you have to do to get the check.
What’s with all the rapping about pregnant teenage girls?
[I’ve knocked up] like three. That’s just learning; that’s just being a kid. But hey, I paid for those abortions. I had a high school sweetheart who got pregnant but she lost the baby right near her due date. At one stage, it was the best thing that happened in my life because I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if I had a baby. But in the other sense, it f—ed me up.
Are you still together?
No. The person who got her pregnant went to jail for life for murder, so she never met her father; I’m father to her 12-year-old daughter.
One of your songs is entitled “Die Like A Rockstar.” How do you envision the end?
To be honest, I always thought I was going to die in a car accident. That’s probably why I haven’t learned to drive. No, I want to live till 70; I want to be the first 50-year-old rapper.
Do you want kids in the future?
No, I’m too selfish. This can’t be carbon-copied.
How many girls have you slept with?
In my lifetime? That’s an uncountable number man. I’ve been f—ing since I was like 13 — it’s got to be in the thousands. I’m sure I f—ed more than 100 on the A$AP [Rocky] tour.
Do you get girls out the crowd?
No, I try to keep that shit personal, man – I still have a girlfriend [laughs].