The enigmatic Danny Brown returns to set the bar for alternative hip-hop, nay, hip-hop in general, with the 19-track offering Old, his first full length since 2011’s critically acclaimed XXX.

Old sees Danny Brown push boundaries not just lyrically, but production-wise too, with production handled by the likes of Paul White, Rustie, Oh No and Brown’s touring DJ who handled the bulk of XXX’s production, SKYWLKR. Old doesn’t lack for triple-A featuring artists either, with appearances from Schoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, Purity Ring and UK grime artist Scrufizzer.

In a similar fashion to XXX, the album is again split into two sides in the style of a vinyl record. Unlike the previous album, each side doesn’t carry a specific focus on Brown’s persona; Side A of XXX being the comedic and tongue-in-cheek style of Brown’s music and Side B portraying the serious side of his lyrical content, reminiscent of Brown’s The Hybrid. Old’s Side B is essentially an extension of the story told on Side A, with different apertures of his multi-faceted personality being perfectly mixed throughout.

Side A kicks off with the title track of the album, a somewhat conventional hip-hop track (well, as conventional Danny Brown can be), which gives the impression that Brown’s sound may have matured somewhat. This is true to a certain extent, but perhaps closer to the truth is that Brown has honed his skills as an incredibly diverse artist, with Old touching on all kinds of genres including R&B, UK grime, trap, cloud rap and both old and new school hip-hop.

“With Old you think I’m talking about my age, or where I’m at in my career. But it really means…. Like, when I’m experimenting, making songs with Darq E Freaker and stuff, and then when I go back to my ‘hood, I have people who be like, ‘Where that ‘Old’ Danny Brown shit at?’”. This is the real reason that this release is split into two sides, an appeasement for his older fans with Side A, with the freedom to experiment with Side B.

What makes Brown so exciting is his ability to experiment with his sound without it appearing forced and unnatural, and being able to turn his hand to such a variety of genres with ease. Hip-hop’s ability to churn out the same kind of clones nowadays is quite prolific, but hopefully Old will buck the trend and make what’s left of 2013 an exciting time for hip-hop.

[rating:4.5]

Old is out 8th October on Fool’s Gold Records and available to pre-order through iTunes or stream via Spotify now.