To say that understated has generally not been Danny Brown’s style since he exploded onto the hip hop scene in overwhelmingly brash fashion more than a decade ago would be to put it very mildly. As recently as this past March, he was on reassuringly lurid form on his thrillingly weird collaborative record with JPEGMAFIA, ‘SCARING THE HOES’; reassuring, that is, because in recent years he has acknowledged severe difficulties with his mental health, ones that drove a man who once wore his copious drug intake as a badge of pride to pursue sobriety. If ‘SCARING THE HOES’ was a diversion from his personal issues, ‘Quaranta’ sees him tackle them head-on; it is, by and large, an introspective and subdued collection of reflections that would have been impossible to envision from this particular artist as recently as 2019. Indeed, this record was written largely in 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic and around the time that he was entering the final year of his thirties; ‘Quaranta’ is Italian for forty. The album deals with addiction, divorce and displacement, with Danny having opted for a fresh start in Austin, Texas, away from his hometown of Detroit, in the aftermath of his marriage failing. There, he has done significant meditation on his place in the world, and unsurprisingly, the beats on ‘Quaranta’ match the lyrical tone. There’s an emphasis on downtempo percussion and claustrophobic electronics, especially on ‘Down Wit it’ and ‘Shakedown’. Meanwhile ‘Hanami’ (named after the Japanese practice of appreciating the transience of flowers) plays like the album in microcosm; it’s a woozy treatise on the finite nature of life that crystallises ‘Quaranta’’s pervasive sense of the party being over. It seems counterproductive, then, to shoehorn in occasional nods to the chaos of old (‘Dark Sword Angel’); those tracks negate what is otherwise a disarming portrait of a class clown suddenly dropping the shield provided by years of off-the-wall zaniness, and offering up his vulnerabilities for us to pore over, instead.