“At that time, the only thing I knew about the internet was watching porn and trying to hook up with girls off Myspace,” he says. “But after we put Hot Soup out, the next day it was on [hip-hop blog] 2dopeboyz. Then it popped up on another blog, then it popped up on another blog. Before I knew it I was googling myself and shit was coming up! I got addicted to that, no bullshit. I wouldn’t leave my computer.” In 2009, he started abusing the stimulant Adderall, used medically to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, which inaugurated a new creative period leading to Brown’s second album, The Hybrid, released the following year. He found a manager. He started a blog and obsessed over Twitter. He moved out of his grandmother’s house. When the engineer from the recording studio in Queens came to Detroit with Tony Yayo, an artist on 50 Cent’s label, the engineer introduced the two and Yayo invited Brown on tour. The tour instead consisted mainly of insults to Brown’s clothing, an unsuccessful collaborative album with Yayo, and culminated basically with Brown going home feeling he’d squandered his best and last chance at success. But his profile had never been higher, and with his back against the wall, Brown started work on a twisted, autobiographical opus, XXX. His manager asked him which label he’d sign to if he had the chance, and Brown said Fool’s Gold, a joint venture between DJs A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs known mostly for dance music. When his manager happened to run into Catchdubs in the bathroom of a burrito restaurant, he made the pitch, and within weeks the deal went through. Fool’s Gold released XXX online a few months later. The happiest Brown sounds is talking about the support of his label, how they’re telling him to take his time with his next project, that they’re confident in him. There are two things on his refrigerator: bills and a Fool’s Gold sticker.
Around 7:30PM, Brown’s girlfriend, Leila D’Amato, comes home from work as a tattoo artist. She and Brown have the same haircut, though her curls give it a more natural, feminine quality. She unpacks a camera and stretches across the circle of guys to show Brown what she did today (a rose with the name Marilyn), and he nods, unfazed. “Man, Danny, you realize I’m one of the coldest tattoo artists in the city and I can’t get a compliment out of you.” Brown: “I ain’t got tattoos.” An hour later, everyone else files out, leaving the couple alone. D’Amato orders a vegetable pineapple pizza with sesame seeds on the crust and extra butter-cheese from Hungry Howie’s. Brown rolls a blunt for them to share, wheels his computer chair in front of the TV and starts another game of NBA 2K12. She curls up with their cat on the floor nearby, at times resting her head on the bottom steps of the stairway and her feet on the radiator. Brown plays as the Washington Wizards, and tonight he’s matched against the superior Dallas Mavericks. Sitting there without his two front teeth, gangly with his T-shirt just exposing his belly, haircut looking like spilled soup, cursing his hometown, a decade older than most of his peers, Danny Brown embodies the underdog. “They don’t know who the fuck I am out here, walking to the 7-11, Jeremy Scott wings hanging out and all type of shit. They don’t know what the fuck I am about. It’s the illest shit to me.” At the half, the Mavericks lead by 15 points. “This is really how it is out here. This is really all we do. Nothing. And that’s the whole point. There’s nothing to do in Michigan. Michigan, not even Detroit. Not no more. Michigan.” Their apartment’s incredibly boring, but it’s that way by design, a big boring place that’s easy to kick everybody out of. Easy to smoke in. Easy to write in. Being across the street from a 15-foot sound barrier is actually kind of perfect. 30 years of flashlights and breakups and Greyhounds can just bounce around in there.
In the fourth quarter, Brown’s Wizards stage a comeback to win the game. “I’m a chess-playin’ ass nigga,” he says. “It took forever to get here, but the movie ended happy on this one. It didn’t go fucked up. No dick pics to take me out, no drug OD, none of that.” If you follow Brown’s Twitter account, his schedule is laid out in timestamps: up at seven or eight, in bed before 11. It’s about that time. “In March I’m 31, the time all these motherfuckers be dying. The last chapter in some people’s book. I don’t want to leave this shit. I’m finally happy. I want to see 40. So I gotta do something. I gotta get up and run in the morning.”