Top 10: The Year of Danny Brown

The Detroit sensation went big time — no, bigger time — and led a pack of D-rooted musicians in making their marks

Jan 4, 2012 at 12:00 am

Talk about your international branding. Sure, Danny Brown has been a wet dream for bloggers and Internet music critics for months and months, but this year he began to transcend his "Internet sensation" tag and is headin' toward some version of "mainstream" fame — you know, famous in the kind of way your mom will have heard of him. Spin magazine says his is the No. 1 hip-hop album of 2011. His latest vid debuted on As of this writing, he's headed with other stars to the Bahamas; a private island for exclusive shows. 

We here at MT headquarters have always loved Brown (even stuck him on our cover back in February; look for Jonathan Cunningham's profile at — his transparent raps of sex and streets, his dope self-parodies and skinny jeans, his bad teeth and brilliant rhymes, his cheap beats and can't-turn-away comic allure. Dude's a total original. And because he was topic of so many of our musical arguments all year, more than any other Motor City artist, and that he made many of our year-end best-of lists, we'll just go ahead and call him our Artist of the Year, OK?

Speaking of our year-end music lists, our writers picked many other Detroit albums and songs. In fact, critics hailed discs from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.'s sweet major label debut to Mayer Hawthorne's sweet major-label debut, from OneBeLo's Labor to Pink Lightning's "Why I Drink So Much," from the Rogue Satellites' Six Sweet Lips to the James Carter Trio's At the Crossroads. Not to mention Elzhi with Will Sessions and more. Pull Detroit songsters from these lists and it doesn't look like much like a Champagne year, now does it? —Brian Smith