Danny Brown / Ashnikko / ZelooperZ Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, October 29

Danny Brown / Ashnikko / ZelooperZ Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, October 29
Photo: Sharon Steele
8
From beginning to end, Danny Brown's Vancouver return at the Vogue Theatre on Wednesday night was gripping and, at its most intense, pummelling, with scant offerings of reprieve.
 
Before the lights turned down, a siren went off. But the only panic that set in came from ZelooperZ. The Detroit rapper and member of Danny Brown's Bruiser Brigade hit on classic hip-hop, but he was most compelling when he rapped with a guttural rasp on songs like "Paypal" and "No," as if he was drowning in a bog of trap beats. He detonated with "Saggin"; its beat sprayed like gunfire. The jaunty "Easter Sunday," which features Earl Sweatshirt, soothed any rattled nerves. A toasty vinyl crackle on "Bigger Than Me," complete with clicks and pops, recalled one of Chance the Rapper's languid Acid Rap jams.
 
After kicking off with "No Brainer," blue-haired, London-based rapper Ashton Casey introduced herself: "I'm Ashnikko, and I talk shit for a job. It's a joke, really. Who let me up here?" she asked with an incredulous laugh.
 
Indeed, despite her anime aesthetic and songs like the quirky, seasonal sweet treat "Halloweenie," Ashnikko bared plenty of teeth. Her confrontational, no-fucks-given attitude was in full candy-coloured splendour on basic hype tracks "Special," "Manners" and "Stupid." Even her poppier songs, "Hi, It's Me" and "Working Bitch," were cut with aggressive beats, themes of sex and self-love, and braggadocio.
 
Most serious of all was her message about consent. "My body is not an invitation for abuse or harassment of any kind, and neither is yours," she said, prefacing "Invitation," which contained the chorus, "This is not an invitation. Fuck you mean you need it? Fuck you mean you RSVP'd? I don't need a reason."
 
Even more than Zelooperz and Ashnikko, Danny Brown was relentless. He bludgeoned the audience with harsh, flashy bangers "Smokin & Drinkin" and "Die Like a Rockstar," and ran circles around them with the electronic gallop of "Dip." And those songs were literally blinding: the only thing harsher were the strobes. "Attak" was a full-on sensory assault. Brown tripled-down with the string of "Ain't It Funny," "Really Doe" and battle charge "When It Rain."
 
The few times Brown relented were his most refreshing moments. He wafted through the low-gravity "I Will." A classic, carefree beat and sounds of turntable scratches filled the nostalgic "Grown Up." The wonky "3 Tearz" continually tripped over an uneven beat that stuttered his momentum. None was more celebratory than "Best Life." With its message of "carpe diem," it was a perfect way to end the heavy show on an uplifting note.