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    Danny!

    Danny! Biography

    In an industry where artists trade identity for dollars and mediocrity is a mainstay on Top 10 playlists, it's refreshing to see an artist stay true to his or her craft. As tempting as it is to change one's style, most musicians could care less about acceptance, concerning themselves more with musical integrity than record sales.

    South Carolina rapper/producer Danny, who recently released his third and allegedly final LP "Charm", is one out of a handful of artists that still lives by this ethos; appealing to many crowds without ever conforming to one, many consider Danny to be a breath of fresh air in a genre cluttered with uninspiring and often unintelligent music. "Charm", with its brilliantly-executed storyline and concept hidden inside melodic tracks and memorable lyrics, is the follow-up to 2005's lauded but quickly-forgotten "F.O.O.D." and is the first of Danny's albums to become available worldwide. With the aid of an exclusive distribution deal, Danny is poised to show not only his fickle hometown but the entire globe what his purpose is: making good music.

    Born in the early '80s to a mother and father both enlisted in the U.S. Army, Danny began to develop a deep love for music as a child; years passed and by the age of 15 he was adept in creating keyboard- driven beats on his Yamaha with ease. Picking up a pen and pad the following year, he began to plant the seeds of what would become a seminal rap career. Over time Danny would befriend several local acts, offering production work and guest vocals, and make a name for himself both behind the boards and in the booth.

    While in college Danny continued to experiment with music production, developing a cult following around his school in the process. Drawing warranted though unwanted comparisons to established producers of the era -- some comparisons which, to this day, have both helped and hindered the progression of his music career greatly -- he learned a variety of techniques in a short amount of time, and in 2002 felt compelled to work on a solo debut, tentatively titled "The Danny Swain LP".

    As the oft-told story goes, however, the album never came to pass. During production on his self-titled project Danny was accused of changing grades for over 300+ students at his college, a charge that he vehemently denies to this day. The ambitious MC was expelled from Claflin University and forced to retreat to his hometown in November of 2003. His credibility harshly damaged and his dreams forcefully snatched from him, Danny woefully put away the pen, pad and equipment and vowed to quit music for good.

    After a brief bout with depression and subsequent alcohol abuse, Danny quickly bounced back and spent much of 2004 juggling jobs, rebuilding his reputation and vigorously trying to re-launch his music career. A year after the grade controversy Danny resurfaced in the Columbia hip-hop circuit and released his first official album, "The College Kicked-Out". With the baby-mama drama ode, "I'm Movin' Out", and the wistful "I Wish" fueling the album, "The College Kicked-Out" was well on its way to becoming a hometown favourite and, for Danny, personal redemption. Though a stellar work in its own right, the success of "The College Kicked-Out" was marred from the start by a poorly thought-out marketing plan. Borrowing heavily from the title of Kanye West's debut LP, "The College Dropout", the otherwise excellent album became panned as a knock-off of a more successful and proven talent. In a strange twist of fate, words that were once directed as compliments were now used as insults and scathing accusations of "biting"; everyone from local on-air personalities to fellow South Carolina artists heckled Danny tremendously for his efforts.

    Undaunted, Danny decided to pursue a degree once more and moved to Georgia in January 2005 to enroll at the Savannah College of Art & Design (the alma mater of neo-soul princess India.Arie); shortly after starting classes he began work on a second LP entitled "F.O.O.D." (Finding Out Our Destination). The project was released in May of 2005 and while a solid effort, producing such memorable songs as the open love letter "It Changes" and the cynic's anthem "Fullaschidt", it failed to match the fresh, unafraid sound established by "The College Kicked-Out". Whereas his first album was defined by crisp production and light-hearted tunes, "F.O.O.D." was a juxtaposition of angry, venomous and at times self-deprecating lyrics over somber backdrops. Incidentally, the album received little attention, a sharp contrast to "The College Kicked-Out"'s rampant publicity.

    Now, with "Charm", it appears as if Danny's "finally got it right". The intentional double-entendre of a title serves both as an acknowledgment of how Danny wins fans over as well as an affirmation that the third time around is indeed the "charm". Narrating the dream of an aspiring musician who longs for stardom, "Charm" is a concept album in the vein of The Miracles' 1975 masterpiece "City Of Angels". Part-cautionary, part-entertaining -- and eerily prophetic -- every track leads into the next, building off of the previous song's momentum.

    Topics ranging from despair ("Give Me A Chance") to triumph ("Charm") to touring ("Can't Wait") and encountering prejudice while on tour ("Strange Fruit") to infidelity ("Temptation") to alcoholism ("My Problem") all get covered on this 21-track disc, which boasts an impressive but slim guest roster and a surprise twist ending. The LP also pokes fun at overly-lyrical MCs ("Lip Flappin'") and features a heart-wrenching tale of an extramarital affair gone horribly wrong ("Where Were You"). "Charm"'s timeless production, thought-provoking lyrics and relevant, socially-conscious content make for a highly- enjoyable album about the ups and downs of overnight success.

    The exposure that "Charm"'s worldwide distribution lent him enabled Danny to reach a massive audience and finally escape obscurity and anonymity. Currently promoting his "last" CD around the country, he has managed to transform from an unlikely sensation to a rising star on the verge. Danny's breakout success comes at a most inappropriate time as he maintains in interviews that "Charm" is indeed his farewell album. If this is truly Danny's goodbye as a solo artist then he has succeeded in leaving behind a lasting impression as one of the more unique hip-hop artists from South Carolina, proving the naysayers wrong and raising the bar for both MC's and producers alike.

    Danny! All Music Guide Biography

    While South Carolina producer/MC Danny! declares himself "A Tribe Called Quest on acid, or EPMD on LSD," he's much more complex than that. Born to military parents in the summer of 1983, Danny Swain never had enough time to grow roots in any particular area. With his family crisscrossing the country, the scenery was always changing and so were Swain's friends. The only long-term relationship he was able to maintain was the one he had with music. His mother supported her son's interests, buying him music equipment every Christmas. By 1998 he was a serious beat-maker and writing rhymes became his next conquest. By 2002 he was ready for his debut and began work on The Danny Swain LP, but the album would never see the light of day. Accused of being the ringleader in a grade-changing scandal at his college, Swain was expelled from Claflin University and by the end of the year he was back home, dejected, depressed, and quitting music. Two years later, he had a change of heart and reappeared on the local scene with his first full-length, The College Kicked-Out. While some saw it as a winning combination of Little Brother and Kanye West, others saw it as derivative of both. Danny! relocated to Georgia for a second chance at higher education at the Savannah College of Art & Design and worked on his second effort, the venomous F.O.O.D. (Finding Out Our Destination). Whether or not the Kicked-Out criticism was the reason for the anger, F.O.O.D. proved that Danny! was a unique rapper who wore his emotions on his sleeve, soul-searching through layers of feelings and taking the listener along for the ride. Although F.O.O.D. went unnoticed by most, Danny! began working on his most ambitious project yet, a concept album. Semi-autobiographical, Charm found Danny! narrating the story of an up-and-coming rapper who looks to fame as a way to escape dismal reality. The album was an excellent combination of his loopy, fascinating productions and his wry, poignant lyric-writing, but it was also his alleged swan song. Even though his star appeared to be rising, the unpredictable Danny! announced Charm was his farewell to the game just as the album was being released in late 2005. The following summer, the instrumental record Dream, Interrupted, which was originally meant to accompany Charm, came out. In early 2007, Danny! won Definitive Jux's Best Music on Campus contest, resulting in a deal for a digital EP and a video with Mr. Lif. However, the Def Jux deal never really happened as they shut down, so Danny! just kept releasing things independently. And I Love H.E.R. came out in 2008 and was named one of that year's top 50 albums by ABC News. This was the first album where Danny! had any outside production assistance, bringing in Alex Goose. Goose did all the production for the follow-up, Where Is Danny?, in 2009, but there was a falling out and Goose slapped an injunction on Where Is Danny?, preventing distribution. So Danny! went back and did all new productions for Where Is Danny?, finally getting it out in 2011. Payback was slated for release in early 2012, but kept being pushed back by the label. However, there was a buzz around the release, as shortly after Payback was completed, ?uestlove of the Roots tweeted that Danny! had caught the attention of Jay-Z, who called Danny! "Hov's Fav Cat," though it would end up being ?uestlove himself who released the album later that year through his own label, Okayplayer Records. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi


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