It’s a story as old as time itself, or at least as old as the 30 year recording history of what we call hip-hop music today: local artist has big dreams, starts recording and releasing his own albums, word of mouth spreads, a big label scoops him or her up and… NOTHING. Unfortunately that’s just the way it goes. It doesn’t really matter whether they give you a six figure advance or a box of Newports and Puma sweats – once your name is on the dotted line in the industry your career is in someone else’s hands. You wouldn’t think record labels would sign hot artists toNOT promote them but it happens all the time for any # of reasons – label politics, tax writeoffs, lack of faith in the “new sound” that’s not the same as what’s on radio, and more.

You wouldn’t have thought this was a problem for the acclaimed Daniel Swain, he who worked his way from underground fame to critical acclaim with albums like “Charm” and “Danny is Dead,” even earning a Grammy nomination and a big record deal with Definitive Jux in the process. Def Jux has been eeriely quiet since Danny was signed though, far too quiet for a man with as much creative drive and energy as D. Swain. What’s a brother to do? Wait around? Play the political record game? Abandon all hope? Not this South Carolinian. Quiet as kept Danny has parlayed his critical acclaim into continued underground CD’s. What’s Def Jux going to tell him to do? Not make a living? Starve?

So here we are back again with another new D. Swain release, only this time it’s “The Best of Danny! The Millenium Collection.” The point here is that Danny’s earlier albums like “The College Kicked-Out” and “F.O.O.D.” that recent Danny converts may not have heard are archived here. It’s definitely a worthwhile idea, because Danny didn’t pop up straight out of Columbia, South Carolina out of nowhere and step right into the spotlight. While some people mistakenly believed Danny was parodying Kanye on “College Kicked-Out” and many others were quick to draw comparisons between the two, the only obvious signs on songs like “My Baby” are that they both self-produce their shit. Otherwise the lyrics and the smooth flow are all Danny’s:

“How you doin’ shorty, let me introduce myself
My name is Danny and my album debuts on the 12th
I wanna get to know you better baby
Maybe we can lock ourselves up in the studio for eight weeks
I was headed over there anyway
How ’bout you slip them seven digits and make Danny’s day?
I can take you to states you’ve never been to
Have you on a yacht, eating steak and Mexican food
…world travel don’t intrigue you?
I can put you in a catalog, modeling for Spiegel
Cause your face is a ten, and your body’s like whoa
Let’s take it to the basement and…
I ain’t like them other fellas
You can even take me home with you and make your mother jealous
I can shower you with cash, did I mention
We could be 2004’s Ashford & Simpson”

Danny isn’t just smooth talking like a pimp though. “I Only Wanna Be With You” proves Danny can pick up a faster flow and kick a little more subtle game to dames:

“So what’s the deal, you don’t have to be confused at all
If you wanna roll, all you have to do is call
And I’ll be there to pick you up if you fall
Order a root beer float and get two straws
You can always call on me if you wanna talk
I’ll be right there, I won’t even give it a second thought
You know you’re fine, I tell you all the time
You’re what the other fellas call a dime, but I call you a queen
And I wanna fulfill all of your dreams
If you’re diggin what I’m sayin’ just follow me
And if not then my apologies
For wastin your time, baby
You makin my mind crazy”

There are also some Danny selections from more recent albums such as “Charm,” like the swinging “Fly” that loops the same beat as O.C. did on “Far From Yours” and may put it to far much better usage in the process:

“So I’ve been through these hard times, mentally scarred
Almost lost my sanity but got no sympathy cards
And there’s been, a couple times when my knees buckled
I’d be in a heap of trouble if I didn’t juggle these rhymes
You know these God-forsaken issues make you wish you could fly
Sometimes I wanna put my fist to the sky
And say goodbye to these worldly things
I wish that I could trade these pearls for wings
And give complacency a whirl, it seems
Every time I feel content, it’s meant for me to lose
Control of situations, my patience is overused
Confused, my friends are saying I should be glad that I made it
So tell me why I feel so jaded
I’d trade it all for a couple minutes of some peace of mind
And leave behind this stress; if I cease confinement
Of my soul, my soles can finally leave the ground
I ain’t never comin’ down”

Trying to go wrong on “The Millenium Collection” is an uphill battle, given that Danny is already one of the most underrecognized hip-hop pioneers in the biz today and he’s certainly not going to call up weak shit for a “best of” album so early in his career. From the smooth all-star grooves of “Strange Fruit” with ‘Drea and Pence, to the banging DJ Premier-esque “My Whole World” to showing his skills as a “Rhyme Writer Crime Fighter” the whole album is FIRE. Compilations this comprehensible and enjoyable don’t come along every day, so copping this album sends a definite double message to the industry – Danny! is in demand and you’re not willing to wait for them to finally get around to putting a new release in stores. Cop this one.

Danny! :: The Best of Danny! The Millenium Collection
8.5Overall Score