Payback finds Danny!, seven albums into his career, feeling disenfranchised from and disillusioned with the rap industry, and after dealing with album delays, remaking whole albums, and watching other rappers' stars rise using the same D.I.Y. approach to promotion that the MC and producer helped to pioneer in the Internet era, it's easy to see why. Now, with the backing of ?uestlove's Okayplayer label, Danny! is seizing upon his opportunity for catharsis, delivering an album of tightly produced meditations on the state of the industry. Were it anyone else, an album like Payback would be easy to dismiss as overly self-indulgent (a fact the MC references on "Myintrotoletuknow"), but an album about struggling to make it is infinitely more relatable than listening to Kanye West ruminate on the heavy burden of fame and fortune, and lines like "If I have to be the next big thing 20 years in a row I'ma give it a go" highlight the kind of drive and desire that help to make Danny! a sympathetic character. While Payback's status as a concept album makes it a rarity in the hip-hop world, even rarer for that realm is an album that's more focused on a continued narrative than creating a breakout single, making the album something that's to be experienced in its entirety rather than by cherry-picking a few club bangers out of the track list while the rest of the album is tossed away. Sure, his penchant for concept albums might be the thing keeping Danny! from his time in the limelight, but it's just as likely that a talent like his is one that has been unlucky to have not been touched by the fickle hand of fate, and while a lot of people might ascribe to the old saying "I'd rather be lucky than good," you have to believe that at some point, being great would be good enough.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney