Hippo Campus and Danny Brown take the Breslin stage for Michigan State’s annual spring concert

Delaney Rogers and Mike Merucci

Minnesota-based rock band Hippo Campus and Detroit-born rapper Danny Brown took the Breslin stage by storm this past Tuesday.


The University Activities Board (UAB,) Impact 89FM, Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) and Residence Halls Association (RHA) hosted and organized Michigan State’s annual spring concert. The artists gave an energetic performance – opener Danny Brown delivered a forty-five minute set and headliner Hippo Campus performed for an hour. 


From the moment Brown stepped on stage and the audience felt the bass from the speakers, the crowd was filled with jumping, dancing and mosh pits. Some audience members questioned if JPEGMAFIA would make an appearance for songs that were recently released off the album “SCARING THE HOES.” Even though he did not make an appearance, Brown’s performance and song choices did not disappoint. 


Both musical acts brought a sense of community and connection to the audience. They validated the experience of Spartans and the difficulties they have faced these last six weeks following the events from Feb 13.


One audience member held up a sign asking Brown to sing “I Will,” in which he replied he was not going to initially perform and did anyway.


During Hippo Campus’ performance of their 2015 single “South,” band member Nathan Stocker changed the lyrics to “Go Green, Go White.”


Hippo Campus’ multi-colored and light-filled performance was incomparable to Michigan State’s virtual concert in 2020. Both new students and those who attended through a computer screen just a few years ago could finally enjoy their in-person performance. Hippo Campus effortlessly brings an euphoric energy and excitement to their crowds, making this past Tuesday an emotional and intimate experience. 


Hear our exclusive interview with Hippo Campus ahead of their performance at the Breslin Center:


Students could be seen eagerly lining up outside the Breslin doors four hours before they opened. The line extended to the road. As soon as the doors opened, students anxiously filled the floor of the venue and seats in the upper mezzanine. 


Freshman Sofia Aultman said she is a huge fan of Hippo Campus and an even bigger fan of Danny Brown. She said it was surreal to see the artists up close at Michigan State and hear the fight song play before Hippo Campus took the stage. Aultman waited in line for an hour and a half before the doors opened. 


“I’ve never been so close to the band at a concert before,” Aultman said. “Honestly, it was so cool! I loved every second of it. I met some really cool people in the crowd and heard some amazing music live for very cheap which is so awesome.”


Hippo Campus’ Stocker, also known as Brotherkenzie, sat down with Impact 89FM’s Delaney Rogers, Taylor Truszkowski and Matt Cruz with a chance to connect with them in person and discuss what fans can expect from their upcoming EP “Wasteland,” pre-show rituals and the evolution of the band.


The band’s newest EP comes out April 14. Their latest singles, “Kick in the Teeth” and “Yippie Ki Yay,” display a western sound, hinting to what is yet to come from “Wasteland.” The band has experimented with sounds in recent years and the two singles provide a twangy introduction to their music’s newest era. 


Hippo Campus fuses the themes of innocence, maturity, fame and coming of age into the lyrics of their music. Stocker said this upcoming EP has a concept of imposter syndrome and feeling out of place in the environment you are in. He described it as a false sense of coincidence. 


“The idea of a false cowboyhood just kind of resonated with us, and I think for maybe a lot of people,” Stocker said. “Just with the way that trends work these days… you put a cowboy hat on and it kind of feels like you suddenly have opened up a world that you could explore even if you’re not from anywhere down south.”


Stocker said that “Wasteland” is also about finding yourself in a place that feels foreign or uncomfortable. This is a frequent theme for Hippo Campus which is highlighted throughout their discography in songs such as “Western Kids” and “Baseball,” which bring a sense of transparency to the raw reality of growing up and adjusting to different world views. 


“Translating that to music and the way that we were writing the songs wasn’t really at the forefront,” Stocker said. “It came kind of later as the songs materialized in recording. It feels like there’s a lot of wasteland space out there. You can’t find it online, or you can’t find any sort of safe place online anymore, and it’s even harder kind of in the real world cause you have to build that up with others.”


Stocker said thatYippie Ki Yay” took six years to finish and was one of the most difficult songs to write. The new single was initially written for their first album, “Landmark,” which brought more of a hazy, dreamy sound. “Yippie Ki Yay” did not find a home for an album or EP until “Wasteland” was written.


“Front to back that one took quite a while to develop,” Stocker said. “Other songs are really easy, they kind of just fall out of you.”


Hippo Campus began their career in 2015 with an EP titled “Bashful Creatures.” Since then, the band has released three albums and several EPs. They grew from playing small venues such as the 1,000 capacity sized venue Crofoot in Pontiac, Michigan to headlining at the over 9,500 capacity sized venue Red Rocks this upcoming May.


“I think we try to practice a daily gratitude for where we are and where we could be,” Stocker said. “If we were still playing basements in Minneapolis, I think I would still be enjoying it and invested in it. It’s impossible to really discern, but I think in the spirit of commitment to my friends and the band and the music that we make and the impact that we have and want to have on our fans and surrounding people, I think it’s all worth it at the end of the day with that simple striving alone.”


The members of Hippo Campus have solo careers outside of the band as well. Stocker said that it has always been a work in progress to figure out and the hardest thing to do is align schedules. However, he says that they are extremely supportive of another’s personal and creative endeavors. 


Band member Jake Luppen in recent years has been more transparent about his sexuality in Hippo Campus’ music as well as in his solo work. This shows in their songs “Boys” and “Bad Dream Baby.”


“I think it brought a deeper sense of honesty,” Luppen said. “I think when we first started the band, we were reluctant to write about personal experiences mostly because we were 19 and we didn’t have a lot of personal experiences. So I think as tour went on, as time went on…we had this bank of experiences we wanted to present to the world. As an artist, I feel like I could be more honest now and be more myself, which feels great.”


Hippo Campus shared that fans can expect lassos, boots, giddy ups and spurs for “Wasteland.” 


Brown sat down with Impact 89FM’s Mason Vore, Mike Merucci and Matt Anikiej prior to the concert. 


For Brown, a Detroit-born rapper who was described by MTV as “one of rap’s most unique figures in recent memory,” this was a homecoming of sorts. He was back in Michigan, which initially shaped him and his music, and his ties with the state and the city of Detroit are unbreakable.


“It’s just been practice here for so long,” Brown said. “It’s almost like [Detroit’s] a testing ground for you to make it in the rest of the world. If you can be dope in Detroit and blow up in Detroit, then you can definitely make it anywhere.”


Brown has long been known as a hip-hop innovator. His vocal range, which allows him to rap in his iconic high-pitched yowls on one verse and in low, rumbling waves on the next, has set him wildly apart from many of modern hip-hop’s beloved figures. Not only do his vocals set him apart: His unorthodox beat selection and ability to rap over these seemingly untamable instrumentals have cemented him as a champion of alternative hip-hop. 


Hear our exclusive interview with Danny Brown ahead of his performance at the Breslin Center:


Brown’s 2011 mixtape, “XXX,” is where he initially came into global renown. The tape received widespread critical acclaim and found its place on multiple year-end top ten lists. The success of “XXX” then led into the 2013 EDM/trap rollercoaster “Old” and the 2016 album “Atrocity Exhibition,” which managed to further the experimentation displayed on “XXX.” “Atrocity Exhibition” received even wider acclaim, having been cited for its otherworldly production and harrowing storytelling. It also featured guest appearances from major forces in the hip-hop world, like Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt. 


With his follow-up to “Atrocity Exhibition,” 2019’s “uknowhatimsayin¿,” Brown found himself in brighter territory. From a dark past came a promising future, and a soundscape to reflect that tonal switch-up. The album featured appearances from Run The Jewels, Q-Tip and JPEGMAFIA, among others. As with his previous works, Brown received widespread acclaim for the project.

On the heels of his 2023 collaborative album with JPEGMAFIA, “SCARING THE HOES,” Brown is furthering his mythos in the outer rings of hip-hop. When speaking with the Impact, he said the album is “All over the place.” Sitting with a soil texture triangle before him and laughing, he equated the title track’s texture to clay soil and said that “a song like Fentanyl Tester might be all over the board.”


For Brown, at the heart of “SCARING THE HOES” and its experimentation was the desire to enjoy the music-making experience. “The intention just was to have fun,” he said. “Being in the music business sometimes can become stressful. You can lose sight of why you’re even doing it in the first place.” 


In the end, it’s all about Brown loving what he does, and that applies to much more than rapping. He has his own podcast, he’s streamed countless hours on Twitch, he’s performed stand-up comedy, he’s hosted a poetry workshop and he hopes to write and publish books in the coming years. Being one of the most versatile artists in hip-hop today, it only makes sense for him to be as versatile away from the mic.