An incredible, precedent-resetting manifesto from the Californian extreme rap crew.
Paul Lester 2012-04-11
Even given the stellar company – Odd Future, The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky et al – Death Grips stood out in hip hop circles in 2011. Vocalist Stefan Burnett, aka MC Ride, and the production team of Andy Morin (under the alias Flatlander) and Zach Hill, the drummer for Hella, actually didn’t so much stand out as pummel and bludgeon with their debut album/mixtape Exmilitary. It featured the astonishing single Guillotine, accompanied by a video that fully expressed the group’s jittery hyperanxiety and sense of a micro-paramilitary unit holed up in their native Sacramento, not so much waiting for the bomb to drop as assuming that it already has.
Talking of bombs... On this, the first of two albums due for release this year, Death Grips achieve the density and intensity of several Bomb Squads, Public Enemy’s famous production wing. The Money Store may be their first recording since signing to Sony, but it hardly betrays signs of softening before their new paymasters. If anything, what they lose in sonic impact you gain in range: Hill and Morin seem to invent new rhythms and textures on each track.
Opener Get Got is madly inventive and crammed with ideas; it's art rap masquerading as aural thuggery. Like most everything here, it will stun even those familiar with the more far-out output of the Def Jux label, a crushed collision of extreme electronica, industrial and metal: imagine Throbbing Gristle in a grinder with Tricky, Slayer and El-P. Dubstep, ghetto tech, juke, punk and, oddly, synth-pop are also part of Death Grips’ aural maelstrom: I’ve Seen Footage is like some long-lost Gary Numan hit from a distant planet where Are ‘Friends’ Electric? became the pop blueprint over Love Me Do, while The Cage evokes the dystopian futurescapes conjured by the early Human League.
Sometimes they synthesise new hybrids. What is that sound on Lost Boys? Avant-dancehall? Industrial slowcore? As for the words, it's tricky making them out, but given the context it's hard not to conclude that there is an overall dissatisfaction with the status quo, a sort of disgust fetishism and biblical bile as MC Ride declaims as though from a pulpit within a church in flames. Death Grips invite such fanciful, apocalyptic extrapolations.
F*** That encapsulates DG’s worldview, and their language of dissent and alienation. With their siege mentality, they are arguably a new paradigm, obviously oblivious to the usual trappings of rap, a grievous counter to the culture of consumerism and acquisition. The track System Blower is well titled: it, like so much around it, threatens to blow your speakers with every maximalist second. Bring the noise? It’s already here.