This post originally appeared on SF Critic.
Written by Andres Murillo
It was said that when death-hop trio Death Grips signed to Epic Records, the powerhouse label was so determined to sign the crass group that they would not let any of them leave the building unless the dotted line was filled. Blasting their way into the music scene last year with the release of their debut album The Money Store, Death Grips have made loudness, obscenities and sound thrashing a staple to their appeal, making sure to scare the shit out of you with everything they can possibly do. If labelmates Rihanna and Usher play the poster-children for pop likeability and catchiness, Death Grips have undoubtedly become the kids you wouldn't want to be seen with, a distorted vociferation in the muffled distance.
Now less than five months later, when you thought the trio could not get any more reckless and unpredictable, they never fail to prove us wrong. With what was supposed to be the second album for Death Grips under Epic/Columbia NO LOVE DEEP WEB, the label unsurprisingly seemed to suddenly have some cold feet in the actual release, delaying the date to reportedly "sometime next year." Apparently, this didn't play well with the group. Yesterday, Death Grips performed the ballsiest move the music industry has seen in quite some time -- they released the long-delayed album themselves on their website for free, against all contractual obligations.
One track into the album though, and suddenly the fear and hesitation behind Epic's move gets a slight sense of validation. From the beginning to the end of the introduction track "Come Up and Get Me," the listener becomes seized in a reign of loud glitches and unusual sounds in the form of synthesizers. The unconventional instruments increasingly pound upon each other, thrusting sounds of chaos and futuristic madness. And that's only before vocalist MC Ride starts shouting his way into your eardrums. Unintelligible and bordering obnoxious, Ride sounds like the regular delusional bum yelling incongruously at nothing, the kind that you can sense the danger, yet can't look away from for some reason. It's that perplexity, that fascination with the frenzied and maniacal that makes the album what it is. In the off-the-wall track "Lock Your Doors," MC Ride exclaims that he's "got some shit to say just for the fuck of it." A definite tone that Death Grips persistently utilizes throughout NO LOVE DEEP WEB.
While many heavy metal or hardcore hip hop groups also toy with the sounds of rage and lunacy, it becomes clear that the key factor behind Death Grips' unique appeal does not rest in the anger spoken, but lies in the way the emotions are portrayed. Never for a moment can anyone pinpoint a genre or put a box on the sounds. Vocalist MC Ride always seems to stumble between off-beat "rapping" and just plain brash shouts, an odd mix which somehow works without question. In the second track to the album "Lil Boy," as soon as a hip hop enthusiast might find comfort in the opening tom-filled drumbeat, a slap to the face comes in the form of synth thrashing dub waves. Rapid and outlandish drums generally fill the air for most tracks, creating way for the dirty, guttural synthesizers and samples. Its pandemonium and it's beautiful.
In a world where the polished cheeks of pop sensations such as Justin Bieber or One Direction reign supreme in the media, Death Grips become the polar opposite. Ugly, grimy and disturbing -- the group flaunts these attributes, parading the lo-fi face of 21st century angst. The lack of care for musical conventions, accessibility and audible cleanliness become a critique that drives the genius of the group, a factor that gives them the role of the Antichrist to the music world. Whether their message gets heard or they diffuse into total obscurity, it's almost guaranteed that the trio has absolutely no regard, and that is what makes it so exciting.