In the YOLO era of hiphop, where autotuned voices and superficial production run a muck in club-ready beats that fade in and out of memory like a boring dream, it’s comforting to know there’re still demented individuals in Sacramento, Calif., who are hellbent on laying out some of the most disturbing sounds this side of a celebrity halfway home.
Also feel free to substitute interesting with twisted, frightening, violent or, my personal favorite, sadistic.
The musical trio known as Death Grips, starring Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett on vocals and the production duo of Zach Hill & Andy Morin, came onto the scene, whatever that was, with their single Guillotine in 2011. The song itself sounds like that bully in highschool who would swing at you and then pound his fist into his other hand right before he did some real damage. . . right before actually doing so.
The magic of Death Grips lies in their utter lack of concern of safety. You want to dance? It’s cool if you can, but you’re going to have to find the right beat to do it, and that beat is hidden under sycophantic rhythm, echoed percussion and the just straight landfill vocals of Burnett.
Their 2012 release, The Money Store, reveals the boys have some slick production skills on them. The beats are harder but also more chiseled, the lyrics more confident and the delivery way more ferocious than usual. Confidence is the keyword here; Death Grips knows they’re perfecting their style, and they’re having a ball doing it.
The album opens with “Get Got”, an instant classic within the first several beats (which, by the way, take about a second to complete). Using drum machines, some schizophrenic synthesizers and hooks that refuse to sit still, Death Grips manages to do the improbable: create the most interesting song of 2012 that absolutely no one’s heard of.
It’s a bummer, really, when did hiphop become so predictable and boring? This isn’t music to drunkenly shake your ass to, this is music to—
Well, anyway, “Blackjack” is another keeper. You ever wonder what would happen if Stanley Kubrick decided to produce a rap song? Neither did but then this song came on when I was running one night and I damn near broke my leg from falling over in shock and amazement. Burnett’s I-want-to-punch-this-glass-window vocals are never better than when competing with vaguely timed beats that sound like those laser effects in StarFox 64. This track is as frightening as it is affecting.
The real winner on this album is the closer “Hacker”. Every album seems to have an issue with how to close it out. Not so with this terrible beauty; it sounds like it’s going to be a skit then all of sudden it breaks out with glitched out beats and cavernous licks. Burnett’s vocals are heavily manipulated (echo, distortion, delay, the works) but I really have no problem with that. The song borrows elements of death metal, intelligent dance music, early Chemical Brothers, punk and general dementia and does not, for a second in its four-and-a-half minute entirety, let go of your audio senses.
Also, for what it’s worth, the chorus (“I’m in your area”) sort of sounds like “I’m in your HARRIER!”, which should automatically make for mandatory listening to anyone who’s ever dealt with those things
Death Grips is superb; don’t even act like you don’t need something like this in your lives.