It’s about time someone brought back the crazy. Since their mix tape “Exmilitary“ made rounds on the blog circuit last year, Death Grips have slowly been building hype around their uncompromising, brutal and just plain weird approach to hip-hop.
Led by the seriously terrifying MC Ride and one-man-drumming-army Zach Hill, Death Grips’ sound is wonderfully hard to pigeonhole, with hip-hop being the obvious jumping point but the final result coming in somewhere between punk, glitch, plunderphonics and industrial music. While their mix tape was worthy of notice but a little too glitchy to actually connect with, “The Money Store” takes a huge step forward in realizing all of the potential this band has to both electrify the genre and produce the angriest album to come off a major label in some time.
From the second the record starts, it’s obvious that a monster has been let out of its cage. Hill’s frantic rhythm section gives way to one of the few tracks on the album where what MC Ride does can be easily described as rapping. For the most part, Ride’s sections are less traditional rap verses and more akin to exclamatory punk-rock shouting; but as Ride races through his lines on “Get Got” and the guitar samples behind him grow in intensity, it’s easy to tell that whatever Death Grips calls what they do, they’re ridiculously talented at it.
There are so many ideas crammed into this album that at some points the songs without obvious hooks disintegrate into the general ambiance of the bigger picture; however, the tracks that work simply annihilate. “I’ve Seen Footage” cruises along on an eerie chorus and manipulated vocals that work together to make an extreme, hard-hitting sing-a-long. “System Blower” grooves on a low-end crunch so obvious it should be stupid but pulls it off with all the brutal energy of a shark at a blood buffet. “Punk Weight” opens up with a dancey Bollywood riff that slowly builds before giving way to an absolutely destructive wall of bass distortion. MC Ride’s unrelenting pummel-down of words never stops sounding like a call to arms, but the energy of the album always feels contained to those holding the rally – that is, until the final song.
If the previous 12 songs served as the warm up to a protest, “Hacker” is the moment when all shit breaks loose and all that’s left to do is riot. Building on a simple loop with Ride’s vague disses on Gaga and Apple Stores glitching in and out of comprehension, the beat finally drops a full minute in and by God, is it unholy. Distorted screams stand alongside catchy guitar riffs and pounding drumbeats, and Ride’s repeated chorus of “When you come out your shit is gone/I’m in your area” bring all the ideas put forth in the album together for a climax that’s impossible not to move to.
If there’s anything that can be said about Death Grips, it’s that they have found a truly unique sound. Even fellow indie hip-hop Satan worshippers Odd Future don’t convey rage in as sonic a way as “The Money Store” does. Since his rise to prominence in the 2000’s, Zach Hill has worked with so many different projects that his output, while consistently fascinating, has only produced a few albums that earn true classic status. The fact that Hill has cut out all other projects to singularly focus on Death Grips really shows, and his out-of-control approach to songwriting absolutely blooms throughout this record.
Although there is a decent amount of noise on “The Money Store” that reveals a band too overstuffed with ideas to trim some of them down, the moments of genius that come through truly connect on a level that most other acts don’t even know exists, and with another album due out later this year, there’s every reason to believe that Death Grips will get even better.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.Goldner@colorado.edu.