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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

What is Death Grips?


Over the past several years, Death Grips has been slowly seeping into mainstream culture. Their song “No Love” provided a fitting soundtrack for the titular character’s drug binge in a 2014 episode of “BoJack Horseman.” In the “Atlanta” Season 2 premiere, the character Darius blares the 2016 Death Grips track “Hot Head” on his car stereo. The Scene department has even made a habit of attempting to sneak some Death Grips onto the music queue at various Observer functions. As you could maybe infer, Death Grips are something of a meme around certain music-loving circles. But who are they and what are they doing?

Death Grips was formed in 2010 in Sacramento, CA by math rock group Hella’s drummer, Zach Hill, and his neighbor, an art student named Stefan Burnett. Burnett would later adopt the name MC Ride. Soon after, he and Hill would later join up with producer Andy Morin (often referred to as “Flatlander”) to form a trio called Death Grips. MC Ride had some background rapping in a more conventional hip-hop group with his brother, but after teaming up with Hill, the two would make music that confidently combined sounds from rap, metal and rock into a unique, monstrous sound that found footing among a niche community of internet music heads. Since their debut 2011 mixtape “Exmilitary,” the trio have put out five LPs that have all provided a different musical environment for MC Ride’s unhinged lyrics about paranoia, rage and disillusionment.

Death Grips fans adore the group’s relentless musical experimentation and their consistent aesthetic. For example, it is basically impossible to find a picture of MC Ride and Zach Hill performing with their shirts on. Between furious, fiery performances and a rampaging crowd, Death Grips live shows don’t lack any of the energy that is present in the group’s music.

Death Grips sits on the border of many different genres of music, but is always just foreign-sounding enough to discourage fans of hip-hop, punk and electronic music. However, if you are big fan of any of these genres, then Death Grips’ 2012 masterpiece LP “The Money Store” is worth a listen. “Hacker” is a world-class electronic dance tune, with ridiculous lyrics to boot. “I’ve Seen Footage” may capture the essence of the group better than any other track in their prolific discography. MC Ride screams about modern technology and staying “noided” (DG speak for paranoid) over a hypnotically droning, industrial beat. Ride is nearly impossible to understand, so this track also doubles as an ideal pump up/workout track.

Like many Death Grips fans, I pretty much hated what I heard my first time listening to the group. But sure enough, these three clowns snuck up on me like music ninjas. I still occasionally listen to a Death Grips song that I cannot bring myself to enjoy. At other times, though, their music seems genius and so catchy that it is only a step removed from some sort of twisted pop music.

In late March, Death Grips announced that their new album, entitled “Year of the Snitch,” would be coming soon. Last week, they released the upcoming album art, which is, of course, a healthy mixture of grotesque and creepy. All signs are indicate that the new album could drop any day now. Their notoriously rabid fan base may deify Death Grips, but there is no denying that these three weirdos are saying something important. Their music has never and will never be for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for something new and experimental, then you should check these guys out. Nobody knows what the new album will bring.