Throughout history, art has evolved and changed forms in so many ways. There are thousands of pieces of art in the world, but what separates the common artist from Pablo Picasso? What separates the Michael Bay’s from the Stanley Kubrick’s? The answer is their willingness to diverge from the norm to create something completely new and unexpected that the public had no idea was possible to exist. Their experimentation solidified them as geniuses in their field and continued to push their field in a direction that guarantee a positive evolution into something new and innovative. In music, there have been plenty of artists who have done just this: Kraftwerk, The Beatles, NWA, David Bowie, Kanye West, to name a few. And to this list I’d include one of today’s most experimental and boundary pushing groups, Death Grips.
Death Grips is an experimental hip hop group based in Sacramento, California that fuses elements of rock, jazz, and electronic music all together to create some of the most hectic, grimy, and blood-pumping sounds that’ll violate your ears in the best way possible. The band consists of lead singer, MC Ride, who’s peak energy, raspy, and violent voice can get even the dullest of listeners pumped up (or at least very scared/confused), drummer Zach Hill, who’s lighting fast performance keeps those same listeners even more pumped up and struggling to keep up, and finally sound engineer, Andy Morrin, who’s production craft on songs sound eerily similar to a fax machine high on coke who is surprisingly really good at creating the catchiest, head banging beats imaginable.
From the description given of each member, it’s clear to see where the success of Death Grips comes from. Each member’s skillful talents have led them to make multiple critically well-received and sonically impressive albums such as Bottomless Pit, The Powers that B, No Love Deep Web, and arguably their best album, The Money Store.
The album promotion for this album was a weird one, but it’s not different from any of their other roll outs. Before Bottomless Pit was released, the band tweeted a picture of writing on a napkin announcing that the band broke up. For No Love Deep Web, the band went against their record label and released the album earlier than expected with the album cover being a picture of Zach Hill’s penis. For this rollout, the band tweeted out the phrase “Death Grips is online” and would then retweet any tweet that said the same thing, usually accompanied by a “cursed” image. This, along with their disgusting album cover, equally disgusting and eerie music videos, and a creepy tracklist video prepared fans to expect one of their weirdest and most anticipated albums since The Powers that B. Year of the Snitch is one of Death Grips weirdest and most unique albums sounding so similar and yet so new at the same time.
The opening song, “Death Grips is Online” (sound familiar?), is an amazing first track that wastes no time getting your ears ready for the album. It sounds like a Sonic the Hedgehog level set in hell, with energetic guitar riffs, smashing crash cymbals, and catchy synths. MC Ride is at an energetic high as usual on this song, with his eerie, foreboding voice on the bridge to a raspy yell at the chorus that gets you hyped for the rest of the song. “Death Grips is Online” then transitions into their next song, “Flies”, which is arguably their eeriest one yet. The descending, electronic sounds you hear along with Ride’s voice sounds like you’re falling into a downward spiral surrounded by flies.
That creepy description of flies is a feeling that lasts throughout the album, as if you’re walking through a cemetery or nearing the gates of hell. “Black Paint”, the most energetic song on the album, is a high point, containing Ride’s best vocal screeches, a catchy as hell guitar riff, and Zach Hill’s infectious drumming. It’s a song that you want to scream every lyric to while jumping around and banging your head in the process.
The next song, “Linda’s in Custody”, is a very weird song with lo-fi vocals with a claustrophobic feeling accompanying it, but unfortunately ends up being a low point in the album. There are points in the song where you expect it to reach the same feeling of excitement given in the previous songs, but those moments don’t come. This feeling is also prevalent in “The Horn Section” and “Outro”. While these songs weren’t as great as songs prior, it doesn’t slow the album down. In fact, they are some of the fastest, craziest songs in the album. Besides, the next songs, like “Hahaha”, which sounds like going through a roller coaster ride through a haunted
circus while MC Ride laughs at you and calls you a bitch and “Dilemma”, which actually features the director of Shrek and Shrek 2 narrating in the beginning explaining that Death Grips is in a “dilemma”, brings the energy back to a great high point.
With a great opening song, there needed to be a just as great outro. “Disappointed” contains iconic Zach Hill drumming along with an incredibly catchy sample . it also has MC Ride screaming “WHY ME?!” in the chorus which is so incredibly loud and piercing that the dark energy it brings perfectly encapsulates and brings an end to the tour through darkness that this album gave.
While the album did contain songs that felt like somewhat disappointing low points, the high points that this album gave made me feel an energy that only Death Grips knows how to give. Im incredibly relieved to know that Death Grips haven’t lost their touch and will continue to make new sounds and music that, while sounding new, still stay true to their original sounds that made them great in the first place. This album is a solid 8/10.
Fav Tracks: Death Grips is Online, Black Paint, Hahaha, Dilemma, Streaky, The Fear, Disappointed
Least Fav Tracks: Linda’s in Custody, The Horn Section, Outro