By: Carlos Lima-Lopez
I honestly can’t imagine any other band out there that has done the type of mischief West Coast experimental Hip-Hop group Death Grips has caused. Taunting their former Major Label Epic Records with leaked e-mails; canceling shows and being no shows at festivals without any explanation; and leaking their shelved album with the one of the most explicit album covers known right now certainly takes the cake. Yes, Death Grips are no doubt total pissants and prats but damn it all, I laugh with them and I completely laud them for their “Fuck You” DIY ethics.
Ever since their explosion in 2011, it’s been nothing but a roller coaster with these guys. Their take on Hip-Hop is definitely not something that can be embraced by purists. Make no mistake; their route is nothing but pure aggression. If Chuck D once said “Bring The Noise”, drummer Zach Hill, keyboardist Andy “Fatliner” Morrin and reclusive rapper MC Ride bring that AND more.
So what can be said about a band that thrives on being unpredictable? The answer is quite simple; release an instrumental album into the New Year that takes a humorous jab at the fans. A humorous jab at their audience?; each song begins with Runaway and after that, a letter like a J. As the album progresses, the letters spell out JENNY DEATH WHEN, a new album by Death Grips that should see the light of day soon.
As for “Fashion Week”, it’s everything I love the about the band and more; experimental vibes and grooves, dark sounds and their penchant for adventure. Being an avid fan since their arrival, I can honestly say this is their cleanest sounding album to date, and not only that, their most musically adventurous.
For a band that turns up the juice and doesn’t know when to turn down, there are indeed quite a few moments that caught me by surprise. The first Runaway N has that happy sounding synth with this bouncy Hip-Hop beat. You can probably hear it in any commercial if they sold it to anyone. Runaway T has this slow groove but let me tell, it’s thumping. It also has this guitar sounding keyboard raising and lowering as the song as the song progresses. I can’t even forget the second Runaway H with its live drums and this happy sounding guitar. Truth be told, I’m very much digging this colorful turns the trio are taking.
However, that dark brooding energy that the band is often known; trust, they have oodles of that stuff just oozing out. Runaway J definitely gets the party going as Death Grips announce their “return” while the second Runaway N is a rock and roll head banger. The first Runaway H has this greasy synth bassline and has this razor sharp synth that figuratively kinda hurts the ears. Then one of my favorites, Runaway W, sounds like the demented Christmas song I’ve ever heard.
I should mention MC Ride is virtually absent from this album. One to be one of the most guttural and visceral rappers I have heard, MC Ride yells at the top of his longs and demands that you listen to him. However, it’s his delivery that’s his selling point; he’s like a poet who has acquired all the grimy instruments of life and plays them like a tortured soul.
The nature of the band’s existence has been raising eyebrows, and questions from audiences and social media ever since the release of this new album. What, existence? Let’s go back to Summer 2014; they have just released the first half of their “Powers That B” double LP entitled “Niggas on The Moon”. Featuring their most aggressively subdued but ambitious sounds, and with chopped vocal contributions from Bjork, that album is nothing short of amazing (voila!). Following the release, Death Grips released a letter written on a napkin, stating the band has reached their goal and they have decided to “retire”.
OK, but soon a newly activated Twitter surfaced for Death Grips. Perhaps the most noticeable tweets were about the band going on tour and they did not really put the kibosh on their career. Not only that, they taunted Pitchfork about their no show for their festival. Also, a new video titled “Inanimate Session” surfaced and the twitter page had a picture from said video as far back as August.
Even if the band is doing all of this is simply to be rabble rousers and they are indeed returning, no one should fault them for doing what they want. They are very passionate about their art and the delivery of their art, and if they can’t put their hearts into it, the trio knows very well they might as well stop. They aren’t doing this to be a nuisance to their fan base but being a major label for short time and experiencing the horrors of label politics and not wanting to invest in their craft, hey! I would release an explicit cover to make a bold statement.
They are aggressive purveyors about being true to their craft. You might love or you might hate their guts and quickly label their stuff as “not art”, but regardless of that, they have turn the industry inside out and have made a lasting legacy. Death Grips are here to stay and as long as they have the means to put out their hard work, you better believe I’ll happily be noided. AYE AYE!!!