There’s something gnawing at me. What that something is I’ve yet to uncover, but the chunks of flesh it’s snatched don’t go without notice. “Flag full of backslide,” says MC Ride, and I’m baffled that this is the first I’ve written about the perennial Fuck You’s—Death Grips. A collective of fist-clenching degenerates, Death Grips are a group (of sorts) hailing from, I guess, Sacramento, California. They’re pissed, maybe, or happy. Depends on which day you catch ’em. Concerning their newest releases from the forthcoming Year of the Snitch, well… call me a dissenter among the faithful.
White boys that love Death Grips hate “Streaky” because it doesn’t fit within their specific context of subversive hip-hop. It’s too catchy, too linear. It grazes mainstream, runs a finger up the unspoken, the forbidden. “Flag full of backslide.” In the spirit of subversion: Isn’t that the point, white boys?
Sorry, but did you fuck up your presets? In my experience—one that will undoubtedly be maligned as pocked and misguided—Death Grips is about nothing and everything. That sounds like a shitty cop-out, but its proved itself true. Charles Manson is a lunatic, but he proves an intoxicating lead-in to “Beware.” In which archive do you file this reference? Where is the fucking line? The chalk’s faded. What is social commentary and what is nonsense? These days, what’s the difference? More so, who cares?
“Streaky” fits nowhere except within itself. Zach Hill’s universe obeys no laws of physics. You’re lashed from end-to-end with woozy beats and cagey hi-hats. MC Ride, as always, is your carriage through foreign wilderness. Even if he’s not the most reliable tour guide, repeat listens reveal an undercurrent of a particularly weird sexual experience. Or do they? Honestly, I have no idea, and neither do you. “Flag full of backslide.”
“Streaky” is a single, sure, but why pretend that’s its fate? You and I know Death Grips. “Streaky” will have its place, its due process. It’s a puzzle piece, nothing more or less.
“Black Paint” is that oft-promised “Death Grips 2.0,” that bastion of musical wealth so greatly coveted by white men in their early-to-mid-20s that promises a hip-hop bend to what is, essentially, industrial-grunge music. It rips the whatever off my nails.
“Black Paint” is a jaw-grinder, a head-swiveler, an open sore you can’t help but find pleasure in picking. MC Ride’s voice pierces the ethereal and, of course, screams at you. “I am gonna take your coat, say thanks.” Thanks.
“I require privacy / I’m always thinking finally,” Ride bellows amidst the chaos of a drum-machine and fidgety slaps of vaguely rhythmic beats and whatever other cacophony-makers Zach Hill throws into the ether. It’s hell and home for Death Grips.
You’ll find neither solid ground nor meaning here. Retreat. Whatever place white men were looking for, me included, is lost in the smolder of these songs. Find a safe space. Hide. Forget about the meaning of music. Death Grips has ripped it apart. Will they piece it together? Again—who cares? Run. Run as fast and far as you can.
Just know that Death Grips is in tow, prepared to pounce on your insecurities, your self-inflicted ruin, your homemade hell. Find a friend, and for the love of God, hold them close.
“Flies vomit me.” Mania reigns. The frenetic energy of “Flies” is curbed only by what seems to be a constantly lowering pitch. The insanity of Zach Hill’s drum machine is truncated by an impending collapse. “Half-lidded,” Ride croaks.
The video cuts between night-vision camcorder footage of Ride rapping, hood- and cap-laden, and Ride suspended in midair, jumping (?). “Exception, complexion of silver-drinkers,” he raps. In the night-vision, compared to the cuts of his soaring above the ground, Stefan Burnett’s visage is noticeable pale, absent of shaded browns and blacks. “Exception, complexion.”
Death Grips is the embodiment of musical abscission. They rip leaf from stem, tear apart limbs, pluck a bird of its feathers. Then comes the mashing. Music becomes less about experiment and more about conquest. Domination, even. Pitch is ignored. Rhythm is an object. The idea of Death Grips as a musical act exists only in an echo chamber.