Where to start? Listening to Death Grips is an experience not unlike the bad trip you had where you knew for a fact you were going to die. Still, you’d never take it back. It’s difficult to provide a sense of structure to music that is so ephemeral it instills temporary sensations of anxiety, anger and paranoia (a perfect complement to the hacked-to-death, visceral melodies and often aggressive/violent rants from Stefan ‘MC Ride’ Burnett) in the listener. Visions of impending doom and loneliness permeate an ethereal atmosphere that would have Dante abandoning Virgil in the inner rungs of hell and running for his life. I occasionally find myself removing my headphones, muttering ‘fuck’ to myself, taking a deep breath, traversing the entire floor space of my apartment, then sitting back down and reapplying my headphones.
The music resonates with so much more than death. It focuses on many difficult human emotions and experiences that often escape us, those that can drive a person insane, but, then again, all the experiences Death Grips represent have one endpoint, right? It is this sense of futility that makes Death Grips so great even when the listening experience is outright uncomfortable and mind-numbing; there is still something to gain from listening, which is both relative to the listener, yet general enough that we understand the importance of otherness and originality of vision that Death Grips embodies so fantastically.
We have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable or Death Grips will escape us completely. It’s that dark, gothic, unattainability that tantalizes us and has us coming back for more. Know this: There is no prize. There was never a prize. There will never be a prize. The pandemonium does not stop here. Death Grips is a multilevel manifestation of chaos. Sometimes it is one member, sometimes two, maybe three, maybe no one. The pinnacle of their punk-rock cultural aggression saw them recording No Love Deep Web for Epic and then releasing it for free under the creative commons license. They were dropped from Epic, but only after shafting them (take a look at the boner on the album cover) while flipping them off from behind, saying ‘fuck you’ at the same time. “Fuck do you do?/Fuck a man with hips for hulu.”
In their newest record niggas on the moon (which you can download for free here), the first volume of their double album the powers that b, Björk is used as some kind of mock collaboration in which they take samples of her voice and stuff it into some wood-chipper and use the pieces to create a vocal mosaic for whatever they please. Björk advertised the record on Twitter as if it were some sort of active collaboration “i am proud to announce my vocals landed on the new death grips album !”, but then goes on to use the term “found object” to suggest she was more of a consumed product (a parodic act of violence? Death Grips have many comedic moments. Listen to the chorus of “Big Dipper”.) as her samples were clearly thrown into the vortex of the sonant chaos that often characterizes the group. It is this manipulation of art and expectation that makes Death Grips worth listening to as they continuously challenge normality through music.
The biggest hype for niggas on the moon, though, is that they’ve done it before. They’ve been doing it with every record and critics are not only getting used to it, but they’re yearning for something new, something that challenges the aggression and anger that came before. But Death Grips is not a group willing to sacrifice what it’s good at to satisfy anyone, and realizing the inevitability of their demise, they have decided to end the project. In the words of Kurt Cobain (or Neil Young) ‘it’s better to burn out than to fade away.’ Note to self: there will never be a prize. jenny death, the second volume of the powers that b, will still be released later this year.