Images: Cover—StraightFresh.net; Inside: Facebook
“Death Grips” is a pretty intense name—and it fits. Allmusic.com describes them as savage, outraged, unsettling and a whole lot of other words that you wouldn’t necessarily want associated with your brand.
The 3-man band jumped on the hip hop scene in 2011 with their mix-tape, ExMilitary. It wasn’t like anything I had ever heard before—MCRide scream-rapping over Zach Hill’s super tight beats and Andy Morin’s genius samples and keyboard flow. It wasn’t love at first listen for me (or second, or third to be honest) but my boyfriend had it on repeat for weeks so I had to listen to it over and over.
If there is one thing I know about good music (or any real art, for that matter) it’s this: I might not like it at first because my brain doesn’t understand it.
I can’t tell you when it happened, but it did. Death Grips wooed me and I am an unquestioning fan from now until forever. Their messages are deeply ingrained in lyrics:
You speak in abbreviations because real life conversation moves too slow. You're the media's creation, yeah your free will has been taken and you don't know.” —Culture Shock, ExMilitary 2011
The rolling stoner, profit on disaster, my existence is a momentary lapse of reason” — Hacker, The Money Store 2012
Oh, and all of their music has been released for free to the public. In 2012, they signed with Epic Records and released the album, The Money Store (which might be my favorite album). They were poised to tour for the album but they were getting some hefty pressure from Epic to be in the studio so they canceled the tour (yeah, that sucked) and made a second 2012 album, No Love Deep Web.
When Epic refused to release it until 2013, the band released it on SoundCloud alongside a few file-sharing sites (with a D-pic as the album cover no less) so everyone could download it for free. (Is this what inspired Beyonce's video album drop? Maybe.) They were removed from Epic Records shortly thereafter.
In 2013, Death Grips created label Third World Records through Harvest/Capitol and released Government Plates. They sort of toured the country—but the fans never really knew if they would actually show up. In one incident, the crowd destroyed the band’s equipment because they didn’t show. (They did make it to Bonnaroo 2013 and yours truly waded into the crowd of people thrashing about to MCRide’s scream-rap to get justalittlecloser. The bruises were worth it.)
“we are now at our best and so Death Grips is over. we have officially stopped. all currently scheduled live dates are canceled. our upcoming double album "the powers that b" will still be delivered worldwide later this year via Harvest/Third Worlds Records. Death Grips was and always has been a conceptual art exhibition anchored by sound and vision. above and beyond a "band". to our truest fans, please stay legend.”
While I’m not surprised that they would break up when they hit their percieved peak—they consider themselves artists above all—I am totally bummed out by it. I have followed their journey for three years, and love every. single. album. that they released. I respect their “we don't give a shit” attitude toward the money and fame that comes with being celebrities in our society and that they know when to call it quits.
“Hey Kid” is a song from their June 8th release, niggas on the moon, the first installment of their last studio album—the powers that b—featuring Bjork. The second part of the album, Jenny Death, is set to be released later this year. It’s got that same raw feeling as their other work, and it’s damn good. It’s not a pretty song—that’s just not their thing—but it speaks to that deep seeded, fervent animal in all of us.