Death Grips: ripping up hip-hop’s rulebook
Before all meaning there is rawness, and it’s in rawness’ name that Death Grips preach. Shrouded in the mystery and nihilism that’s come to characterise 2011’s leftfield hip-hop in the wake of Odd Future, rawness is the word the California collective just keep returning to. It’s their central idea, their altar, their church. “Beyond raw,” says producer and visual artist Flatlander, the project’s mastermind. “Our sound is post-Satanic, post-Christian.”
Now you mention it, in our age of post-consumer fatigue and trust-destroying social upheaval, there’s something timely in a sound that speaks explicitly from beyond the principles of good and evil – even if that sound is as potentially violent and mind-damaging as this. They’re like a deadly serious Tyler & Co (no toilet misogyny here, folks).
Straight from a basement in Sacramento, Flatlander, along with the frenetic and possibly dangerous MC Ride, Mexican Girl, Info Warrior and math-rock supremo and sometime “eight-armed” Wavves drummer Zach Hill, blew a hole in the head of the internet a few months back when they unleashed debut mixtape ‘Exmilitary’ for free. Sampling the likes of Link Wray’s classic ‘Rumble’, snippets of Jane’s Addiction and even Charles Manson (all playing second fiddle to MC Ride’s disturbed screaming, we might add), their heavy, introspectively macabre beat-soup was a disarming expression of their universe. Netizens dug their new science and downloads skyrocketed, and what’s more, the stems and a cappellas for ‘Exmilitary’ have now been released online for followers to refit for their own ends.
With a strong visual style, Death Grips’ YouTube account seems more like an abrasive video-art installation, while their live shows are all-inclusive carnivals of chaos. As Flatlander describes it, “the whole room becomes an instrument.” They’re currently recording a debut proper that could very well redefine hip-hop in 2012, and their arrival in the UK – they’re here until the end of September – promises a right raw ransacking of British shores. Alex Hoban
Need To Know
Based: Sacramento, California
For Fans Of: Odd Future, RZA
Catch Them Live: They’re on tour in the UK until the end of September
On NME.COM: Stream ‘Exmilitary’ in its entirety
Believe It Or Not: Someone once brought a fully functioning guillotine to one of Death Grip’s early shows, in honour of their song of the same name.
This article originally appeared in the October 1st issue of NME