An unconvincing release from this Sacramento rap trio
That there remains a major label out there willing to shower money on a group as experimental and visceral and plain fucking out-there as Death Grips is either testament to the fact there are still a select handful of believers and risk-takers left in this rotten industry, or a sign that all up top have lost their minds for good. Debuting last year with ‘Ex-Military’, this Sacramento trio of self-described “freaks and outsiders” play a strain of rap music jerry-rigged to test the listener to the limits of their endurance: a post-millennial, hyper-masculine eruption of distorted beats and samples presided over by the group’s lone wolf MC, Ride, who perpetually gives it 110 per cent, and then gives it just a little more. The overall effect is a little bit like cowering in a ditch, being berated by an angry drill sergeant, as hip-hop explodes all around you.
‘The Money Store’ – the group’s major-label debut, and the first of two projected full-lengths in 2012 – is not here to make friends. The cover pictures a dominatrix who has carved the words ‘Death Grips’ into her gimp’s chest. The production – handled by Andy Morin and Zach Hill, the latter of noise-rockers Hella – is a battery of distortion-laced Neptunes beat clank, strobing synths and rhythms pitched up to triple (or quadruple) time. On ‘Hustle Bones’, diva vocals are fashioned into bullets and machine-gunned over decayed bass growls, while ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ resembles Salt-n-Pepa’s ‘Push It’ reworked to soundtrack a montage of war crimes hosted on YouTube.
In short bursts, the likes of ‘Get Got’ – a juke-speed future shock of convulsing synths, on which Ride raps like a malfunctioning computer speech program – is bracing. But it’s hard to glean any sense of intention, let alone manifesto, from the lyrics, and the manner in which it’s presented is, in the end, alienating. ‘The Money Store’ offers a glimpse of sonic dystopia that’s utterly convincing. Their next mission is to find a way to convince us to come visit.