Release Date: Apr 27, 2011
Record label: Third Worlds
According to Ex Military, war is hell, or at least Sacramento is. For Californians Death Grips, living in inner city America is a guerilla run'n'gun affair and its five members, led by founder Flatlander, drummer Zach Hill and the redoubtable MC Ride, are nothing if not combative. On this mixtape the quintet portray the state capital as both a fenced-in complex and a psycho-geographical battleground, with the emphasis on psycho.
What with a name like that, a vocal style that's modelled on an aggressive drill sergeant and an interest in industrial noise, you could be forgiven for imagining that Death Grips are a hardcore hip-hop act designed to unsettle. And you'd be right. But not all right, because what lies alongside the songs about making your own guillotine make this album intriguing.
Energy without insight is monotonous. Insight without humor is preachy. Humor without frustration is toothless. Frustration without humanity is destructive. And humanity without energy is defeatist. If an album operates with the purpose of being a big noisy fuck-shit-up machine, missing just one of ….
While Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin won more than its fair share of fans, chagrin, and a spot in the Billboard top 200, a retrospective look/listen to the album less than a month after most of the hubbub has died down has Odd Future’s fearless leader looking suspiciously like just another angsty, teenage rabble-rouser. Rather than the paradoxically menacing/endearing figure Bastard painted the 20-year-old producer/rapper to be, his second full-length sounds out of ideas a minute into its third track, and never fully recovers. Despite his noted pride on the collective’s self-contained autonomy, Goblin would’ve benefited highly from some quality control.
Hip-hop, as a genre, is never really associated with obscurity. We associate rappers with fame and self-elevation, but Death Grips are (mostly) anonymous, releasing Exmilitary for free online – and its chaos and experimentalism make it intentionally difficult to enjoy. Before I go on, I should clarify just how confrontational this record is. This is a dude screaming at the top of his lungs over beats ranging from gritty guitar riffs (I Want it I Need it) to menacing synth-bass hums (Guillotine).
"And every proton and neutron in every atom . . . swollen and throbbing, off-color, sick, with just no chance of throwing up to relieve the feeling. Every electron is sick, here, twirling off-balance and all erratic in these funhouse orbitals that are just thick and swirling with mottled yellow and ….