Review Summary: We got all the coconuts, bitch
To be quite honest, hip hop is not really my genre. I would be able to enjoy it in small amounts, but it was never a genre that would be able to hold up for the entire duration of an album for me. On Sacramento group Death Grips' follow up to their 2011 mixtape, Exmilitary, the group attempts to shake off the hip-hop label and create something entirely on its own level. For the most part, The Money Store definitely accomplishes what it has set out to do. Combining elements of industrial and experimental noise, Death Grips have created a compelling and immersive record that is certainly a real game-changer.
Lead single and opener "Get Got" is an immediate declaration of The Money Store's ambition. The track displays Death Grips' masterful ability to create an extraordinarily catchy hook while being anything but pop. The production is also an intriguing aspect of the album, in its attempt to stray away from regular hip-hop archetypes. Throughout the album the listener may notice an absence of bass frequencies with beats that sound like they should have booming, earthshakingly low bass thumps, which while at some points may seem like it may detract from the album, adds an interesting atmosphere.
I feel that the main attraction with The Money Store is it's blistering and visceral anger. Vocalist Stefan Burnett (MC Ride) gives the music an extremely tense and claustrophobic feel in the way that he belts and barks his lyrics. Anthony Fantano compared the feel of the album to a graphic novel, drawn in a similar style to the cover, filled with over the top violence and monochromatic gore. MC Ride sounds like a bloodthirsty gunman with a disturbingly long hit list. The instrumentation also contributes to this atmosphere greatly, especially on tracks such as "The Fever", where mechanical toms bubble underneath a synth that could easily be an alarm signaling extreme danger.
While The Money Store aims to deviate from typical hip-hop tendencies, it still falls short of shaking off the label. While the album is certainly not like any sort of hip-hop that I have heard before, it is still certainly a hip-hop album. Some standout tracks definitely manage to differentiate greatly from the rest of the hip-hop world, but at heart, Death Grips is still a hip-hop group. Two tracks that stand out in this way include single "I've Seen Footage" and closer "Hacker" (one of the strongest tracks on the whole record). Both of these songs still incorporate rapping and other hip-hop archetypes, but also incorporate some pop tendencies, such as a faster beat and more radio-friendly sounding effects.
As somebody who's enjoyment of hip-hop barely expands beyond My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, The Money Store has certainly stood out to me and is an album that I find rather easy to enjoy (although it is not at all accessible). Despite its very valiant efforts to transcend the realm of hip-hop, The Money Store is definitely a hip-hop album, but without a doubt it is a successful one. The catchiness of the hooks on tracks like "Hustle Bones" and "System Blower" are unparalleled by anything with the hip-hop label that I've ever heard before. This catchiness and infectiousness of the tracks combined with the immersive experimentation on the instrumentals and production of the album make The Money Store a true game-changer. The Money Store is opening the realm of hip-hop to wider audiences, and is an album that could certainly blow anybody's system.