Review Summary: You either absolutely love it, or flat out despise it, but the fact that this music is powerful enough to provoke such strong and differing reactions is something indisputable.
Has anyone ever taken into consideration just how scarce of a sub-genre industrial hip hop is? The only industrial MC that comes to mind that got any kind of attention was Saul Williams in 2007, and the sole reason for that attention stemmed from the production aid and promotional benefits that he received from his close friendship with the face of industrial music himself, Trent Reznor.
As for industrial hip hop that made it’s way up to a popular status practically on its own, we currently have Death Grips that resides alone in the seemingly vacant style. And with last years Ex Military mixtape debut, and this year’s The Money Store studio album debut, Death Grips have been consistently showing with sheer quality how much of a shame it is that industrial is not married with hip hop more commonly.
The Money Store shows how well an aggressively energetic rapping style reminiscent of Wu-Tang Clan, can sound over the powerful synth assaults and groove paced blasts of glitch found in industrial music. Backing beats have become very underwhelming and overly simplistic in the current age of all areas and genres and scenes in rap music, to the point of even very professionally produced beats being nothing more than dull-tempoed and repetitive booms of bass fuzz that one would require top notch speakers in order to get the full effect.
The instrumental side of Death Grips consists of complexly layered bursts of electronic noise that progressively builds upon itself with contrasting tempos, volumes, paces, speeds, and moods as the song progresses. No one song on the album sounds alike or is composed with an identical structure. Some songs like “Lost Boys” have choruses, songs like “Punk Weight” don’t have raps until half-way through the song, album opener “Get Got” is a repetition of the same quick paced verse, with the soaring ethereal wave of synths that contradict the songs first impression of a scrambling rush, act as a chorus. These are beats that will literally beat the listener without mercy, as they incite a certain immersing and engaging rush that is lacking in the beats of most underground hip hop that steadily and slowly plays as a sluggish deep toned backdrop. These beats have a raw power that grabs your attention and provokes you to want to keep up and not just simply bob your head.
The beats frequently change throughout songs, drastically varying from digital ambient soars to quick jabs of pummeling distortion. Every song has remarkably different sound textures throughout, making each song a unique and unpredictable listen, but they all link together around the central umbrella of industrial experimentation. For the sound of Death Grips in a nutshell, one could definitely argue Throbbing Gristle with hip hop. The gray and unsettling bleak rawness the album is comparable in the vein of the cold and machine like moods Throbbing Gristle would achieve with their inhabiting dark feel. This sound is dark without being forced, and is effective because of it’s supporting foundation of intense and blaring backing music, something the likes of horrorcore could only dream of ever accomplishing, because Death Grips manages to be successful at this without all the gory references and wordplay being highlighted, as their attitude is well-rounded via their music. This complex attention to detail and volume matches the riot fueling production force found on Public Enemies early records, and the experimentation driving it draws thoughts of the Hello Nasty era Beastie Boys.
Death Grips is a refreshing burst of power and edge in wake of the indie hip hop scene recently being defined by Tyler the Creator and the rest of Odd Future. As Tyler claims in his lyrics, he doesn’t give a ***, and his talked and drained deliver shows over downtempo flows back it up. While listening to Death Grips, they are so raw, that it feels as if they are playing in front of you in a dank and grimy club, an atmosphere and visual that few artists manage have managed to grant since A Tribe Called Quest introduced themselves.
Now Death Grips literally came roaring into popularity and not so much caught the eye of popular music scenes, but more appropriately the ear due to MC Ride’s controversial volume in his throaty and shouted vocal delivery. Those who felt that all he did was yell his head off on Ex Military will be happy to know that he does find an inside voice on The Money Store, and to match the rawness of the beats, he infuses different speeds, volumes, tones, voices, and paces in his bellows that shriek with insanity yes, but insanity that is controlled and contained with such masterful technique that it is recognizable, memorable, and respectable.
It’s not for everyone, as it can cause resentment in how startling and immediate the whole deal is, and you can either embrace that energy, or be off-put but the sheer magnitude, and it’s also not the best thing in the world, as it progresses as an incredibly solid and energetic onslaught of refreshing power, but nothing ground breaking for the genres it implements. But at the end of the day, it is forcefully shoving hip hop (or at least trying) into new directions where it’s not just clear that they have this ambition in mind, but that they are slowly but surely accomplishing before your ears, and obviously determined in doing so every track of the way as it unfolds.