When I was in college, I was a teacher's aide for an inner-city middle school. The kids who were there were all wrapped up in Top 40 Hip-Hop and I could tell a lot of the older teachers had no clue about this world. To some of them, I thought, Hip-hop must seem like a panoply of violent sentiments all shouted over a beat that rattles the apartment floor when you're trying to sleep.
Being young, I felt I could see both sides of it. “I like Lil' Wayne and Joni Mitchell
,” I thought. But when I heard The Money Store
for the first time, I really understood what it felt like for one of those middle-aged teachers as some punk kids drove by with their systems blasting. I wanted to like it, honestly, I just couldn't understand it.
Death Grips is an experimental hip-hop group whose aim is to blow your system up. Every grungy snare and every distorted loop bares this out: Death Grips hates your system. They want it broken.
And at first on “Get Got,” I'm along for the ride. “This,” I think “could grow on me.” And every power that Death Grips has is on display here, from MC Ride's intentionally sloppy delivery of deft lines no one can understand to Flatlander's ear-stabbing production work. For those just about three glorious minute, Death Grips is working for me.
Then, “The Fever (Aye Aye)” hits. Already I'm beginning to feel a tightening in my chest. MC Ride is really yelling. I am still navigating the slurry of mid-tempo beats, distorted synths (courtesy of Black Moth Super Rainbow, perhaps?) and MC Ride's constant mushmouthed yelling.
Yes, I know Ride is technically “rapping,” but on track after track, Ride's only mode is full-blast mean mugging. He is the anti-DOOM; where DOOM's relaxed tongue twisters were always set to chill, Ride's are set to kill. Actually, they must be set on a setting past kill; I imagine if anyone gave Death Grips a phaser, they would reverse engineer that *** and set it to annihilate.
Around “Double Helix,” I start to feel like MC Ride does not like me any more than he does my system. Every other rhyme is punched up with some dancehall sample and the drums seem to be stuck in a quicksand mire, unable to produce any timbres that don't bust guts. The whole thing sounds like fun-house rap, but you just ate three hot dogs and got off the Hurricane.
All the dirty synths and the chopping and screwing. All the hi-bass beats and the trashy drum loops. All of it is channeled into this unintelligible mass of spite.
What is Ride yelling? I don't know, at this point I am convinced he knows my name and he's coming for me. After 41 minutes of this agonizingly single-minded system-*** I am just confused and irritable.
I have become the middle-aged butt of the joke. Who are the kids listening to this? It's so loud and angry and quite frankly it scares me. I think I'm going to lie down and listen to Joni Mitchell.