Review Summary: Flatlander’s mixtape with MC Ride occasionally providing vocals.
The aura surrounding Death Grips is one that is covered in a haze, with all of their moves strategically planned out, surprising fans and causing controversy. Their rebel, “f*** the system” aesthetic makes you question their motives and who they truly are as a band, all while pumping out the most innovative music of the 21st century.
Or at least that’s what they want you to believe.
To me Death Grips’ “mysterious” persona is kind of wearing off, especially after the release of NO LOVE DEEP WEB, as well as all of the fallout from that project, which became less interesting as time went on. The random canceling of gigs that occurred in the past year no longer felt “edgy”; it was more or less just being mean to their very dedicated fans. With the release of “Birds” as a single in August, I was speculating that something was going to happen soon. Much like how they canceled their tour in 2012 to finish NLDW, they indirectly canceled gigs to produce a new album at some point, although I didn’t expect this soon. In typical Death Grips fashion, they dropped this new album out of nowhere; no media hype, no prior promotion needed. I don’t really see it as a “genius advertising move”, but I do appreciate getting a free album from the band at a time where they were the last thing on my mind. I’ve always appreciated the music of Death Grips putting out two fantastic albums last year, and no one can deny the fact that they are one of the dominate forces in experimental hip hop today. With every album they changed certain aspects of their sound, Exmilitary with its ferocious punk/hip hop genre-blending, The Money Store a fantastic and surprisingly catchy album, which created a large buzz for the band, and NO LOVE DEEP WEB, a chilling and minimal album that displayed the farther reaches of their experimental ways.
And there is some sense of progression in this new Death Grips album, to an extent. Whereas NO LOVE DEEP WEB was very minimal production wise, forcing MC Ride to step to the forefront of the album, Government Plates does basically the complete opposite of that. This album is incredibly beat heavy, with several songs being almost purely instrumental, with the exception being Ride’s voice sampled occasionally. But the absence of MC Ride’s voice on a lot of tracks made me feel slightly uneasy about the album, especially on the latter half of the album. Most of the songs felt like demos or ideas, which could have/should have been fleshed out more to form an actual Death Grips song.
Overall, this doesn’t really even feel like a Death Grips album; it’s more or less a mediocre Flatlander mixtape in which MC Ride occasionally provides vocals. The first 3 tracks are solid; with MC Ride’s vocals piercing the abstract electronic beats. But then after that, you have the track “This Is Violence Now (Don’t Get Me Wrong)”, a song that feels very long and boring despite its 3 minute length. While initially I wasn’t a fan of the song, “Birds” has definitely grown on me, and is one of the better songs on the album as a whole. But then after that follows a series of songs, beginning with the completely lackluster “Feels like a wheel”, that simply fail to grab my attention. MC Ride’s vocals could have helped the tracks feel more interesting, but ultimately it’s the beats just don’t seem to intrigue me that much. When I listened to the album the first few times, I was astonished to find this album was just over 35 minutes, because the latter half of this album made it feel so long and drawn out. The closer “Whatever I Want (*** Who’s Watching” has probably the most interesting beat on this half of the album, but even that feels like it was drawn out for longer than it needed to be.
One thing that was forgotten in the mix of Death Grips related drama was the fact that Death Grips (mostly Zach Hill I believe) was in the process of providing a soundtrack for a movie and I feel Government Plates is that soundtrack (and the subsequent videos released for it are probably the film). While there are some tracks that are among Death Grips best work, the first 3 tracks and Birds being some of my favorite Death Grips songs, most of the album falls to the wayside and feels like unfinished background noise. While this would probably work very well in a film, it doesn’t really work as a Death Grips album.