Review Summary: I've always known.
Death Grips have always been weird. Ever since their debut album, "Exmilitary", and its' lyrics, disgusting but depictive of the inner nature of men, along with the trademark raw vocal delivery from Stefan Burnett (a.k.a. MC Ride) and with no agression and fury lacking in the beat department. Right from the bizzarre "No Love Deep Web" (it has a dick on the cover and it's mysterious and out-of-nowhere release got Death Grips signed off their label, no need to say more). Right from the critically acclaimed "The Money Store", which Death Grips fans would never see the band surpass with a release as innovative, inventive, creative, spazzic, atmospheric and lyrically repulsive.
Guess what, they did it again and they did it big.
"The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas On The Moon" is the first part of a double album series, the second one announced to be called "Jenny Death" and set to be released later this year. After the controversial internet leak-stream of the California-based project's last outing, "Government Plates", Death Grips once again dropped a musical atomic bomb upon us, and this time things blew up drastically. "Niggas On The Moon" shares some qualities with "Government Plates": it is raw as hell, it has dissonant bass lines all around it, it ensures the permanency of the sick grooves showcased by the band in the 2013 record, but the big difference is that it possesses every quality "Government Plates" lacked: a distinct album flow, meticulously crafted lyricism, atmospheric samples, infeccious hooks and album cohesion.
It's undeniable that Death Grips landed big with NOTM: Bjork's all over the 8 tracks on this record. I repeat, Bjork's collaborating with Death Grips. That's something huge. But one can't stop contemplating the virtousity of Death Grips' compositional ability: On this album, Death Grips take one of the most powerful voices of the last 20 years and simply use it as a mere instrument. Put in other words, Death Grips rape Bjork musically and make an atmospherical musical complement out of the Icelandic artist's distinct and instantly recognizable voice.
The hooks created from Bjork's vocal samples are incredibly dazzling, unescapably catchy and add a different flavour, a different colour and a sense of melody to the spazzic madness Death Grips spawn in every track this album contains. The juxtaposition between the female singer's harmonious vocal samples and Death Grips' chaotic and glitchy sound works, to everyone's surprise, quite perfectly.
One could mention so many memorable hooks in here because, matter of fact, they're all memorable. From the manipulated hook in "Up My Sleeves", to the oh-so-remniscent of "Homogenic"-era Bjork hook found on the earth-shattering "Black Quarterback", right into the orgasm-like feeling of Bjork's hook in the atmospheric "Have A Sad Cum", the all-over-the-place and distorted but incredibly catchy hook in first single "Voila", or even the agonizing and terrifying hook at the end of album closer "Big Dipper". Catchier than anything in the Death Grips discography since "The Money Store", the ability the band has to write hooks this huge is admirable.
Rhythmically, the band has never been this solid before. Zach Hill is, as everyone knows or should know, a monster drummer. His grooves are compelling, his skill is almost unmatchable and his drumming creativity is ridiculously brilliant. Prime examples of this are the polyrhythmic juxtaposion of two different time signatures in "Say Hey Kid", or the hard-hitting and simultaneously technical and proficient drumming in "Billy Not Really".
And here's the paragraph die-hard Death Grips fans have been waiting for: one exclusively dedicated to MC Ride. The man's vocal delivery has never been more varied than on "Niggas On The Moon". From spoken-word, to rapping, to shouting, to yelling, to shrieking, to screaming, to shouting and even a sort-of whispering impersonation ("*** Me Out"). His vocal delivery is rawer and more agressive than it has ever been, and even emotional at times (one can feel the schozophrenic-like sentiment in the line "Oh, my agony's priceless"). And lyrically, MC Ride definately put tons of effort into the lyrics for this album, more noticably on brilliant lines such as "I was conceived by my disease", "You play highway hocus, ain't much more highway can ride me" (both from "Up My Sleeves"), "Comfort over freedom, pay for path to leads to having a freedom over comfort, give you back so much to resolve this law" (from "Black Quarterback") or the entire lyrics for "Voila" which make the listener imagine MC Ride as some sort of rapist-psycho-pedophile-sexual abuser hybrid.
With "The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas On The Moon", Death Grips managed to mark a sonic achievement, both in their discography and in hip-hop's musical culture as well. As bizzare, raw and sadic as it is infecciously catchy, atmospheric and immensely addicting, Death Grips made what no one believed them to do: to overcome "The Money Store". And they did it, just like that. NOTM is the new pinnacle in the Death Grips discography and it finally molded Death Grips as the experimental, innovative, over the place, glitchy, insane, maniacal, dementious and unique hip-hop project that they were shaping up to be since day number one.
I've always known.