Death Grips - NO LOVE DEEP WEB
There's been plenty of speculation on the web this past week about Death Grips' second release of 2012, NO LOVE DEEP WEB which they supposedly gave away for free in a big "fuck you" to their label, Epic, who wanted to push it back to 2013. Is this the truth after all? Are Death Grips really the crazy, "power to the people" punk rockers that they make out to be? Or was it all just a big PR stunt to boost public opinion of the experimental hip-hop outfit from Sacramento? I'm not particularly bothered, all I care about is what the album sounds like, and I have to say after my first listen I wasn't blown away. Repeat plays have, however, changed my mind, and although it didn't initially scorch my face off like April's The Money Store did, it has made me realise how serious Death Grips are and has also made me recognise the amount of potential they possess.
Before even listening to the album, the most noticable element of discussion is the artwork. Adorned on the cover, bold as brass, is the semi-erect penis belonging to an unknown white male, with NO LOVE DEEP WEB scribbled across it in marker pen. The alternative cover which I came across on the web is of a man's legs, his socks protruding from underneath his jeans, adorned with the message: "SUCK MY DICK". I think we can figure out the message Death Grips are trying to purvey...
We open with 'Come Up and Get Me', which throbs and stabs under frontman MC Ride's (real name Stefan Burnett) exhausted, urgent gasps. We haven't really seen (or should that be heard?) him in this light before, as his vocals generally consist of overly-confident yells and screams, causing the vulnerability he shows in the album's opener to be a pleasant surprise. I guess it turns out he is human after all and not just the insane, tatted-to-the-teeth caveman that we first thought. Another benefit we get from this new side of MC Ride is the fact that its easier to distinguish his lyrics, which are as intelligent and poetic as ever.
In what is possibly my favourite song on the album, 'No Love', Burnett spits "never not on it, leaning so hard you're ashamed, you can't dismiss this sickness huffs your brain, exhale your will and forget I ever knew you." Coupled with the dystopian, end-of-the-world atmosphere that we already know and love Death Grips for, it really is something special. The walls are caving in and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it; Death Grips still sound as unsafe, unhinged and coked up as ever. Lyrically though, Burnett isn't just offering us deep and meaningful words. Because he isn't in a hurry to shy away from their early ghetto chants (see 'Spread Eagle Cross the Block' from their mixtape Ex-Military), as we find out when he roars: "you need a lift? You can sit between the back seat and my dick." And he is still as dark as ever, declaring "it's all suicide" over and over in 'World of Dogs'.
The drums are a huge talking point throughout the whole record. Before the release of the album, the band issued a statement by way of explaining some of NO LOVE DEEP WEB's concepts to their fans. Part of it said: "there are no manually programmed drums on this album. the beats are being played live on a Roland electronic v-drum set or acoustic drum set by Zach (Hill)." This is confirmed upon hearing the album: the drums are huge. The crash cymbals in 'No Love' may cause you to shit yourself, as Zach Hill absolutely hammers them during the chorus, underlining the idea that these guys are essentially a punk rock band, with hip-hop being their secondary genre. They really do smack you square in the face on this LP. Most of the songs keep this theme of dread and danger in full swing, making it a good record to listen to if you are planning on murdering somebody. (MURDER IS WRONG.)
There really are moments during NO LOVE DEEP WEB when you forget that you aren't marching down the corridors of death row to your own execution. Overall, I would say that the sound is more minimal than The Money Store, which had some really memorable moments in the raving euphoria of, say, 'The Fever (Aye Aye)' and 'I've Seen Footage'. But this new, downbeat style doesn't necessarily mean that NO LOVE DEEP WEB is a forgettable album in the light of their former release. There are a couple of weak moments, my main criticism being 'Stockton', which plods along whilst not being particularly inspiring in any way. But apart from the above song, the rest of my nitpicks are very inconsiderable, the odd track maybe having a section of less-than-overwhelming music, but on the whole nothing for a listener or indeed a Death Grips fan like myself to worry about. And any criticisms are wiped away when you hear the trippy, high-pitched rain of 'Pop' and the sprawling, ambient closer 'Artificial Death in The West'.
Death Grips are evolving with each release. MC Ride is still as outspoken as ever: "I got some shit to say, just for the fuck of it!" he announces on 'Lock Your Doors', making sure you're listening hard to his erratic, disturbing monologues. And trust me, you will listen, because these 3 men (Burnett, Hill and the groups producer/keyboardist Andy Morin) are only just getting started, and they're already upsetting people with their musical anarchy. If Satan busted out of hell only to travel to earth to throw a huge fucking party, you can guarantee that he would employ Death Grips as his house band. It still remains to be seen whether or not the whole dispute with Epic is 100% legit and not just some viral masterplan, but whatever the outcome, these fellas are not messing when it comes to the raw, insistent music they produce.
Death Grips flatly describe The Money Store's cover art as, "an androgynous masochist on the leash of a feminist sadist who's smoking." On the meaning of the barren, colourless sketch, they go a little deeper: "We consider ourselves feminists, we fiercely support homosexuality, transparent world leadership, and the idea of embracing yourself as an individual in any shape or form." It's an image full of dichotomies and it sets the context for an album with an all-embracing mutant manifesto. [read more]