Words About Music
Death Grips “Government Plates”
For the past three years, the world of hip hop has been dominated by some of the most fascinating figures in the history of the genre. But none, and I repeat none, are nearly as controversial, insane, verbose, and talented as Sacramento’s Death Grips are. The noisy trio began as a mostly anonymous group who dropped an EP in late 2010 and then a mixtape (“Exmilitary”) in 2011 without revealing who any of the members are, except for drummer/producer Zach Hill. Hill is known for founding experimental math rock/noise rock duo Hella as well as being a ridiculous drummer. The group later revealed that their two other members were a mysterious frontman called MC Ride and a producer called Flatlander. They released their debut LP “The Money Store” in 2012 after signing to a major label, which they subsequently left before dropping their second album “No Love Deep Web” later that year. Since then, Death Grips have been purely independent, making them one of the most punk bands to ever exist. They don’t care at all what people think of them. But despite the constant show cancellations and no-shows, I still think that the band cares about their fans. Especially when they release most of their music for free and without warning. No one expected a new Death Grips album to come out this year, until one afternoon when they decided to share two download links on their Facebook page, throwing the internet into a frenzy. So let’s talk about it.
One immediately noticeable aspect of “Government Plates,” the band’s third album, is that MC Ride appears much less on this record. Nearly half of the songs on here are close to being instrumental, making this one of the least hip-hop albums of the band’s career. But despite the lack of vocals on some of the songs, this is still a Death Grips album. There is no band out there that can make an album like this. It’s noisy, horrifying, intense, and unpredictable, just like the band itself. The few MC Ride lyrics that show up are just as cryptic as they’ve always been, and often deal with drug use, sex, and murder. One of the songs on here uses the refrain “I’ll press down on your pillow till I can’t hear you breathing, for no reason.” Doesn’t get much more depraved than this band, folks.
“Government Plates” is perhaps the band’s most ambitious record, as it’s full of songs and sounds that are unlike anything the band has ever worked with. There’s cheesy sounding 808s, trap breakdowns, bro-step drops, sliding guitars, glitches, vaporwave influences, and repeated phrases like “This is violence now” and “Feels like a wheel” and “Fuck who’s watching.” Needless to say, a lot of the focus is on the production and the drums, both of which are executed in the most incredible of ways. From the soft eeriness of “Birds” to the breakbeat insanity of “Feels like a wheel” to the 7-minute noise mayhem that is “Whatever I want (Fuck who’s watching),” Death Grips prove time and time again that they’re capable of tackling and every sound there is while still sounding like Death Grips.
Death Grips are continuing in quite a fascinating direction. While they get catch flak for their touring difficulties and the way they handled leaving Epic Records, it is always worth it. “Government Plates” is another step in a direction where only the band members can see what the future holds. This band keeps us in the dark until they do something insane, and it’s forgivable because they’re great at what they do. They just have a knack, and this album is further evidence of that. It may not be their best record (a lot of fans theorize that it’s the soundtrack to Zach Hill’s upcoming film) but it’s still excellent. Every beat is carefully planned and daringly executed. Every lyric is scary and harrowing, even when MC Ride talks about a jellyfish. It’s a documented descent into madness and Death Grips’ most paranoid sounding album yet. Every trap hi hat or rolling bass line is a kernel of genius on this record. I’ve listened to this album ad nauseam since it was released and I don’t see myself tiring of it, even if I only ever return to a few of the tracks on it as days go by. It’s gonna be a polarizing record for sure, and as reviews come out next week I’m sure we’ll get tons of different opinions, but as of now I am loving this album and will probably continue to do so.
SCORE – 9.8
FAVORITE TRACKS – You might think he loves you for you money but I know what he really loves you for it’s your leopard skin pill box hat, Ann Bonny, Two Heavens, This Is Violence Now (Don’t Get Me Wrong), Birds, Feels like a wheel, Im Overflow, Big House, Whatever I want (Fuck who’s watching)