By: Rick Polo, Editor-in-Chief
Shockwaves were sent through the underground music world when it was revealed last February that the experimental industrial/hip-hop group, Death Grips, had signed to one of the last remaining major labels, Sony Music.
It’s no shock to see a hip-hop artist get that kind of recognition nowadays, being that hip-hop and rap are primarily what makes up most mainstream top 40 radio and TV formats.
However, Death Grips are not your typical hip-hop.
They may take many notes from the books of the old school, rapping often angry, politically charged lyrics over a bass-heavy sampled beat. Where they differ from the majority of today’s modern mainstream hip-hop would be instead of bland, cookie-cutter repeated themes of excess, they tell beautifully memorizing urban tales reflecting the real world, and just how fucked up it can be.
Death Grips consists of vocalist Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett, drummer Zach Hill and keyboardist/sampler Andy “Flatlander” Morin. They formed in late 2010, releasing their debut mixtape, Ex-Military. The bold collection of tracks featured samples from many underground rock acts. The opening track “Beware” features a mash-up of samples from Charles Manson and Jane’s Addiction. On another track, “Klink,” they sample the ferocious riff from Black Flag’s “Rise Above.” The mixtape earned Death Grips enough attention from the right people, including Sony records.
In April of 2012, they released the first of two albums that they’ll release this year, The Money Store. The album was a continuation of what Ex-Military had to offer, but going deeper and darker. The first single, “I’ve Seen Footage,” sampled over Salt N’ Pepa’s “Push It” surprisingly enough, is possibly the darkest track on the album, providing insight on some of the dark times MC Ride has witnessed throughout his life.
The album as a whole struck a chord with an underground/indie hip-hop and rock audience, helping Death Grips break down genre walls and reach a broader audience. By doing so, they’re doing what not many, if any, new artists have managed to do in recent years; something innovative and fresh.
Death Grips are set to release their second album of the year for Sony Music, No Love Deep Web later this Fall. A B-side from The Money Store titled “@DeathGripz” (also their Twitter name), was recently released through Adult Swim as a promo track. It’s rumored that the new album will feature all live instrumentation. The group is continuing to expand their sound and fan base, and if this album delivers as it’s expected to, it will likely come full circle.
For the first time in what seems well over a decade, an artist has broke through with sincerity and might, providing that when properly executed, music can be as innovative and original as its creators’ imaginations allow. And as they continue to boil just beneath the surface of the mainstream, it’s no doubt that Death Grips will continue to make their unique mark on a dull musical landscape.