“Scary rhyming man, him scares me. Danger. Drummer man is beast monster too, hard hitting pummel thing, is scary and such. Danger.”
Of all the thousands of words uttered about Death Grips in the past few months – in blogs, music magazines, radio shows, Twitter feeds, podcasts, the New York Times – this YouTube comment from a certain ‘ProlapsedCranium’ nails it. Everyone’s losing the plot trying to describe the Sacramento trio, but we can all agree on one thing – they’re a sort of brutal rap/noise/industrial concoction; hip-hop with no real lineage, more Wolf Eyes than Wu-Tang. Any minute now, someone will assign Death Grips a new label that ends in ’core.
Our pal Mr Cranium’s case of the fear came from watching a video of Death Grips at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in Texas. ‘Scary rhyming man’ is Stefan Burnett (MC Ride), hollering and wailing through ‘Guillotine’, rubbery arms flailing along to snare drum drills and low-end synth bass from his cohorts, drummer Zach Hill and producer Andy Morin (Flatlander). Since it surfaced a year ago, ‘Guillotine’ has been Death Grips’ calling card – the one your mate keeps posting on Facebook, you know, the one with the crazy dude in the car, roaring til the skin’s about to fall off his face. It’s one of the many standouts on Exmilitary, the trio’s 2011 mixtape that set their stall out from day one: caustic broken beats and frazzled electronics served up with a bit of the old in-out and ultraviolence on the side.
Despite a baffling major label deal with Epic in the meantime, The Money Store maintains this primal rage – stealing the baton from Exmilitary and battering you round the head with it as soon as opener ‘Get Got’’s tribal drum hammers in, with all audio channels firmly in the red. They’ve added clanking dub to their palette – channelling The Bug on the rumbling ‘Double Helix’ and ‘System Blower’, while ‘Lost Boys’ is a piss-stained crack den of a track that’s even more nerve-wracking than ‘Skeng’ on London Zoo. And if you’re feeling highly strung avoid the wailing sirens on ‘The Fever (Aye Aye)’ and the swirling sci-fi laser blasts on ‘The Cage’, when Scary Rhyming Man hollers: “what’s wrong with this asshole right next to me?”
Sure it’s a three-headed beast, but Burnett is its festering heart, and he has no off button. Of The Money Store’s 41 minutes, his feral bark is all over about 38 of them, double-tracked, stretched, distorted and hammered into percussive blips. Listening on headphones, your left ear tries to play catch-up with your right, as cryptic lines overlap, stutter, morph into patois or evaporate into electronic fuzz. Lines like “I was born with a ski mask” or “fuck this cage I’ll thrash you later” subvert the camp Odd Future-style horrorcore violence, leaving a dubious ambiguity – is this really just a character?
It’s not all headbutt-the-wall stuff – ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ whomps along like an ’80s Miami bass cut with a skuzzy punk riff welded onto the side; ‘Hacker’ hints at Daft Punk’s ‘Revolution 909’ before changing gears into a bloody-nosed EBM riot that could fist-pump Nitzer Ebb into next week. They also drop a few lifelines in case you’re succumbing to the white noise fury: the looped female pop vocal on ‘Hustle Bones’; the Bollywood intro on ‘Punk Weight’; the occasional snatch of old skool rave samples that puncture a few air holes so you can catch a breath.
These melodic interludes aside, The Money Store is all about the fear and loathing, a ferocious hip-hop game-changer that won’t be fizzling out any time soon. When Burnett the night prowler warns, “I’M IN YOUR AREA”, you better run – Death Grips gonna get ya.