Death Grips are a controversial, three piece elctro-hip hop group from Sacramento, California. They exploded onto the scene in 2010 with the fresh sounds of Exmilitary. In April 2012 they released The Money Store on Epic Records who they had signed with earlier that year. In October the same year the band released No Love Deep Web for free against Epic Records wishes and were consequently dropped by the label. To add free expression to free music the album cover for No Love Deep Web was a picture of an erect penis with the album name written along it.
Death Grips revealed that their next project was going to be released in 2014 on the label Third Worlds. However on the 13th of November 2013, 13 months 13 days and 13 hours after the release of their previous album, with no prior warning, the band released Government Plates.
Government plates is the least hip-hop of all their albums so far, as the focus is not on the roaring vocalist Stefan (MC Ride) Burnett but the experimental sounds and noises created by drummer Zach Hill, and producer Andy Morin. Although the rough, intense and often distorted music they make are a big player in the previous albums, the central point has always been the bellowing raps of front man MC Ride.
Government Plates is a short, chaotic joy ride. It’s an amphetamine propelled sprint through a bramble bush. It’s a psychotic, psychedelic trip, not recommended for the light hearted.
The chaotic aggression of the LP sprints at you from the start and maintains speed throughout. The sprint begins on track one, entitled You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it’s your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat. This distorted dubstep fused rally cry sets the intensity to an unrealistic high and immediately states that this project is going to be different from previous Death Grips ventures.
The ferocity of noise continues, heavily supported by a chorus of profanities right into the middle of LP and the track Birds. Birds is probably the most mellow of all Death Grips songs so far. Despite starting and rising into hallucinogenic sirens the slow hip-hop, accompanied by MC Ride’s uncharacteristic lullaby-esk lyrics, shows a Death Grips side previously unexposed. If you listen to this track a few times round it becomes disorientating, one of many feelings this album is able to purge from its audience.
In fact the journey this LP takes you on is an uneasy, uncomfortable ride and early on it gets stressful to listen to, I challenge anyone to sit still and listen to this album in full. However I find it hard to criticize such an experimental, boundary-pushing group because it’s very likely that this is exactly the feel they wanted to create.
In the second half, the album takes several uneasy, seemingly unguided turns before arriving at the final 7 minuet long outburst Whatever I want (Fuck who’s watching). This last track sums up the rollercoaster ride of a project that has come before it, it’s a fast synth ridden chaos that is like experiencing an overdose of all kinds of uppers and downers. Ending in a headache and with you wondering what the fuck that was.
There are many uncharacteristic things that are easily recognisable to fans of the Californian group, most notably the lack of lyrical content by MC Ride. The rapper arrives in short bursts and never gets into his trademark roaring flow but for people who have found themselves reeling away from the rappers style and attitude, this album is much more tolerable and a little more simple to listen to. Another thing uncommon to previous Death Grip releases is the accompanying videos, in which there is one for every track. It has been a rarity for any visuals to accompany the band’s music and really they should not have bothered this time round either.
Death Grips have made an image for themselves which lets them do whatever they want, however reckless, and be void of criticism. In the three and a bit years since their formation the band have pissed off, labels, fans and promoters, they release albums when they want, how they want and this album shows they can change direction and sound when they want, how they want. Say whatever you want about this band because it will never get in the way of whatever they wish to do next.