Tracklisting: Up My Sleeves / Billy Not Really / Black Quarterback / Say Hey Kid / Have A Sad Cum / Fuck Me Out / Voila / Big Dipper
The sudden disbanding of Sacramento’s experimental hip-hop pioneers Death Grips so soon after the release of their latest collection Niggas On The Moon, sees them join the likes of The White Stripes, Sex Pistols, and Husker Du in an exclusive group of bands who split at their peak. Mercifully saving us from a Cut The Crap, Coda or [shudder]Chinese Democracy. It’s always better to burn out than fade away.
Niggas On The Moon the follow up to ‘Government Plates’ and the first half of a proposed double album (part 2 Jenny Death is still set to arrive later this year) released as a free download (a punk rock statement they have been making since 2012’s ‘No Love Deep Web’, much to the chagrin of their label). It’s an abrasive sonic maelstrom that delivers aggressive, glitchy noise in abundance. Continually challenging, off the wall and chaotic it’s a match for anything in their oeuvre; unrelenting and uncompromising.
One continuous brew mixing off-kilter beats, industrial noise, MC Ride’s caustic lyrics and mashed up vocal samples from Iceland’s premier pop-weirdo Bjork – it’s not for the faint of heart or your average hip-hop fan, for that matter. Like Saul Williams, Cannibal Ox, El-P, Dalek, and Shabazz Palaces; Death Grips transcend the narrow pigeon-hole of their assigned genre to create an untamable freshness that’s difficult to categorise and impossible to ignore.
“Up My Sleeves” kicks things off with an automated voice proclaiming “Doors and Windows On / Motions On”, strap yo’self in, the ride is about to start. A repetitive utterance of the track title gives way to the sound of an 80s home computer loading up whilst MC Ride grimly spits rhymes about hearses and cemeteries, fetishes and sins. It’s a brutal opener designed to punch through your mundane existence into a hyper-reality of prophetic angst; the first of their concealed tricks in a show constantly striving to blow your mind.
The bouncy rhythms of “Billy Not Really” finds MC Ride “buried in frozen Jheri curls” and name checking Herzog (whether it’s the book or the director is anyone’s guess), it’s so far removed from the cars, girls and bling of chart topping hip-hop it wouldn’t surprise to find Death Grips are actually alien visitors recreating earth music through the fuzz of intergalactic static.
“Black Quarterback” features the most obvious of Bjork’s contributions with her vocals spliced and reversed to add a woozy atmosphere whilst we discover Ride is “so black quarterback in all black albino”….transparency again proving to be anything, but his forte. The stark techno that kicks off “Say Hey Kid” is all claustrophobic intensity whilst Ride asserts that “your wife has a lovely neck” with vampiric menace leading into the glitchy nastiness of “Have A Sad Cum” – a fucked up album highlight.
The sparse “Fuck Me Out” seductively invites “don’t touch me / just fuck, fuck me” whilst sporadic drum blasts pepper your ears like the rat-a-tat of machine gun fire. Every line feels like a threat, every beat a slap. It’s a horror movie of destructive intent leaving you gasping for air. Too late though, the desperate screams that infiltrate “Voila” tug you back to the bowels of an unnamed hell populated by “shadow candles,”,“crack light priests,” and “shadow stigmata.”
Album closer “Big Dipper” ends on a lighter note with some of MC Ride’s funniest lines. “I’m a bullshitter / I’m a shitty stripper” he admits before empathising with his audience by proclaiming “I’m a bit bewildered”.
The penultimate Death Grips release is easier to admire than to love, but full of enough energy and inventiveness to leave us despairing of their demise. The Bjork collaboration is sure to be the talking point for the mainstream critics, but for those willing to submerge themselves in the cacophony of bilious noise and confusion of Niggas On The Moon, there are many more treats to savor.
Rating 4 out of 5
THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON BEARDED GENTLEMEN MUSIC.
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