Death Grips is a group that have caught everyone’s ear but still remain just obscure enough that their music and personality tend to get lost in all the controversy; they’re about as well known for their enigmatic personas and penchant for canceling live gigs at a moment’s notice as they are for their music, but that mix of mystery and musical rawness is what makes them so appealing to so many.
For starters, Death Grips is an experimental hip-hop group whose influences fall in the sweet spot of the venn diagram where hip-hop, punk, and electronic music collide. They consist of producer Andy Morin, drummer/producer Zach Hill, and the esoteric and gritty vocals from lyricist Stephen “MC Ride” Burnett, whose bars tend to be more akin to spoken word or flat-out freewheeling than anything traditional. The trio rose to prominence in 2011 with their free mixtape Exmilitary before their debut studio album The Money Store introduced them to the world at large. They had a spat with Epic Records over the release of their second studio project No Love Deep Web, which the group wound up releasing for free, thus being cut from the label. After founding their own label Third World Records and self-releasing a few projects, including the first part of a double album called The Powers That B, they abruptly announced their retirement in a Facebook post of a note scrawled onto a cheap napkin:
we are now at our best and so Death Grips is over. we have officially stopped. all currently scheduled live dates are canceled. our upcoming double album “the powers that b” will still be delivered worldwide later this year via Harvest/Third Worlds Records. Death Grips was and always has been a conceptual art exhibition anchored by sound and vision. above and beyond a “band”. to our truest fans, please stay legend.
Regardless, fans were eagerly awaiting the second part of TPTB, entitled Jenny Death, and the group began to cryptically hint toward its release date before dropping it on our heads just under two weeks ago and announcing another tour; whether or not they’re actually going to follow through with it is anyone’s guess.
However asinine their public personas may come across, they’ve made a name for themselves with a cult following that most groups would kill for and a reputation for throwing one hell of a live party, from the ones they’ve actually bothered to attend. Their music is a cacophonous often synth-based head trip that may seem hard to penetrate, but if these next ten artists do anything for you, then you might find yourself a bit more prepared to take Death Grips by the horns. Have a sad cum, bby.
Run The Jewels
RTJ production maestro El-P pushes hard electronic sounds and punchy drums through both albums from his partnership with Atlanta emcee Killer Mike, so RTJ and Death Grips share a similar sonic palette, in that regard. Mike and El both have MC Ride beat when it comes to bars, though…
This spoken word poet has also taken from the same synth-based sonic library as Death Grips in the past, but his loose flow and solid delivery echo Ride more than anyone else on this list. Just compare the DG song(s) above to “NiggyTardust” here and tell me I’m wrong.
The wall of sound production style of this California group and the equally cryptic yet poetic musing from residential MC Daveed Diggs is what I’d imagine Ride would sound like if he were ever coherent.
Waka Flocka Flame
Waka dips into the same well of influence as DG when it comes to sonics, sure, but the main thing that he shares with them is energy. Ride is practically barking his lines out, and Waka’s bigger than life personality fits that description, too.
The godfathers of politically-minded hip-hop and cacophonous production styles undoubtedly left an influence on Death Grips. PE’s densely layered sound reached further corners of the music world than I realized when I first heard Fear of a Black Planet.
The Atlanta MC’s insane flow and the simplistic, staccato production here all remind me of a stripped back Death Grips beat.
Danny’s bi-polar switching from vapid party jams to more somber serious fare is is similar to MC Ride’s attempts at combining the two in just about every song they make.
This is going to seem like the oddest choice on this list I bet, but this one uncharacteristically electronic joint from the Slaughterhouse rapper still shows that their music libraries are similarly stacked.