Death Grips is an American experimental hip hop group from Sacramento, California, United States, formed in 2010. The band's music has been described as combining hip hop, industrial music, and noise music, and they have been described by some in the music press as "the first truly important band of the twenty-first century". The group announced their disbanding on July 2, 2014, but have released material since, causing fans to question whether the group have actually ended activity, partly due to the fact that the band has an apparent tendency to confuse or mislead their own fans.
Exmilitary Album CoverThe cover of the album is somewhat of a mystery, even to members of the band. According to Andy Morin, "That’s a photograph that one of our members carried in their wallet for roughly 10 years straight. It’s a power object."
Formation, Self-titled and Debut
Death Grips was formed in Sacramento, California on December 21, 2010, by Zach Hill, Andy Morin, and Stefan Burnett.
On the first day of their formation they recorded their first song, "Full Moon (Death Classic)". It was released on March 8, 2011 together with a video and a free self-titled EP which featured "Full Moon" together with five other songs.
Exmilitary, their debut mixtape, was released for free on April 25, 2011 through the group's official website, thirdworlds.net. It was simultaneously released through iTunes. The track "Guillotine" was released through iTunes on August 3, 2011. "Guillotine" has become the band's most recognized song, with over two million YouTube views on their music video as of October 2, 2012. Other tracks released as music videos include "Known for it", "Culture Shock", "Lord of the Game", "Spread Eagle Cross the Block", "Takyon (Death Yon)", and "Beware." The album was later released exclusively through the band's website in both vinyl, and cassette formats. It was also removed from iTunes.
Throughout the spring and early summer in 2011, Death Grips played small live shows while Exmilitary was spreading steadily throughout the Internet. The album has received universal acclaim from critics and currently holds an approval rating of 82 on Metacritic. In another very positive review, John Calvert of Drowned in Sound focused on the mentality of the character that the album revolves around and how it reflects the inner nature of man, citing the lyricism and sound production as being focal points around this sound and style. Nate Patrin of Pitchfork Media gave Exmilitary a 7.5, describing the album as "a bludgeoning slab of hostility" that avoids being an "overbearing mess".
Death Grips - Guillotine (It goes Yah)
The Money Store Album ArtThe album cover depicts an androgynous masochist with "Death Grips" carved into their chest on the leash of a smoking female sadist. The image is painted by Sua Yoo, an artist with whom Death Grips had worked in the past.
Signing With Epic and Realease of Their Magnum Opus: "The Money Store"
On February 27, 2012, Death Grips signed with Epic Records, under the recommendation of Epic's then-executive vice president of marketing Angelica Cob-Baehler, and announced the release of two albums in 2012.
The first album, The Money Store, was was first hinted at with the release of a music video for a track titled "Blackjack" on February 7, 2012. The album was later announced along with the release of another track on February 27, 2012, titled "Get Got". It was then announced that the group had signed to Epic Records and were scheduled to release two albums in 2012. On February 28, 2012, the group leaked both songs for free download. On March 2, 2012, a video surfaced on their official YouTube channel of the band practicing a new track to be released on The Money Store, titled "Lost Boys." The studio version was then posted to their official YouTube channel on March 13. It was later released for free download on their website. On March 27, they released the music video for the song "The Fever (Aye Aye)," followed by a free download. On April 10, the song "I've Seen Footage" was released for free download on their official Soundcloud page. Pitchfork Media awarded the track their "Best New Music" designation. On April 14, the album was leaked, and the band uploaded a complete version to their YouTube channel and their Soundcloud account. The following day, Pitchfork Media posted "Hacker," the album's closer, and named it "Best New Music."
The Money Store received widespread critical acclaim. Jayson Greene of Pitchfork Media gave the album an 8.7 out of 10 (Best New Music), stating "The Money Store is about as intellectual an experience as a scraped knee. But it's just as good at reminding you that you're alive." The album also notably placed 9th in Pitchfork's Best 50 Albums of 2012.On Metacritic, the album currently holds an 81 based on 27 reviews by professional critics, which indicates "universal acclaim." Users have rated the album 8.7 out of 10, which also indicated "universal acclaim."
"Death Grips are angry. It's unclear why. But their thirst for vengeance, their monomaniacal desire to visit fiery destruction on the powers-that-be, is crystal-clear on The Money Store, even if nothing else-- where the hell this album came from; who plays which instrument; what the lead singer is yelling about; and what on earth this band of insurgents is doing signing an Epic Records contract with L.A. Reid-- makes much sense at all. When playing this album, the only thing I'm sure of is my overwhelming desire to split my forehead open on a cinder block."
Death Grips - I've Seen Footage
NO LOVE DEEP WEB Album ArtThe album's release was met with strong attention from online media groups, largely due to its sexually explicit album cover, which features a picture of group member Zach Hill's erect penis, with the album title written across it.
ARG, NØ LØV∑ D∑∑P W∏B and Split from Epic
In May the band scheduled a thirty-show international tour to support The Money Store, but shortly afterward cancelled it so they could complete their second album of 2012, which angered many fans and their label. They spent the next four months recording their next album in Sacramento.
No Love Deep Web (stylized as NØ LØV∑ D∑∑P W∏B or simply NO LOVE DEEP WEB) is the second studio album by American group Death Grips. It was self-released by the band, online as a free download on October 1, 2012. Recorded from May to August 2012, the album exhibited what the band described as a darker and more minimal style. The album was leaked by the band due to complications over its release date with their label, Epic, who subsequently dropped them.
In an interview with Exclaim! the group said that: "No Love is a sort of a culmination of our two previous releases. We think it'll end up being the heaviest thing we've made so far on many levels. It's striking us as the closest we've gotten to what our initial vision of what Death Grips would sound like. We have the feeling and it's pretty absolute that this album will contain our most future-forward and potent material...It's emotionally raw and direct; the sound is indescribable, it's very beat oriented. It has some of the guitar-driven elements that we touched on with Exmilitary but they aren't exactly being generated by a guitar."
To promote No Love Deep Web the group created an alternate reality game (ARG) which ran from August 12–16, 2012, beginning minutes after their release of a statement about the album through Pitchfork Media. Using the internet as its medium, it mainly employed encrypted archive files hosted on the Tor Network with the filetype .gpg. The game employed many types of encryption through image, text and sound files, including Braille, QR code, Base64, the Caesar cipher, Binary code, Morse code and the Affine cipher, and used websites such as Imgur and various TOR related sites. The game yielded the first mention of the original release date of No Love Deep Web, October 23, 2012, and an unmastered version of The Money Store for download on the first day. On the fifth day an instrumental version of The Money Store was discovered by users of 4chan on a .onion domain and uploaded for regular download.
No Love Deep Web was met with positive reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 76, which indicates "generally favorable", based on 13 reviews. Grayson Currin, of Pitchfork, gave the album a positive review, stating "loud and punishing, the sonics of No Love Deep Web suit MC Ride's mix of hysteria, rage and exhaustion." John Doran, of BBC Music, also commended the album; while saying that "the record is certainly denser and more difficult to find an entry point into than either of its predecessors," Doran stated "after several listens a handful of stone-cold, diamond-hard gems present themselves from a scree of electronic beats and stentorian rapping/shouting." He also compared the band's sound to that of Autechre.
The album was also met with controversy related to its album cover. The album cover depicts the image of an erect penis with the album title written across it. The picture was taken in a bathroom at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, which is where the band stayed for the 2 months leading up to the leak.
In an interview with Spin Magazine, Burnett responded to the interest by saying, "If you look at that and all you see is a dick, I don't really have anything to say, pretty much. I looked at it and said, 'This is a great photo, and I'd love for this to be the album cover.'" Hill further explained, "It was difficult to do, honestly, in general, it was very difficult. It's difficult even telling people that's the source of it; it feels sacrificial in a sense. That idea existed long before, by the way. This is going to sound funny to other people, but we saw it as tribal, as spiritual, as primal. Also, it comes from a place of being a band that is perceived as...such an aggressive, male-based, by some, misogynistic-seeming band... It's a display of embracing homosexuality, not that either of us are homosexual. Am I making sense? People are still going to think that it's macho, but that's not the source of where it comes from." In a separate interview with Pitchfork, Hill expounded, "It's also a spiritual thing; it's fearlessness...it represents pushing past everything that makes people slaves without even knowing it."
Due to the explicit album artwork, Death Grips were forced to place a disclaimer on their website warning of the explicit content. The statement from the group said "U.S law states you must be 18 years of age to view graphic sexual material. We consider this art."
Death Grips - Lock Your Doors
Goverment Plates Album Art
Third Worlds and Goverment Plates
On May 10, 2013, it was announced that Hill is currently writing and directing an original feature film. Death Grips will be involved with the soundtrack of the film. The announcement also revealed that Hill is currently working on a new Death Grips album. On July 8, it was announced that Death Grips had launched their new label, Third Worlds. The label was created via "a unique relationship with Harvest/Capitol" and will be distributed by Caroline Records.
Death Grips were scheduled to perform at Lollapalooza in Chicago on August 3, 2013, but their performance was cancelled after the band failed to show up for an "after party" show the previous night at the Bottom Lounge. Fans at the Bottom Lounge show destroyed the band's equipment after being informed of the cancellation. Their subsequent performance scheduled for Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, August 4, 2013 was also cancelled. It was later discovered that Death Grips never actually planned to appear at Lollapalooza, and the drum kit that was destroyed was a child's learning kit.
On November 13, 2013, Death Grips posted Government Plates on several websites for free download without any forewarning. Subsequently, they released music videos for all eleven tracks on YouTube and streamed the full album on SoundCloud. The album was released exactly 13 months, 13 days, and 13 hours after their previous album, No Love Deep Web. The album was released to iTunes and Spotify on January 14, 2014.The band's press has said that Government Plates is not an official record, but is only "where they are right now".
Upon its release, Government Plates was met with generally positive reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 75, which indicates "generally favorable", based on 18 reviews. Ian Cohen of Pitchfork awarded the album "Best New Music", writing: "Government Plates loudly reestablishes Death Grips as a group freed by having no ideals whatsoever, making music without a past about a present with no future." Chase Woodruff of Slant Magazine gave the album a positive review, stating: "Government Plates doesn't budge an inch from the vulgar, militant nihilism of 2012's The Money Store or its follow-up, No Love Deep Web." Joe Price of This Is Fake DIY referred to the album as "a sloppy lobotomy of hip-hop focused on provoking fear and intrigue."
Death Grips - Anne Bonny
The Powers That B Part 1: Niggas on the Moon Album Art
The Powers that B Part One: Niggas on the Moon, and supposed disbandment
On January 19, 2014, Zach Hill stated that the band has started recording new material for the next album and is planning to tour in summer. On March 15, 2014, it was confirmed that Death Grips would be touring in support of Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden throughout their 2014 Summer tour.
On June 8, 2014, Death Grips announced a double album titled The Powers That B, along with a download of disc 1, Niggas on the Moon. The second disc was announced to be titled Jenny Death, with a full release via Harvest Records/Third Worlds scheduled for later in 2014.
Upon its release, Niggas on the Moon received positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 73, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", based on 6 reviews. Michael Madden of Consequence of Sound stated: "Niggas on the Moon primarily relies on the band’s chaotic, ever-evolving sonic disposition — and as a bonus, we’ve never heard Ride sound quite like this. It’s an exciting proposition." He also described the disc as "an exciting ride" and further wrote: "By virtue of being divisive as all hell, Death Grips have welcomed us back to their jungle." Calum Slingerland of Exclaim! called the first disc "the group's most confounding collection of tracks to date," praising the manic nature of vocalist MC Ride as "a side to the vocalist largely unseen on previous releases."
On July 2, 2014, Death Grips officially announced their disbandment via Facebook, posting an image of the following message written on a 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.”
Death Grips Announce Their Disbandment Via Napkin
Fashion Week Album ArtworkFashion Week's album cover contains Sua Yoo, the artist that created "The Money Store's" album art
The Powers That B Part 2: Jenny Death Album Art
The Powers That B Album Art
Post-Disbandment, Fashion Week and The Powers that B Part Two: Jenny Death
On October 10, 2014, Death Grips announced the completion of The Powers That B via their website and Facebook page, as well as revealing the album artwork. A song from Jenny Death (part two of The Powers That B), entitled "Inanimate Sensation", was released on December 9, 2014.
On January 4, 2015, without any prior notification, Death Grips released a free instrumental soundtrack, entitled Fashion Week. The song titles, follow as: "Runway J", "Runway E" and so on; acrostically spelling out the phrase "JENNY DEATH WHEN", in reference to the upcoming second disc of The Powers That B. Many people believed the Fashion Week title was a hint that Jenny Death would be released during New York Fashion Week or London Fashion Week, both of which fell in February 2015, but passed without the release of the album.
On February 13, 2015 Death Grips uploaded a new video, to their YouTube channel. It showed the group rehearsing new material.
On March 6, 2015, a mysterious Twitter account that had been heavily speculated as being run by the band (@bbpoltergiest), made a surprise announcement that The Powers That B would finally be released on March 31, pre-orders would be available on March 17, and a tour announcement would also be revealed on March 24 (with tickets going on sale, that very same week). This same Twitter account was also responsible for posting a screenshot of the Inanimate Sensation music video, four months before it was released, blatantly announcing at one point that they were "going on tour" and that they've never actually broken up, posting a never-before-seen photo of the inflatable "Blackjack" pills that had been used during previous live Death Grips shows (indicating that there would be a tour coming in the near future), and yet another never-before-seen picture of Hill, Morin, and Burnett all attending Disneyland together, therefore validating the account's probable legitimacy. However, almost all posts from the alleged Twitter account, including their latest announcements, have since been deleted.
On March 19, 2015, Jenny Death was put up to stream on the band's YouTube channel in full, after it had been discovered to have leaked. The same day, the group revealed on Facebook that they 'might make some more', hinting that they intend to continue making music.
Overall, critical reception for Jenny Death has been very positive, with responses generally being better than of Niggas on the Moon. On March 16, 2015, "On GP" from the album's second disc, "Jenny Death", was awarded a "Best New Track" review on Pitchfork's website. Pitchfork rated the album 8.1/10, calling the album's second half the "strongest material in a while" and that "it’s not on the level of their artistic and commercial breakthrough The Money Store, but it will absolutely remind you of why you loved them in the first place.". Calum Slingerland of Exclaim! described the lyrical nature of the second disc as "representative of outward action and thought more than internalization," writing that the incorporation of live instruments is a welcome addition alongside the group's aggressive electronics. Addressing the album as a complete release, Slingerland stated that The Powers That B is "a compelling look at the band's ability to work with sounds both minimal and monumental, while containing some of their most riveting lyrical and musical work in recent memory. Consequence of Sound also gave the album a positive review, saying that 'some of their best debris-curdling numbers appear here' and also noted their shift in genre, claiming that 'It's their most punk album, both musically and in function.'
Death Grips - Inanimate Sensation
Death Grips - Exmilitary
Death Grips - The Money Store
Death Grips - No Love Deep Web
Death Grips - Government Plates
Death Grips - Fashion Week
Death Grips - The Powers That B