Death Grips - The Powers That B (part one: niggas on the moon)
Death Grips are punk as fvk. Dropping free albums like they’re candy wrappers, purposefully agonizing fans through no shows and just generally not conforming to literally anything. The release of niggas on the moon, part one of The Powers That B is the experimental hip-hop crew’s 5th ‘set’ of songs, and it is one which maintains their dark themes on a slightly brighter, simultaneously more cohesive and abrasive soundscape dreamed up by Flatlander. Much more experimental electronic sounds, some magnificently skittish drums courtesy of Zach Hill and MC Ride actually lays down some cohesive verses, new Death Grips maintains their abrasive grime, with a little more hip-hop influence thrown in.
First of all, Bjork is said to be featured on every track, which really surprised me when I first read it, Death Grips and Bjork do have a history, but every track? However her voice is sampled in such a disguised way it could almost be anyone’s voice bringing a little high end into the mix.
niggas on the moon is definitely a more polished effort when compared directly to 2013’s Government Plates which did feel almost unfinished in some stages. All of these songs almost feel like one long jam, the beginning and end of tracks fading into one another so perfectly it’s great to listen to all the way through. It sees the trio expanding on a less RIGHT IN YOUR FUCKING FACE BOOM LOUD SCREAM ETC. vibe and more, a subtle hello I am here we are pretty loud but have some pretty bits around the place, I can’t make you love viola, and SCREAM TOO.
Opener ‘Up My Sleeves’ charts familiar territory to begin with, abrasive synths, heavily toyed with vocal lines in the background and MC Ride’s ever-changing flow. However mid-track it is obvious the track is a much more concentrated ride, the vocals decipherable, the production perfect/10. Bjork’s vocal sample is used up in that high register in such a repetitive manner, which cuts through the thump of the track.
‘Black Quarterback’ is by far the wordiest Death Grips track to date, and although delivered with 100% pure fucking aggression, the words are mostly decipherable, and not nearly as nihilistic and animalistic as other songs are. MC Ride here is basically calling out Kanye West for in part adopting the loud distorted Death Grips sound, making it marketable and using it on his latest album. This isn’t central to the album though, with the usual content being present in most of the tracks. MC Ride was “conceived by his disease” and wants you to “Fuck [him] out” and “have a sad cum baby”. Those last two are actually track names as well.
‘Viola’ opens up with Zach Hill’s impressive 1/1 drumming, reminiscent of his work in his math-rock project Hella, over which the crew sample a modulated MC Ride saying “oh”, just weird. This track is one of the highlights as it really encapsulates all of what Death Grips are, it has the searing low end, prodigal drumming, quirky arrangement, absurd lyrics and a horror movie scream in there for good measure.
niggas on the moon is an exciting release as part one of The Powers That B, and is an exciting, if not minor, change in direction for this one-of-a-kind group. Also you can listen to this on public transport free of the fear someone will see the cover art. The album is available for download at thridworlds.net