It’s all suicide…
The rap and hip-hop game has been consistently changing and fluctuating within recent years, and overall for the better. With artists such as Lil B, Kanye West (with his most recent album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), OFWGKTA (Tyler the Creator and company) and Danny Brown, new and intriguing changes to this style of music, along with a myriad of excellent releases, have set a landmark in the history and development of hip-hop music. However, one group stands out above the rest in ingenuity, gritty yet catchy lyricism and ingeniously original instrumental beats; this group is Death Grips. After releasing a mixtape in 2011 (Exmilitary) and an their first official album earlier this year (The Money Store), both to overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim, Death Grips releases yet another album for the year 2012 in their most recent musical venture, No Love Deep Web. The album was leaked via the members of Death Grips themselves on the midnight of October 1st to a horde of fans, anxious in anticipation of the aural experience that No Love Deep Web could potentially provide them, wondering what fresh new hooks, catchy choruses, and hypnotically enticing beats the album could potentially hold.
Like every Death Grips album, No Love Deep Web starts out extremely strong, with the first few tracks being some of the most substantial on the album. Indeed, the opening track Come Up and Get Me is not only one of the finest on the album, but is also representative of the overall theme and feeling of the album: namely, suicidal paranoia. Several of the tracks on the album mention and deal with the theme of suicide and death, as can be most prominently heard in the track World of Dogs, with its dangerously catchy chorus of “It’s all suicide”. Come Up and Get Me is no exception to this theme, as the lyrics speak of a man poised on the edge of a rooftop and contemplating ending his own life, begging for someone to “come up and get him”. The emotion that lead rapper of Death Grips (MC Ride) puts into the track verges on feeling quite disturbing, as he shouts through increasingly hoarse vocals, his voice cracking in desperation as he yells out the troubled lyrics. Meanwhile in the background, an intimidating barrage of throbbing bass adds to the maddening paranoia that the lyrics create, setting the stage and mood for the rest of the album.
A major factor in the popularity of Death Grips can be seen in how truly memorable and catchy the choruses to key tracks are, despite being almost completely indecipherable due to MC Ride’s shouting and relatively free-form style. However, hip-hop cannot rely on vocals alone, but is also strongly influenced by the beat behind the vocals, which Death Grips specializes in making unique, instantly recognizable and truly riveting. These styles can be seen in two remarkable tracks, Lil Boy and No Love. Lil Boy shines through via its vocal and lyrical qualities, in which MC Ride lures the listener in with what sounds like a more traditional style of rapping before desperately shouting his way back into the Death Grips style. Two gripping hooks within the track leave the song embedded within the listeners mind as a reminder of the captivating lyrical stylings that MC Ride can produce. However, what truly stands out most amongst both tracks is the electronic beats that take the songs from being average hip-hop and transform them into a truly outstanding Death Grips experience. Lil Boy varies in style from synthesized chime-like noises that seem oddly unsettling and isolated to dubstep reminiscent of UK electronic artist Skream, and many other soaring electronically produced noises in-between. However, the true instrumental gem lies within No Love, which makes full use of an industrial-like theme of soaring electronic drones that emit a foreboding and ominous presence that seem to come directly from some sort of demonic terror, overlapping an equally impactful chorus rapped with a distorted vocal effect. Together, these two tracks become definite highlights of No Love Deep Web.
Despite the positive qualities of the aforementioned tracks, the album itself does have several apparent downfalls, the first of which is its’ partial lack of musical variability, consistency in quality, and overall intrigue. Previous Death Grips albums all have a stellar quality to them that makes the music truly unique: Exmilitary was abound with all sorts of samples, from The Beastie Boys to Link Wray to Pink Floyd, and The Money Store was packed with original, fun, and addicting beats that made almost every track stand out. However, No Love Deep Web in part (though not entirely) falls flat in these areas, producing some tracks that are repetitive and some that are mostly unmemorable and seemingly uninspired (i.e. Hunger Games). Tracks such as these can seem rather bare or seemingly lacking at times, creating a minimalistic result that leaves much to be desired. This is not to say, however, that simple tracks can’t also be done well: take Stockton, for example, which feels very “plain” instrumentally as an overall track, yet has one of the catchiest choruses on the entire album. Another downside is that various parts of the album seem repetitive and electronic effects sound overused. The bass tracks that were so iconically dirty, bouncy and full of energy from The Money Store cannot as consistently be found on No Love Deep Web, leaving some of the bass on the album feeling stale and generic. In addition, the electronically produced noise of synthesized chimes initially sounds quite interesting and different, yet after appearing on no less than 3 tracks on the album, begins to sound uninspired and repetitive. More so than on previous albums, with particular tracks on No Love Deep Web it feels and sounds as though Death Grips was working with a rather limited palette musically.
With the inclusion of some amazing hit tracks and despite some rather bland misses, Death Grips manages yet again to produce another album in the genre of experimental/alternative hip-hop that stands far and above the rest of the hip-hop game. While the album did not necessarily feel as full of energy on all of its tracks as the previous albums put out by Death Grips, maybe this is due in part to the rather bleak and hopeless theme of suicide, death, and haunting paranoia that is apparent throughout the album. Given that these are very dark themes, perhaps the album seems more low-key because it itself is dark and brooding, ruminating on the depressing thoughts of a disintegrating psyche. Regardless of this fact however, the album managed to successfully produce unforgettable tracks that will no doubt stand side-by-side with other Death Grips key tracks such as Guillotine from Exmilitary and I’ve Seen Footage from The Money Store. Coupled with the wildly successful album The Money Store from earlier in the year, No Love Deep Web and Death Grips themselves will not soon be forgotten, as their importance in the history of the hip-hop scene becomes ever more apparent.
- Richard Cory