We’ve talked a lot about Death Grips this year. Zack Hill’s upcoming film which may or may not star Robert Patterson, their ongoing label wars, and of course the continuous no-shows at festivals and smaller venues. But we really haven’t talked about Death Grips the Band recently. Sure they released the utterly confounding “Birds” earlier in the year but the conversation soon turned back to DG’s nonmusical shenanigans. Then, suddenly, they release Government Plates with no warning and force us to recognize the original reason why we found them so captivating. They make some of the most forward looking and strangely energizing music on the planet.
A broken bottle and a shrill keyboard is all you get before Government Plates begins its invasion. Opening track “You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money…” includes some of frontman MC Ride’s most primal shouts and screams. When placed with the deeply uncomfortable music video, it paints a picture of absolute insanity. If you’re turned off here then you’ll want to stop listening as it only gets darker. It’s hard to say if this is Death Grip’s most disturbing album. After all their first proper release lead off with a Charles Manson quote, but damn does it come close. Despite previous releases all flying the industrial hip-hop banner each one had some songs with single appeal. “Lord of the game” from Exmilitary, “I’ve seen footage” and “Hacker” from The Money Store and even No Love Deep Web had “Whammy”. Government Plates doesn’t have anything that instantaneously catchy. It’s a murkier and more twisted piece of work.
As always, the dynamic that only MC Ride and Zack Hill are able to create is a key piece to Government Plate. Ride is possibly the only vocalist that can match the power of Hill’s drum violence. But the real star on Government Plates is producer Flatlander. Ride has stepped back in this release, allowing Flatlander’s production to take center stage. Death Grips moved away from the norm of sample based music that was in Exmilitary when they released The Money Store, exchanging Link Ray’s “Rumble” for Serna William’s tennis slam screams as a proper background for Ride’s shouts, but Government Plates goes further, relying mostly on Flatlander’s original work.
That’s not to say that Ride won’t hold your focus hostage. Outside of the aforementioned “You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money…” the sludgy flow on “Two Heavens” is one of Ride’s most intimidating moments. “Birds” is another highlight, leading with an unnerving hook that was distorted to such a point that it’s impossible to tell what it was originally. After a furious intro Ride simply says “fuck you” and the track slides into a slower groove with Ride rhyming at a sleepy pace about black hats and dead birds before turning to a nearly hilarious chorus “One bird, two birds, three birds, four Fuck you think I fuck this for?” Of course, it ends on a more terrifying note with Ride demanding you “drink this bleach”.
Still Flatlander steals the show on a good portion of these tracks. “This Is Violence Now (Don’t Get Me Wrong)” combines clattering drums with a viciously viral hook, “I’m on Overflow” is cruelly danceable, and the title track is one of the few songs in Death Grips’ catalog that is in the same universe as the word “pretty”. Flatlander’s backgrounds are fantastically varied and hopefully Government Plates will be followed by an instrumental version of the album as Death Grips have done before with Black Google.
Of course, the truly great moments are where all three members contribute evenly to create stunning chaos. “Big House” opens with frenetic and squelching synth lines before Ride interrupts by intoning “L.A. creeping under my skin” with Hill’s high-hat and percussion adding a twitchy element to the song. Final track “Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching)” is the most ambitious song Death Grips have ever made. It tops seven minutes and it doesn’t ever stop to breathe. The section that kicks in around three minutes is one of the most brilliant segments of music Death Grips have made yet with Ride rapping about a “ghost in machine” over colorful apgeiating synths. The song then slows to a molasses like pace and Ride throws out one of the album’s few truly funny lines “Play play no amuse me don’t forget to fuck off.”
“Whatever I Want” isn’t just one of the finest songs on Government Plates due to the ambitious heights that it dares to climb, it also represents Death Grips as a whole. Death Grips really don’t care what you think about them or their actions. Their creativity is flowing at its peak and they are only concerned with music, and you should be as well.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article