Ever since the underground punk/hip-hop masterpiece of Exmilitary, Death Grips have been simultaneously the most underrated and overrated alternative hip-hop duo in existence. This is a group who’s main appeal is their internet shenanigans, cover art so controversial that it makes the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers innocuous in comparison, and their inability to remain on any one label due to their insane lifestyle. At the same time, it’s impossible to deny the innovativeness of Zach Hill’s razor-sharp punk instrumentals and MC Ride’s lyrical content, successfully blending two genres that people neither wanted to nor thought possible to merge. With their fifth studio release, the duo takes a new, slightly softer approach to their music, but it’s still as enjoyable and confusing as ever.
Even though Bottomless Pit is their most mellow effort yet, it is still in every aspect a quintessential Death Grips album. Glitch-ridden synths cut across the hollow and empty industrial percussion on songs like “Hot Head” and “Eh” while eerie keys and chugging, filthy guitar riffs litter the sonic landscape surrounding “Warping” and “Ring a Bell”, albeit the noise is a bit less abrasive than their earlier efforts. For anyone new to the band, this might sound hideous, just as these musical amalgamations were on Exmilitary, The Money Store, and the electronically-tinged No Love Deep Web. However, after a few listens, not only does one become acclimated to Death Grips’ style, but they are bobbing their head and screaming the lyrics as if they were in a mosh pit ten feet away from MC Ride and Zach Hill.
If there’s anything particularly frustrating about Bottomless Pit, it has to be its conceptuality. Just like the group’s previous double album, The Powers That B, MC Ride’s stream-of-consciousness, visceral lyrics are both impenetrable and indecipherable. This may be Death Grips’ goal, since they revealed the lyrics for all of the tracks days prior to this album’s release as if they expected various reactions from fans and critics alike. However, it could have also simply been an attempt by the group to rile up their audience, which they did an excellent job at doing. Either way, MC Ride’s lyrics play as much of a role, if not more, in the overall concept of Bottomless Pit as the instrumentation, so the following analysis is my opinion, and may be on the money or completely off the mark. Only Death Grips knows.
Put simply, this album chronologically depicts the evils of war, from its political beginnings to its devastating finale. The opener, “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”, has a vocal snippet that repeats the song’s title throughout the song. Coupled with MC Ride’s lyrics dealing with “senile kings” and “genocide”, this track seems to delve into the evils of politicians and their willingness to do anything for financial gain. “Hot Head” and “Warping” shift focus, the former being about an angst-ridden soldier who’s ready to kill and the latter dealing with a pilot bombing people from the safety of his “cockpit”. After “Eh”, an ode to nihilism a la Friedrich Nietzsche, Bottomless Pit unravels, becoming as chaotic as a war zone. “Bubbles Buried in the Jungle” seems to deal with fighting in the forest, “Trash” has the same nihilistic elements of “Eh”, and “Houdini” might possibly deal with rape. By the time MC Ride’s constant “I’ll fuck you in half” lines dies out at the end of the closer, the album feels less like a story about war and instead a sonic representation of war, as it drives men from the safety of sanity to the bottomless pit of madness itself.
If there’s anything to complain about, it’s that Death Grips is sometimes too unobtrusive for their own good. MC Ride could have been more raucous on “Warping”, while “Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood” and “Eh” could use some slightly more explosive instrumentation. Still, these extremely minor setbacks are more than made up for with songs like “Hot Head, “BB Poison” and “Ring a Bell”, the latter of which is the best track Death Grips has ever done.
It’s difficult to truly analyze Death Grips, mainly because they are in a category all their own. Their music is so genre bending, so gritty, and so punk-inspired that it truly leaves one speechless. Bottomless Pit will clearly not be for all hip-hop or punk fans, but it is impossible to deny that this album, just like the rest of the duo’s catalog, is doing a much-needed service to both genres by experimenting with them in unimaginable ways. It fuses the rebelliousness and enraged ethos of punk acts like Dead Kennedys and Sex Pistols with the intricate lyricism and flow of hip-hop acts like Old Dirty Bastard; if that doesn’t make a music fan salivate with excitement, then they weren’t really one to begin with.