At times this record plays like the musical equivalent of being hit over the head with a sledgehammer, but beneath the blunt trauma, there are a bounty of infectious hooks and refrains. MC Ride and co. take some of the most sinister subject matters and transform them into a primal and cathartic experience like no other.
As a young genre that is still very much maturing in the grand scheme of things, we have seen hip-hop branch into a myriad of different scenes and subgenres. Many artists have pushed the boundaries of what was deemed possible in rap music, but nobody has done it, recently in particular, quite like Death Grips. The Sacramento based trio, consisting of vocalist Stefan Burnett (AKA MC Ride), drummer Zach Hill and recording engineer Andy Morin, have gained notoriety as one of the most violent, abrasive, and forward-thinking acts in not just hip-hop, but the entirety of music. They set the underground scene alight with their ferocious debut mixtape, Exmilitary, in 2011, attracting attention from major record label Epic Records who, much to the surprise of their fanbase, quickly snatched them up. The following year, the group released their studio debut, The Money Store.
Where do you even start with this album? As soon as it kicks off with ‘Get Got’, listeners are blitzed by a frenzied electronic drum beat, shortly followed a synthesizer whirlwind. In the midst of the crazy instrumental, MC Ride recalls a tale of a police getaway, with themes like this coursing through the entire record. On The Money Store, Burnett touches on subjects including and not limited by violence, hedonism and mental instability- ‘The Fever (Aye Aye)’ depicts a street-worn character suffering from schizophrenia after a history of drug abuse; ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ delves deep into society’s desensitisation to violence due to the thousands of brutal videos anyone can easily access via the internet; and the album’s climax, ‘Hacker’ depicts an all out riot- where the world is swallowed whole by depravity. You simply couldn’t throw these topics over some boom-bap or a trendy trap beat, which is exactly why this album shines- its manic production, which you could argue draws closer influence from hardcore punk, rave and industrial music than from traditional hip-hop, closely follows the record’s twisted narrative that MC Ride delivers with unrelenting abandon.
The Money Store is certainly not for the faint of heart, even I can admit that my first listen was a jarring experience. But something kept me coming back. At times this record plays like the musical equivalent of being hit over the head with a sledgehammer, but beneath the blunt trauma, there are a bounty of infectious hooks and refrains. MC Ride and co. take some of the most sinister subject matters and transform them into a primal and cathartic experience like no other. Death Grips’ debut album helped the group forge a die-hard cult following- one that they still toy with to this day, with countless cancelled tour dates, a supposed break-up in 2014 and teasers towards new projects. Their last full length album- Bottomless Pit– was released last year, and the bands tireless productivity points to a new release on the horizon. Regardless of what happens in the future, The Money Store is sufficient evidence that Death Grips should go down in the history books as vanguards in the field of experimental hip-hop.