With this debut mixtape, Death Grips announced to the world their intentions, to say fuck you to the industry and prove to us all that they are without a shadow of a doubt the most innovative rap act around and perhaps the most polarising ever.
Released for free on April 25th 2011 through the Death Grips website, Exmilitary took a while to be truly appreciated but upon the release of lead single Guillotine, it became acknowledged as an important moment in the history of the hip-hop genre and the beginning of the era of experimental rap music. Death Grips are hard to nail to a certain genre, but in a hip-hop sense this was something completely unheard of before.
The album starts in perhaps the most intriguing way you are ever likely to hear an album start, an interview segment with Charles Manson as he brags about the motives of his life and how successful he is. The whole theme of individualism in this sampled segment sets us up expertly for the opening track Beware which has an explosive instrumental, mixed with traditional guitar chords and electronic synth lines to create a dystopian atmosphere for the listener. “I am the beast I worship” is a staple line in the Death Grips discography and stands for a key narrative in this project, that of accepting your inner devil and darkness and using them as a part of your character.
What makes this project stand out so much is the sheer audacity of some of the songs on here, it is entirely unique and all you need to do is take on listen to Spread Eagle Cross The Block to understand this, MC Ride brings aggression and energy to a stripped back, old-school instrumental which often teases us with possibilities of degenerating. In reality the guitars on this song are magnificent and when put alongside the brute force of Ride’s vocals, it works like you’d never expect.
There are also glowing examples of wild, electronic production, particularly on tracks like Lord of The Game and Culture Shock, which are so outright in your face that you can’t help but sit up and notice what the group are doing. The aforementioned Guillotine is perhaps the finest example of this as they don’t particularly do anything too difficult with the beat, they just add huge distortion and occasional synth flap but the sound it generates is colossal.
At first listen you can be easily forgiven for thinking it is just a mess with a lack of cohesion and real direction when in actual fact, this is perhaps one of the most tightly produced projects of this decade; concentrating on the concepts of good and evil, dark necessities and the terror of addiction. Tracks like Takyon (Death Yon) focus on the work of satanic tendencies while Thru The Walls and Known For It which come towards the end of the project take the sides of negative mindsets, pondering the reasons we exist and what we were put here for, as well as the release you get from these thoughts with the use of drugs.
MC Ride gets unfair criticism from neutral rap fans for his delivery but the reality is that not only are his lyrics and image some of the best on offer in the whole genre, but he also has an incredibly unique delivery and flow which manages to suit some of the strangest instrumentals going; your MCM’s favourite rapper couldn’t rap over that Blood Creepin beat but Ride does it effortlessly.
This album is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but one thing I will say is that you don’t have to be a twisted psychopath to enjoy this album. You don’t have to feel the things Ride feels because let’s face it, he is in a world of his own when it comes to attitudes towards society; and you certainly don’t have to be a satanic addict. All you have to be is open-minded, appreciative of experimental thinking and the possibility to make something completely different to anything you hear in the music industry today.