We all know by now that Death Grips aren’t for everyone’s taste but with this their sixth studio album they prove once again why they are one of music’s hottest and most intriguing commodities as well as being one of the most important groups in modern hip-hop.
Death Grips are an experimental punk influenced hip-hop outfit from Sacramento, California who were formed in 2010 and have garnered rave critical reviews ever since their formation with their unique brand of brash and abrasive music. They have a core fanbase and are the first people to accept that those who enjoy what they do truly love it, whereas those who don’t will be highly critical, but the fact is they are one of the most important cross-genre groups of the century and expectations were high for this upcoming album.
Year of the Snitch comes two years after their last album Bottomless Pit which took their brand further than ever before and reaffirmed their abilities to combine both punk and rap in almost unimaginable ways. The singles they brought out for this latest album demonstrated the variety of the group in the best way imaginable, highlighting their traits of making huge synthesised rap anthems such as Streaky and following them with dark, aggressive punk songs like Black Paint; both of which hit their targets expertly. Listen to the riffs in the hook on Black Paint seriously, it is an absolutely huge listen and sounds like Rage Against The Machine on steroids.
As well as these two, we had four more singles to enjoy and all of them stand tall as some of the best work in recent Death Grips memory, whether it is the wild lyricism of Hahaha (MC Ride uses the word “ownage” quite a lot, make of that what you will), or the utterly bonkers Shitshow which can give you a true out-of-body experience when listening with the ridiculous changes of pace along with Zach’s outrageously talent-filled drum beats.
With the album’s opener, Death Grips is Online, the group do what they do better than just about anyone in beginning an album with their clear and direct message; telling the listener exactly what to expect with an absolute bang. MC Ride’s vocal delivery goes from understated rap flows to loud bellowing in the hook and it clicks together to form one of the best songs they have ever done thanks to some phenomenal production work from Andy Morin and Zach Hill.
Just as excellently as they open they album, they close it with just as poignant a message and as good a song in Disappointed. Rather interestingly, they have a song titled Outro come before this song so I can only imagine that this song has been used as a teaser for how future endeavours may sound; and if that is the case I am completely fine with that, it is an amazing end to the project.
Perhaps my favourite aspect of this album is the way it flows together and sounds as a whole project. It is just as easy to listen to your favourites on this as stand alone songs as it is to listen to the whole album back-to-back thanks to the impeccable transitions between songs, especially in the first four or five songs. That scream of “1,2,3,4!” between Flies and Black Paint is there to mentally prepare you for the onslaught you get from the latter track and it just brings them together brilliantly.
How could I talk about this album and not mention Dilemma, it is a brilliant song as it is, but to have a spoken word monologue at the beginning from Andrew Adamson makes it almost not feel real. For those who don’t know, and that won’t be many of you because I think I’ve spoke about this collaboration exclusively ever since I heard it was happening, Andrew Adamson is a film director most famous for directing Shrek. Yes, Death Grips were in the studio with the actual director of Shrek, two of the most earth-shattering memes combining to make magic, could you name a better crossover? I don’t think so.
Instrumentally the album is an absolute fever dream, there is so much going on at once and it could well be some of the best production efforts of the group’s entire discography at times, with simply staggering instrumental track The Horn Section serving as evidence of this. I mentioned it earlier but the synth lines on Streaky are a joke, they are like the soundtrack to a violent stroke and that’s the only way I can truly describe it and do the sheer audacity of it enough justice.
Vocally MC Ride appears to be at his most introspective on this album, using his words in an almost slam poetry styled tone in a fair portion of the songs while also having these incredible outbursts of emotion in the form of screams and shouts. The colossal roars of “WHY ME” on Disappointed and “BIATCH” on Shitshow are a far-cry from Ride telling us it is “Streaky on the outside” or that “should the opportunity arise, vomit me flies” on Streaky and Flies respectively in a more laidback tone than usual. His lyrical content remains on point and even if you cannot comprehend much of what he says I urge you to read some of what he says in songs; I call him angry Shakespeare because he truly is one of the greatest lyrical minds of this generation, but in the darkest kind of ways.
This album really is absolutely marvellous, it is all you could have wished for with some change along with it. The only thing for me that truly holds it back from being a 10/10 release is Linda’s In Custody which as a song doesn’t do much for me; but I can completely understand and appreciate it’s inclusion in the tracklist and the importance it holds in the context of the album. Also, Little Richard may well be a daring dive into the true musical unknown and I admire and often enjoy that, but it can feel like a bit too much at the best of times; but that under no circumstances means I can call it bad because I would be lying to you if I said that.
Please leave your judgements at the door with this album and approach it with an open mind, because even if their numerous styles of music aren’t for you I believe this kind of album to be one of those that can never be described categorically as poor, those negative connotations just don’t add up when talking about Death Grips and Year of the Snitch is just another piece of evidence to confirm this. You may not like them but trust me when I tell you they are so crucial to the development of the music industry and ensuring that we don’t have to settle for yes men who want to sell out and dominate charts. These guys are some of the most forward thinking musicians you will ever hear in your life, so much so that they will gladly sacrifice mainstream popularity for the good of artistic credibility.