Death Grips returns with a fierce, daunting project in ‘Year of the Snitch’

While not their greatest achievement, the LP is still a welcome addition


Undefinable group Death Grips returns with their latest LP "Year of the Snitch," an album as complex and disturbing as its cover art suggests.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Since its birth, experimental group Death Grips has released numerous projects with incredibly odd and obscure intentions. Each album seems to have its own unique sound, with the band slowly changing shape throughout their discography. Its newest record, “Year of the Snitch,” is one where the group’s sound opens up into foreign grounds. Listeners can expect the same chaotic noise the band is associated with, but each song tends to expand on various aspects of the music. Hooks are extended, vocals have eccentric highs and lows and drummer Zach Hill’s incredible talent is amplified tenfold. 

The thing about Death Grips is that with each release, you really don’t know what to expect. When one first listens to Death Grips, they are immediately greeted by an abrasive, hard and seemingly uncomfortable music experience. 

But the group’s ability to create coordinated lunacy in its music is what draws their almost cultish fanbase. The Sacramento-based trio, formed in 2010, released its first mixtape “Exmilitary” in the spring of 2011 and their studio debut album “The Money Store” the following year, both receiving great amounts of critical acclaim. Since then, the band has released 4 more LPs and a handful of singles / mixes / EPs, each one as weirdly different as the next.

Death Grips’ music combines elements of multiple genres and styles ranging from hip hop, punk, electronic, noise and industrial. MC Ride, vocalist and lyricist for the band, brings in cryptic lyrics through an aggressive rapping style that’s filled with adrenaline. The group’s stage performances are known for their rowdiness and intensity. Past releases are perfect indicators as to why they act so brashly, with a certain fluidity that brought the album together. “Year of the Snitch,” however, lacks any kind of formulaic behavior.

The album has a handful of flat-out awesome tracks. Some of the best songs include “Flies,” “Black Paint” and “Streaky,” which notably were all singles released prior to the album — yet, they feel even more enhanced within the album’s context. “Death Grips is Online” is a triumphant opener that kicks things into gear within seconds; “The Fear” is a psychopathic and twisted take on the Old West. 

The one problem that seems to arise is the fact that not all of the tracks seem to work in context with the album or just in general. The tracks “S—tshow” and “Linda’s In Custody” are perfect examples: the songs are so blaringly loud and unmanageable to the point in which the music almost feels uninteresting. A few of the songs on this album fall into the same, ineffective pattern.

This album deserves fair recognition for showing that Death Grips has continued to evolve with their music. There are a few songs that are nightmarishly gorgeous. The pairing between “Flies” and “Hahaha” works perfectly, with “Flies” being the darker side, “Hahaha” the lighter, more comical one. MC Ride's lyrics are unfiltered and indecent, even for the grief-stricken rapper’s standards. The over-the-top nature of his character translates to the production — a character that is both erratic and confusing. 

Another point worthy of noting is the record’s packaging artwork and the overall enthusiasm of the band that came into this record. Releasing six singles — with four of them having corresponding music videos — and perplexing social media posts surrounding “Year of the Snitch,” it seemed evident that the band was trying to create an album filled with irony and counterculture to this year. There’s an undeniable anti-state, anti-capitalist bend to the lyrics and music — an attitude behind all of it — but Death Grips isn’t the type of band to enforce political agendas directly into their music. Perhaps the choice of effortless artwork focusing on materialist objects and the emphasis on showcasing the most bizarre music and visuals possible is their way of satirizing the 2018 world.

Aside from hardcore fans who appreciate any music that Death Grips puts out, the majority of the band’s fame stems from their 2012 album “The Money Store.” The tracklist flows well, the songs are outlandish and radical but also clever and catchy, and it genuinely felt like an innovation in the experimental hip hop genre. 

“The Year of the Snitch,” however, feels completely different. MC Ride’s vocals are troubling from start to end. It’s hard to get an established sense of conclusion after a playthrough of the album, mostly because some of the tracks really don’t come together. Oddly enough, the album seems to be best described by one of its own samples: “I don’t know dude / I just drink blood dude.” It may not be clearly visible upon first listen, but “Year of the Snitch” has some sanguine beauty behind the madness.

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