It’s Thursday, October 18th, and No Love Deep Web has been available for free for 18 days. The de facto mixtape from Death Grips was cut out from Epic’s womb without its knowledge, the very same major label that put out their mostly wonderful LP earlier this year The Money Store. The blitzkrieg middle-finger release fit so well with the initial listen of the album, a kiss-off to The Man, full of fear and vitriol and mania, so singular in its dizzying aggression that there’s just no way this could sit on an endcap at Target, or be filed between Death Cab for Cutie and The Decemberists at a Barnes & Nobel bin. Well, the uncensored artwork made sure of that.
The clamor surrounding the non-traditional and dubious release of the album has since died. The cries of “Punk as fuck!” and “PR stunt!” have filtered to the back of the room, and on day 18 the album still screams to be heard. MC Ride does say “some shit to say just for the fuck of it”, but most of his schizophrenic free-verse purgations are in lovely harmony with Zach Hill’s scatterbrain, unbalanced drums, all of which were either recorded live on an electronic drum kit or an acoustic one. That live-in-the-studio feel is especially present on NO LOVE DEEP WEB, where the two build off each other’s paranoia and aggression over a lean 45 minutes.
Part of what’s so fun about Death Grips is listening to MC Ride think he’s absolutely invincible and infallible. It’s different than the normal self-aggrandizement trope in hip-hop, because the enemies Ride faces are these intangible internal forces and mysterious external ones. “My moods live on a swing/ push me harder” he ekes out on “Hunger Games” before proclaiming, “Somebody kill me/ I can’t stop stealing.” His mood swings are the most interesting aspects on the album, from the gauntlet throw of “Come Up And Get Me” to the slightly more sedated standout “Artificial Death in the West”. It’s amazing the number of shades he can find in such a bizarre spectrum of sound.
The sound here lives in this pop-less vacuum, which makes it hard to find an entry point. There’s no straightfoward head-nodder like “I’ve Seen Footage” or something as bare and gritty as “Guillotine”, but the hidden hooks in NO LOVE DEEP WEB come out after repeated listens, like the hard-rock groove that’s hidden in “No Love”, or the immediate electrified bark-banger of “Stockton”.
It’s relentless top to bottom, but if you can get beyond the occasional groaning psycho-sexual screams (“Heavy is the head…that’s blowing me” or “I’m the coat hanger in your man’s vagina”) there’s a whole alternate network Death Grips have created. It’s like a pirate music channel you’re not sure you should be watching because you’re not exactly sure how real it is — the Videodrome of hip-hop, so to speak. With NO LOVE DEEP WEB, Death Grips continues to distort and debase the map of rap and punk, much to the chagrin of the unadventurous types that both sit high up in major label board rooms and walk the streets with us.
Essential Tracks: “Stockton”, “Artificial Death in the West”, and “Come Up and Get Me”