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A few days ago, the newest album from Death Grips, one of the most praised and mysterious musical acts in recent memory, was leaked before its planned March 31 release. So Death Grips did what Death Grips does: it put all of the songs from the album, Jenny Death, on their youtube channel. Jenny Death was supposed to be the band’s last release before their highly-publicized disbanding. However, they also recently announced a world tour, so Jenny Death might not be their last recording. Death Grips’ actions are amazingly confusing. They seem to squander every opportunity to be famous, and despite being well-known for cancelling shows, they show incredible fan service by releasing several albums unannounced and free. I think that Death Grips consider themselves artists, and only care about their art. However, the case can be made for the other side of that as well, that they’re pretentious or attention hounds.
The one thing that cannot be mistaken about Death Grips is their music. Their sound is difficult to pinpoint, probably because of its originality. It is uncompromising rap that borders on some new genre of music that only Death Grips can master. They are more punk than any rap group in history, sampling from punkers like Black Flag, Bad Brains and Wire. Their lyrics vary from minimal to profound, depending on the song. In the first song off their debut mixtape, 2011’s Exmilitary, they sample speech from Charles Manson. I can’t think of an abstract of a band as unadulterated as that song. They don’t care about offending or perplexing people, they just care about their music.
When I was a kid, the music in cartoons that took place in the far future like Batman Beyond and Samurai Jack had a certain type of post-electronic vibe that was ingrained in my mind of what music in the future was going to sound like. Death Grips reminds me of that music. In other words, they’re so far ahead of everyone else sonically that they seem like they’re from the future. Nobody knows what music twenty years from now is going to be like, but Death Grips seems like they’re on the right track.
I would write an album review of Jenny Death, but I like Death Grips too much to be objective, so I decided to rank the songs on the album instead. I will say this though: this might not be my absolute favorite Death Grips release, but it’s probably my favorite since their second album, The Money Store. Jenny Death is actually the “B” side of their album The Powers That B, but since the “A” side, N****s on the Moon, was released several months ago and both are full album-length, I count them as separate entities. The “A” side was alright, it had a few good songs, but it felt like the first half to something. Jenny Death as a stand-alone album is as good as any released this year. Onto the rankings…
10. Death Grips 2.0
This is the album closer, and it’s the only instrumental track on this album. It is a great song, but it suffers a bit if you take it out of the context of the album. If this is the last song on Death Grips’ last release, then it closes out their career the only way they could: with a weird and mind-blowing electronic freak-out.
9. Why a B**** Gotta Lie
This is a good song, but it’s that robot voice that makes it for me. It sounds like a mix between an instrument and a voice in the craziest way. It’s what a realistic HAL 9000 would sound like, and that’s a bit unsettling.
8. Beyond Alive
The first lines of this song read “Canopy of corpse tree branches loom above me/Vacuum of crushing doom lies before me/My future dies behind me, my entry aborts me”. Yeezus. I tell you what, whenever Death Grips decides to make their vocals decipherable, they hit hard. That’s some grade-A black metal lyrics right there man. Their sample game is on point on this track as well.
7. Turned Off
This song appears to actually be about something tangible. Story like almost, which is rare for Death Grips. From what I can tell it’s about a guy who has so much sex that he gets sick of it, he’s “turned off,” so he resorts to violence to get his kicks. Oh, typical Death Grips!
6. I Break Mirrors with my Face in the United States
This is the album opener, and it gets extra points for having by far the best song title on the record. Like other Death Grips album openers, it’s a pulsating burst of energy that focuses on the sound rather than lyrics. What is the song about? No idea. A part of me hopes that it’s a reference to Foxcatcher when Channing Tatum breaks a mirror with his head, and after all that did happen in America. However common sense says that it’s about breaking a mirror with how his face looks, which is unfortunate and untrue. MC Ride, you’re a beautiful man.
5. The Powers That B
The breakdown that happens about 35 seconds into this song, that leads into the chorus, is one of the best things I’ve listened to this year. This song as a whole is some illuminati-inspired clutter that’s just amazing. As a side note, I’d love to get MC Ride and Zach Hill’s opinion on current events. They have songs like this that seem politically-charged, it’s too bad that they’re mostly withdrawn because I’d enjoy their takes on things. Oh well, they do deserve their privacy.
4. Centuries of Damn
This song has the feel of an epic, and surprisingly, it even seems emotional. The most prominent sound throughout is that guitar, which is one of their best samples they’ve ever done. It gives the song a different feel from just about anything else Death Grips has done, something along the lines of loss or nostalgia. Actually it doesn’t sound like a rap song at all. There’s the guitar, live drums and MC Ride doesn’t even rap here. This song wouldn’t sound out of place if it played next to a Nine Inch Nails song.
3. Pss Pss
“I saw you doing peace signs with the FBI/Might’ve tried that in the future so don’t lie”. One of Death Grips favorite themes, paranoia, is back with this track! This is also the sleaziest-sounding song on the entire album without a doubt. This song should play in some dystopian sci-fi flick like Blade Runner or Dark City, it has that sort of future-strip club kinda feel. Not that I would know what that would be like…anyway did you know they’re actually making a sequel to Blade Runner? This song could be in there! Come on Ridley Scott, you’re in touch with the young people, give them Death Grips fighting Harrison Ford! I think we all need it after Exodus: Gods and Kings.
2. Inanimate Sensation
This was the first track from Jenny Death that Death Grips released, and it is a great face for the album. I’ve stared at the lyrics for too long, and I think that this song is just a celebration of being able to love and make music. Which sounds rather pc, but when done by Death Grips it sounds like the last line of this song: “I like my iPod more than f*****g.” The drums and guitar (I think?) that play during the chorus gets me so freaking hyped. It sounds like a runaway train, and with Death Grips as the conductors you never know where it’ll end up. My guess? To the Guillotine.
1. On GP
This song belongs in the pantheon of great Death Grips moments. They’ve always had anger in their music, but this is the song where the anger feels truly focused. It’s turned inward, and the result is a quieter, more melancholy, kind of anger. This song could be seen as a reflection of Death Grips’ reason to quit in the first place. The lyrics lament living a life in the spotlight, and show frustration with making successful art. Could this song be seen as pretentious or ungrateful? Sure. But I think that is truly how they feel. Death Grips rarely makes music about themselves, and it’s an interesting look into the mind of one of the best bands of our age.