Death Grips – Old Blue Last, London – Live review

Originally published: NME

Hip hop has always been about selling out. It’s part of the game. But 2011 has caught many of its big hitters with their pants down, fingers lifting from the till and filling their trunk with easy money and own self-worth. With Jay-Z and Kayne West’s ‘Watch The Throne’ flatlining, the record’s artillery became solely that of its alliance’s notoriety – two key players that have helped shift the hop to pop, commercialism and cash over credibility.

While these heads of state have taken their eye off the sovereignty, the genre has seen reluctant messiahs like Tyler, The Creator stepping forth to preach from the gutter and claim its crown. But California’s Death Grips spot frailties in all of those that have declared rank and royalty. They’re not here for the taking of authority and thrones – they are here to rob from the rich and sodomise their unholy remains.

Their street-like demeanour is not simply confined to that of the lyrical mania that lashes from MC Ride’s acerbic tongue – he is merely the one wielding the axe with which they sonically bludgeon. What drives his psychosis is the hybrid noise that Flatlander (production) and Hella’s Zach Hill (drums) infect with their musical malady: horrorcore, IDM, black metal, industrial, futurism, post-techno. As a unit they are muscular, compact, concise and cutthroat; a by-product of the streets of Sacramento from which they have survived, scraping at a loaded barrel of macabre influences and infirmary. Their debut mixtape entitled ‘Exmilitary’ (a free download) pulled an incendiary trigger on something new, fearless and soulless in the same vein as HEALTH, Salem and Odd Future.

Bare-chested with a penitentiary physique, the lawless MC Ride rips and curls over their bastardised sound with a masochistic and depressed minefield of lyrical shock therapy. From self-assessment in the Charles Mansun-inspired ‘Beware’ (“I am the beast I worship”), to the prison cell screams of ‘Klink’ and political corruption in the klaxon-driven ‘Thru The Walls’, Death Grips are as energised and awe-inspiring as the sub-atomic particle which they grasp and rasp at in ‘Takyon (Death Yon)’. Death Grips are fighting a war of attrition, and they are holding a shotgun in the face of all of those opposing.

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