Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Lords Of The Game, Death Grips' Top 25 Tracks



The enigmatic group intent on constantly rattling their fans have just released their latest LP, The Powers That B to widespread acclaim. Throughout the years Death Grips have compiled some of the most forward-thinking Hip-Hop songs known to the genre thus far, it's only fair we seek out the best they've assembled. While the original plan had their latest be the official sendoff to the group, announcing a retirement, their recent statement "we might make more" shot through fans as everyone, including myself, continuously fell for their deceitful ways. So, as it stands, this may not be the end all list. There might be, and we certainly hope, some new additions to the catalogue. One note before the countdown, due to the nature of Fashion Week I've excluded it from this list. Now, let's take a journey through the Lords of the Game.
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25
Bass Rattles Stars Out The Sky
NO LOVE DEEP WEB

As Government Plates exposed, Death Grips can accomplish short, interlude-esque tracks with supreme clarity. Typically a title will describe the lyrics, here though they explain the sound, as the bass shatters these echoey synths soaring above. There's not much to this track besides a concise sound that bounces back between structured beats, each addicting in their own right.

24
Culture Shock / 5D
Ex-Military

I'm lumping these together because honestly, who wouldn't? Back when Death Grips' samples were more easily definable, the sonic palate that they created, mixing 60's and 70's doo-wop with aggressive beats, was an undertaking with massive payoffs. 'Culture Shock' also can be noted as Ride's first exposure to the technological paranoia that would influence much of his later work, as did '5D,' strongly departing from Ex-Military to foreshadow the coming electronic sounds of Flatlander.

23
Hacker
The Money Store

The finale to The Money Store was largely a culmination in everything it set out to do, that being to make catchy and expressive music in accordance to Ride's insistence on berating his opposers. The track is loaded with quotables, "I'm in your area!," "when you come out your shit is gone," and "teaches bitches how to swim" are just a few. It's the riot anthem Money Store needs to close out it's revolutionary onslaught.

22
Whammy
NO LOVE DEEP WEB

A large part of 'Whammy's' allure is its destruction beat, possibly one of the best Death Grips has constructed. A constantly intact bass rumbles along in the background as indecipherable vocal samples morph into a hi-hat on their own, with thimbles and shaking synths accompanying her voice. Ride continues on his rampage of throttling the listener into submission, attacking us verbally with boisterous lyrics only he could back up.

21
This Is Violence Now (Don't Get Me Wrong)
Government Plates

I'd be the first to admit I don't get 'This Is Violence Now,' but damn if it ain't catchy. Ride's insistence on declaring violence upon the present in succession with the rapidly fluctuating beat intent on becoming an instant ear worm is enough to earn a spot as Death Grips' most attractive works. It's an easy listen that doesn't require work, and yet still rewards the listener with a pulsating beat to nod along to.

20
Get Got
The Money Store

Those initial drum processions, followed by Ride's "get get get get got got got got" are a moment in Death Grips lore many fans won't forget. The crunchy synths compressed into this sonic adventure in the chorus help parade around Ride's story of his encounter with the police, escaping them in a high speed chase. Nothing captures listeners intrigue quite like 'Get Got.'

19
Centuries Of Damn
Jenny Death /  The Powers That B

No song takes Jenny Death's anthemic Rock influence to greater lengths than 'Centuries Of Damn,' featuring a looping guitar riff and marching line drums. The bread and butter though resides in the chorus, one of Death Grips' best, that escalates all the Rock influence to titular levels with a off-the-walls guitar riff that cascades down the walls. No Death Grips track has sounded so, oddly enough, beautiful. 

18
Lord Of The Game
Ex-Military

Remaining the sole feature of Death Grips thus far, Mexican Girl utilizes her constant presence to counteract Ride's masculine male voice. The most tribal track the group has made, no better song on Ex-Military encapsulates the cover it appends to than 'Lord Of The Game,' reminiscent of a savage cannibalistic feast happening on an island inhabited by uncontacted tribes. 

17
Lock Your Doors
NO LOVE DEEP WEB

There contains a true sense of misery throughout NO LOVE DEEP WEB, nowhere is that shown better than on 'Lock Your Doors.' The lumbering bass sounds as apocalyptic as any Death Grips track, while Ride's lyrics play like a call to arms, a call that aims to attack you, urging you to lock your doors and hide. Rarely has he seemed so intent on outlasting his opponent in a battle to the death.

16
You Might Think He Loves You
Government Plates

Before the ensuing trance-like chaos of Government Plates hits, the last connection to Heavy Metal explodes in the opener. The ravaging and distorted bass line ricochets in all four corners, leaving a breathless feeling, as Ride begins to lose his too on the jaw-dropping first verse, culminating with an aggressively uncomfortable "stretch you out like latex mask" line that sends shivers up spines.

15
Billy Not Really
Niggas On The Moon / The Powers That B

The demons of MC Ride's past emerge here in a reckless story revolving around a terrified medium who gawks at the palm lines she sees Ride expose. It's a frantic song that surprisingly works as a nostalgic trip into the emcee's mind with amnesia playing a large role into the leads forgetful memories. The accompaniment of Bjork's stuttered vocals swiftly parade around the twirling head of a character slowly losing his mind.


14
Hustle Bones
The Money Store

Ride's proclamations that his voice hustles bones remains true to this day. See, rappers brag and boast all the time, Ride backs it up with ferocity. But what really makes 'Hustle Bones' memorable is the chorus, a female voice being stitched together through a grinder. It's astounding when you realize it's all just one stitch, one frame of her voice, being repeated ad nauseam.


13
Artificial Death In The West
NO LOVE DEEP WEB

NO LOVE DEEP WEB's anthemic closer echoes the albums most electrically-composed beat, as constant ping pong of drums duke it out under Ride's paranoid visions of western societies treatment of death through a technological guise. By comparison, it's a rather tame Death Grips track, but it's this structured element that resonates most clearly, and proves that the group can compose coherent set pieces just as easily as jumbled messes.


12
Guillotine
Ex-Military

Accompanied by the comical music video that evoked an unusual feeling 'Guillotine' was one of the first Death Grips songs to reach a large audience, despite its audacious sound and structure. It was too weird to fail as listeners willing to latch on witnessed the excellence within as Ride spoke of his moments surrounding his death at the guillotine as elongated bass fluctuations echoed in the background.


11
Inanimate Sensation
Jenny Death / The Powers That B

The first sounds anyone heard of Jenny Death was the vocal screeching of its lead single 'Inanimate Sensation,' a wild roller coaster ride never worried about safety. In its six plus minutes Ride sports a variety of vocal effects, from his trademarked gasping for breath verses to an eery whisper and bombastic low-toned wailing. Throughout Ride remarks on societies obsession over the inanimate culminating in the hilarious "I like my iPod more than fuck-ing" line.


10
System Blower
The Money Store

With literal titles not usually a part of the group's repertoire, 'System Blower' couldn't have made a better first impact upon realization that yes, Death Grips was here to blow your system. The blown-out bass that remains highly concentrated and segmented rattles throughout as the remnants of the last thump clashes with the beginning of the next. The phenomenal revving that concludes the track, righteous in its high-octane approach ends the track in a fiery wreck of a climax. The irony here is that, while the system blowing has multiple meanings, one of that blowing your perceptions of everything, Ride does little more than boast throughout, making brash claims that hinder on violent pleasures, a nod to the beat's obsessive foundation and his inability to resist the urge to wild out.

9
No Love
NO LOVE DEEP WEB

No one can deny Zach Hill and Flatlander's abilities to construct a bevy of emotions sonically, but one that's rare even by Death Grips' standards exposes itself chillingly on 'No Love,' that being pure terror. The exhausting bass stretching that consumes the track spirals in controlled chaos that bends the mind of those who listen as Hill's drums rattle in form that create a cacophony of delusion and misdirection. Ride's confidence over the slaughtering of those who oppose him only adds to the fear spreading itself like a virus throughout. And yet, on top of all that, the chorus still maintains a catchy atmosphere despite Ride explicitly telling you of the "madness."


8
Up My Sleeves
Niggas On The Moon / The Powers That B

When people talk of the Yin/Yang contrast between Death Grips' primal beginnings and electronic evolution no two songs resonate greater than 'Beware' and 'Up My Sleeves,' two sides of the same coin. The messages have always remained intact, from "I play the cards" to "up my sleeves" in alarming repetition, Death Grips has made it clear that they're in control of their own progression. With its claustrophobic onslaught 'Up My Sleeves' may be the group's most difficult song sonically, with a barrage of conflicting synths and vibrations clashing against one another as MC Ride's world crumbles around him. Niggas On The Moon sported Death Grips' most cryptic lyrics to date but Ride's railing yelp, "Oh yeah I should be worried, oh yeah I'm temporary!" is a clear indicator to his current mental state.


7
Spread Eagle Cross The Block
Ex-Military

To this day ExMilitary remains special for its inherent 'wholeness,' something no other Death Grips record could produce. When it was primal and noisy, it was Hip-Hop and lyrically dense. When it was futuristic and glitchy, it was crate-digging the past for records lost in the rubble. 'Spread Eagle' was a connoisseur of this template, using Link Wray's 'Rumble' from 1958 as a backbone to its agenda, a message many would miss as trite rap talk over music, sex, and drugs. None of it ever intended to culminate, and yet the wholeness itself, rather than succumbing to a rendering of the sum of its parts, creates something new, fresh, and breathtakingly dexterous. 


6
Death Grips (Next Grips)
Death Grips

The first release in their catalogue will always remain their most poignant, with a declaration of sorts for what Stefan Burnett and Zach Hill aimed to accomplish at the time. Rocky guitar riffs with panicked, primal drum sequences all stitched together with uncoordinated do-op samples, a pairing so insane it couldn't help but work. Apart from some aimless juxtapositions in sounds the song itself plays out rather safe, their true experimentation hadn't hit its peak yet but the talents on display definitely showed imminent promise. "It's Death Grips!!" has become a staple of the bands music, Ride's vocals not yet hitting their stride in terms of depression, simply relishing in the joy of a new band formation. 


5
I've Seen Footage
The Money Store

The pinnacle of Death Grips' shocking, yet entirely palpable Pop influence arrives with 'I've Seen Footage's' fast-moving, head-nodding beat progression. Recently it was unearthed that the beginning comes remarkably close to Outkast's 'The Way You Move' if that tells you how generally likable the track is. Even the chorus presents an easily mimicked "I've seen footage, I stay noided, I've seen footage," that contradicts much of Ride's indecipherable lyrics with joyful repetition. The content hidden within though is far from accessible. MC Ride's witnessed some horrible things in his life, internally deciding to detach from it, real life events turn into fantasy nightmares and video footage. 


4
Say Hey Kid
Niggas On The Moon / The Powers That B

In the rambunctious, claustrophobic Niggas On The Moon there stands a bizarre, monotone track that teeters as far from the Death Grips catalog as any other track they have. 'Say Hey Kid' enforces the sporadic, electronic drum loop Zach Hill's later works seem to be influenced by during the chorus, yet strips all that during Ride's verses, eerily spoken over a thumping metronome as a precaution to "his people"'s actions. As with much of their later work the lyrical content is there to be overtly focused despite having no obvious message. 'Say Hey Kid' may be their hardest to decipher, as vampires, kids playing dead, and bus driver's all playing pivotal roles. It's a blip of serenity in the claustrophobic Niggas, despite its successes in fitting in all the same. For what little we know of MC Ride one of the most shocking revelations to his personality is that of his quiet demeanor off-mic, but now, through his mind-bending, schizophrenic delivery, we can see where some of that reservation goes.


3
Birds
Government Plates

Often times I wonder to myself how exactly three humans came up with 'Birds.' Nothing contained within holds any semblance of order as volatile synths screech like nails on a chalkboard with interluding segments of petrified beauty as Robert Pattinson nimbly strums an electric guitar that's hollowed and depraved. On top of all this is Ride, giving previews to his inexplicable lyrics found in future releases, as talk of paranoia and selling out battle with copious bird metaphors like a drugged out Dr.Seuss novel. The startling disparity between the tribal beginnings of the track and the wailing electronic kaleidoscope of the latter half provide a contrast that makes 'Birds' one of Death Grips' most gut-churning tracks. Upon the belief that things are settling down, the ominous "I got higher, I got fake" are met with a ravenous "HIGHER!" that tears down the walls around it and shatters glass like the internal demons bellowing themselves for a moment before residing. 


2
On GP
Jenny Death / The Powers That B

The penultimate track to Jenny Death, and arguably Death Grips' entire discography. Many have called the conclusion to The Powers That B a pivotal point in the trajectory the group aims at following, and why shouldn't it. MC Ride's expressively suicidal tendencies on Jenny Death come to a startling realization on 'On GP' as death knocks at his door, calling him by his first name, after Ride declares all of his obsessive fans as his main unraveling. There's no coincidence that the quieter moments of the shoe-gaze masterpiece sound ripped off Ride's funeral procession, the dark reminder of a man battling constant anguish. Even the instrumental finale, 'Death Grips 2.0,' leaves things in a climatic state as Ride's fate rests in the balance, the future a declarative unknown just like Ride's life. While much of the groups discography relies on packed emotions unleashing themselves, 'On GP' is remarkable subdued and internal, causing a string of intensely personal moments.


1
Beware
Ex-Military

While 'Death Grips (Next Grips)' may have been the official start of the group, no better song displayed the message, motive, and misconduct of Death Grips than Charles Manson and 'Beware.' With that smoldering opening, as told by the man with a swastika tattooed on his forehead, to the overbearing, unnatural roar following "the game is mine, I deal the cards," Death Grips officially came into their own, purveyors of the wreckage, sonically disparaging to most who encountered them, stoically helming their rugged sound. Zach Hill's primal drum sets, looped and distorted, compete with the snarling guitar riff that's stretched beyond belief dominating the walls of the song. And yet the character so provocatively celebrating his ritualistic dominance, unknown by name at the time, remains a pivotal player in the Death Grips lore with comparisons only made towards the mysterious aborigine on the cover. MC Ride will go down in infamy as the enigmatic figure worshipping the beast he declares as his own.


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