The Death Grips hype may be a thing of the past but ‘Bottomless Pit’ shows why they’re considered to one of the most essential bands of the decade
The enigmatic and ever-evolving experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips have had a “treat em’ mean and keep em’ keen” relationship with the music world since their 2011 debut mixtape, ‘Exmilitary’. After curiously signing with Sony imprint, Epic (usually more interested in X-Factor winners than aggressive, underground noise rap), which released their critically acclaimed ‘The Money Store’, they controversially cancelled their tour to complete a follow-up. However, a dispute over a release date led to Death Grips leaking ‘No Love Deep Web’ online, featuring the erect penis of drummer/producer Zach Hill on the cover.
The incident led to them being dropped, but they’d generated enough hype in their first 18 months to go it alone, and soon began utilising the trolling potential of the internet. During the summer of 2014, a month after announcing a double album, ‘The Powers That B’, the trio suddenly announced they were “disbanding”. The first disc, ‘Niggas on the Moon’, was then leaked online weeks later, with fans having to wait eight months for the second disc, ‘Jenny Death’. The same day, they casually announced that they “might make some more” with the final track on ‘Jenny Death’ titled ‘Death Grips 2.0’ leading to all kinds of theorising.
Quite what they mean by ‘Death Grips 2.0’ may never be fully known, but there’s certainly something different about ‘Bottomless Pit’. For a start, they’ve opted for a scheduled release. More importantly though, it’s easily their most cohesive and accessible album to date. While ‘The Money Store’ had plenty of hooks, ‘Bottomless Pit’ is packed full of them. Structurally, it’s like a punk record, with 12 of its 13 tracks coming in at around three-minutes or under, each building upon and refining everything that’s great about Death Grips: heavy guitars, a variety of hard and soft synths, schizophrenic drum patterns and MC Ride focussing more on rapping over rambling.
‘Bottomless Pit’ bursts out at you with the death metal-inspired ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’, containing the surprise addition of female vocals. A reworked version of the chaotic preview track ‘Hot Head’, featuring Ride‘s insane babbling, is as exhausting as it is exhilarating. But it’s from ‘Spikes’ onwards that the album comes into its own, with a focus on synth-driven hooks. The heavily distorted ‘Warping’ slows things down a touch before the addictive and low-key ‘Eh’ showcases Death Grips at their most accessible.
Their nastier side returns on the bass-driven ‘Bubbles Buried In This Jungle’, while the hooky ‘Trash’ sees them experimenting with trap-style beats. The unstoppable groove of ‘Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighbourhood’ also combines several hooks into one track. ‘Ring a Bell’ sees the return of heavy guitars, but just when you expect a riff-filled finale, the bouncy chill of ‘80808’ pleasantly surprises you, with the guitars reappearing again for the title-track closer with Ride repeating the line: “I’ll fuck you in half”.
It would have been nearly impossible for Death Grips to maintain the levels of hype that have surrounded them while continuing to produce albums that were as strange and confused as those released post-2012. ‘Bottomless Pit’ is a return to earlier form, and fully justifies why they’re considered to one of the most essential bands of the decade.
‘Bottomless Pit’ is out now via Third Worlds.
This Death Grips article was written by Daniel Kirby, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard