I WASN'T the least bit surprised when I was informed earlier this month that Death Grips vocalist Stefan Burnett (better known as MC Ride) and drummer Zach Hill "sadly aren't doing interviews." Over the past month, the Sacramento two-piece has received more attention for their very public squabble with their record label than their new record. Considering that the record, No Love Deep Web, includes cover art that features a close-up photo of an engorged penis, that's quite a feat.
The soap opera began on October 1, when Death Grips released No Love—their second record of 2012—for free on their website without Epic Records' permission. A month after the release, Death Grips publicly posted emails sent from Epic expressing their profound disappointment in the band for releasing the album without the label's knowledge, also noting that by doing so, they had breached several provisions in their contract. Days later Epic was already in the process of dropping Death Grips from the label.
To many, the whole exchange was a punk-as-fuck display of artistic integrity, a middle finger to major labels that got out of the business of nurturing artists years ago. To others it was seen as a well-executed publicity stunt. In actuality, it's an inseparable mix of the two, and it makes you wonder why the band ever got involved with Epic in the first place.
Death Grips' music is difficult to categorize—organized chaos carried by the weight of Hill's schizoid beats and the militant bark of MC Ride, who spits out lyrics that are occasionally interesting and at times painfully lunkheaded. It's post-apocalyptic hiphop that's deliberately, frighteningly intense, particularly live. More bands should take note. Needless to say, Death Grips are a far cry from former labelmates Avril Lavigne and Sean Kingston.
The members have stated that they pushed No Love Deep Web through their label's force field because the record is a more accurate portrait of where Death Grips are now. Apparently they've already outgrown their Epic debut, The Money Store, which was released all the way back in April. Death Grips are burning hot right now, and they have the potential to leave a permanent mark. Seeing as the band evidently tires of its own work pretty quickly, the only hope is that their flame doesn't burn too fast.