I’m sure some people have been waiting for me to talk about Death Grips. For those of you that don’t know, Death Grips is a band comprised of rapper MC Ride, producer Flatlander, and drummer Zach Hill. They specialize in relatively standard industrial music with a dash of hip-hop. Now, Death Grips aren’t the only people making this type of music. Other acts like clipping. and more notably, Kanye West’s Yeezus, have used a very similar style, and done so very well. But what really separates Death Grips apart from these other acts is their distinct lack of quality. Despite being met with perhaps the most critical acclaim and the largest cult following out of any of these “Death Groups”, Death and the Grips’ songs are almost invariably obnoxious, poorly-written, poorly-produced, and all-around unfunctional. If you were looking for yet another Death Grips jerk-off session, I suggest you open Google and search for “Anthony Fantano.” You’ll find it there somewhere.
With all that out of the way, let’s look at their latest single “The Powers That B.” This is the third single off the second half of their fourth album, which isn’t even out yet, but already has three singles, all of which are from the second half. Guys, you can’t just… do baffling shit and expect people to applaud it. Why release a two-part album, and have all the singles on one part? What’s the logic behind it? Why release a two-part album at all? They’re both long enough to pass for an album, and they have nothing to do with each other. This is like how they made the cover for No Love Deep Web a picture of Zach Hill’s dick. What’s the logic behind it? Did you think it would drum up publicity? Because it didn’t, as far as I know. And releasing a two-part album is definitely not a way to drum up publicity.
Let’s start with the most obvious question. What does the title mean? This is a problem I have with a lot of Death Grips songs and albums and, I don’t know, slam poetry nights, probably. None of their titles make any sense. Another song off this album is called “I Break Mirrors With My Face In the United States”. What the fuck? And I know this is hypocritical coming from someone who listens to Fall Out Boy, but let me put it this way: Fall Out Boy is like Death Grips if they were fun and talented. But I digress. This title is especially perplexing, because they literally took out one letter. What is the significance of the letter B? Does it mean B as in “bro,” like “Hey, B, how’s it going?” It couldn’t, because that doesn’t make any sense. Maybe the song will get into it.
Let me start out by saying I actually rather like Flatlander’s beat work. I sort of wish he’d broaden his horizons a bit, all of his songs carry the same sort of brooding, droning anger to it that can only take you so far as an artist, but all things considered he’s pretty good. However, we’re quickly introduced to the band’s lead singer, and one of my personal top ten worst rappers, MC Ride.
The first lines are “I can’t know what I’m ’bout to do, I’m what the fuck happens.” This quickly introduces us to the theme of the song (which it’ll no doubt abandon soon enough): Ride, or his character, does not control his own actions. The forces and emotions within him dictate what he does. He’s “got the powers that be running through me”. And if you thought that was a really interesting topic that this MC could Ride for the rest of the song, you obviously haven’t been acquainted with Death Grips.
“My favorite color is oh my god, bitch.” That’s the next line. Now, this may seem like the most asinine line this side of Soulja Boy, but there actually is a deeper meaning behind it. Ride is lashing out against people who harass him about his personal life, asking him trivial things like what his favorite color is, to which he responds with “Oh my god, bitch!” First of all, Ride has called out Kanye for jacking his style a few times, but didn’t Kanye say this exact same thing and word it a lot better on “Black Skinhead”? “Middle America packed in/Come to see me in my black skin/Number one question they askin’/Fuck every question you askin’!” With that out of the way, let’s get back to the song. What the fuck does this line have to do with the song? Is that supposed to be an example of an irrational response? Is MC Ride really so soft that his best example of pure unfiltered emotion is being annoyed by people asking him dumb question? Or, more likely than not, we’re literally two lines into the chorus, and he’s already forgotten what he’s talking about. That’s a new record even for Death Grips.
He uses the rest of the chorus to say that he supports black power, is rich, and is racially profiled. So it’s safe to assume he’s lost his train of thought. However, he actually says that they want to check his pockets, but he’s out of control. So maybe he actually is going to stay on topic. Let’s see what he says next.
“When a fuck gives under no circumstances”. OK, we get it. Stay focused here.
“Off your clock shit memory persist a clock shit, lick lick a shot, shit’s cracking”. And now we get into the 2deep nonsense Death Cab for Grips is known for. The rest of the first verse is just Ride continuing to grunt about him being a being of pure chaos without actually getting into anything he does. What is the point of this song? It creates a character, but never tells a story with it. And yes, I looked at the rest of the song. He never begins to describe what he would do to anyone, outside of the above line which mentions him firing a gun.
You know what this song reminds me of? “Started From the Bottom” by Drake. Some people have criticized that song for not being true to life. My problem with it is not that, but rather that he doesn’t even get into what the bottom is. He says that he worked late nights, met traffic on the way back (which shouldn’t be happening if he’s working late nights), and argued with his mother at least once a month. That’s it. And that’s not enough. If you’re going to claim something in a song, especially in rap, you can’t get away with leaving that statement unsupported. And that’s “The Powers That B.”
The rest of the song isn’t any better. Ride almost tells a story and then doesn’t, tries to do alliteration and winds up saying, essentially, “you better be afraid, like a… snitch.” He does a pretty cool outro that still makes no goddamn sense and he still does that annoying chanting thing as if he has a really important message. The last line sums it up nicely: “You’re a shiny clown to me and the powers that B.” You heard the man. You’re a shiny clown to him. And, in addition, you’re the powers that B… to him. Except the powers that B are forces inside him motivating him to do what the song only describes as “bad things”. Burn…?
Honestly, I expected no more or less from this song. It’s one of the most stereotypical Death Grips songs I’ve heard, and if you want to get an idea of what Death Grips is about, and why I don’t like them, give it a listen. I will upgrade it to a C, since I like the beat and the atmosphere of the whole thing. It’s clear that Death Grips’ biggest shortcoming is MC Ride, and if they got rid of him or replaced him with an artist with some shred of talent, they could be a really good band. Alas, here we are. Like this post if you like it, comment if you got something to say (as I’m sure people do), follow if you really like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY for the ramblings of a madman, and as always…
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