Insight: Death Grips is the experimental change you need in your music library

'What frustrates me is the typical reaction I receive from people who don't listen to Death Grips — shock followed by disgust. How could music I find so cathartic be so polarizing?'

Have you heard of Death Grips?

If yes, then you're probably already familiar with their disgustingly abrasive brand of hip-hop, punk, industrial and noise music — not to mention their particularly rabid fanbase the band is notorious for messing with. 

Maybe you've read about Robert Pattinson playing guitar on one of their most idiosyncratic compositions, "Birds." You might've heard a Death Grips song playing in a "Bojack Horseman" episode. Perhaps your goth girlfriend told you about Death Grips' occult references to numerology

Or maybe you've heard none of these things. 

After you finish reading, I hope you'll check out some of their songs and maybe gain a stronger appreciation for experimental art outside the realm of mainstream music. You might even be persuaded to bump "The Money Store" full blast on your daily commute.

Death Grips is an experimental hip-hop band consisting of rapper and songwriter Stefan Burnett (also known as MC Ride), drummer Zach Hill and producer Andy Morin.

A month after releasing a self-titled debut EP in March 2011, the group dropped "Exmilitary," an unapologetically bestial mixtape that received critical acclaim and cemented their place in the early 2010s underground hip-hop scene.

Death Grips has released six studio albums and four EP's so far. Each release has often been accompanied by some sort of controversy, like when the band leaked "No Love Deep Web"early against its label's wishes, causing them to get cut from their recording contract.

I was introduced to the group back in high school. As an uncultured 17-year-old white boy, I hadn't experimented much with my music taste until I met my friend Jude. 

"Have you heard of Death Grips?" he asked. 

I replied no. So, he played "Giving Bad People Good Ideas."

My ears were instantly struck with a blitzkrieg of earsplitting noise. The same chord played over and over again, incessantly speeding up toward the end of the bar like an adrenaline rush. Suddenly the drowned-out vocals of MC Ride invaded my mind, screaming aggressive babble in a devilish stream of consciousness.

I didn't know how to react so I sat there, mouth agape. 

Part of me felt an overwhelming urge to mosh and scream. Part of me wondered if this could even be considered "music."

And yet I desired to hear more.

I was a privileged high school junior who recently discovered Tame Impala and Mac DeMarco. Death Grips' unwarranted abrasiveness, lack of approachability, and esoteric lyricism intimidated me. Like many other fans, the music would be an acquired taste that'd take a few more years to fully digest and appreciate.

Death Grips is no run-of-the-mill act hellbent on generating capital. Each song they produce is truly unique, varying widely in its composition of electronic melodies and vocal intonations. 

Despite each album presenting its own particular theme and sound, they all maintain a near-perfect level of cohesion that's bolstered by the overarching motif of macabre nihilism.

What frustrates me is the typical reaction I receive from people who don't listen to Death Grips — shock followed by disgust. How could music I find so cathartic be so polarizing?

The band's brutality is why I like it. Living in a money-obsessed society where both material and spiritual needs of the masses are not met sucks. Factor in a mishandled pandemic, unresolved institutional racism and all-powerful corporations controlling information we're exposed to — and our existence soon becomes an exhausting spiral.

Death Grips understands this. Their music perfectly embodies these universal frustrations, providing an outlet of pure anarchistic energy we can all mosh to. 

MC Ride is our Information Age muse, and his spasms of anger and moral decay are ultimately a reflection of society and ourselves.

Those who don't recognize this value will continue being complacent in their auditory comfort zone. It's unfortunate they'd prefer to avoid music that could broaden their worldview, as close-mindedness ultimately might lead one to disregard important life experiences and knowledge.

Just because Death Grips might sound like cacophonous absurdity to you doesn't mean that it's objectively cacophonous absurdity. And even if it is, might you consider why the music sounds that way? 

Too often people are wary of expanding their sonic horizons because the music might not be immediately gratifying to their ear. Yet, this still doesn't give us permission to idly ignore the artistic value of such expressions, however experimental they may be.

Do yourself a favor and listen to Death Grips. Whether you yearn to expand your musical palette, are bored with existence, or just plain angry at the world, anyone can find value in their music.

And you won't be alone because I'll be listening too.


Reach the reporter at dgrossm2@asu.edu and follow @grossmantweet on Twitter. 

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