Death Grips

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Death Grips
Death Grips Performing in NYC.jpg
Death Grips performing in New York City in 2012.
Background information
Origin Sacramento, California, United States
Genres Experimental hip hop
Years active 2010–present
Labels Third Worlds, Harvest, Epic, Warp
Associated acts Hella, Bygones, Nick Reinhart, Björk
Members Stefan Burnett
Zach Hill
Andy Morin

Death Grips is an experimental hip-hop group from Sacramento, California, formed in 2010. The group consists of rapper Stefan Burnett (better known by his stage name, MC Ride), drummer Zach Hill, and producer Andy Morin.[1] The band's music has been described as combining hip hop, industrial music, and noise music.[2] They released the mixtape Exmilitary in April 2011, followed by two studio albums in 2012, The Money Store in April, and No Love Deep Web in October, as well as a third album in November 2013, titled Government Plates. Their releases have received positive reviews from music critics all around, including The Money Store placing 9th in Pitchfork's Best Albums of 2012 [3][4] and Government Plates placing at 43 on Spin's 50 Best Albums of 2013 list.[5]

The group announced their disbanding on July 2, 2014, but have released material since, causing fans to question whether the group have actually ended activity, partly due to the fact that the band have an apparent tendency to confuse or mislead their own fans.[6]


2010–2011: Formation and Exmilitary[edit]

Death Grips was formed in Sacramento, California on December 21, 2010, by Zach Hill and Stefan Burnett.[2]

On the first day of their formation they recorded their first song, "Full Moon (Death Classic)".[7] It was released on March 8, 2011 together with a video and a free self-titled EP which featured "Full Moon" together with five other songs.[8][9] On April 26, 2011, Death Grips released a free mixtape entitled Exmilitary, containing several tracks from the EP along with new cuts.[10][11]

Throughout the spring and early summer in 2011, Death Grips played small live shows while Exmilitary was spreading steadily throughout the Internet. It received several favorable ratings from music critics, with calling it "an intense, dark listen".[12][13][14][15] During this time the band members were largely elusive, the only known member being Hill.[7]

2012: The Money Store and No Love Deep Web[edit]

Stefan Burnett (left) and Zach Hill (right) performing live in August 2011.

On February 27, 2012, Death Grips signed with Epic Records, under the recommendation of Epic's then-executive vice president of marketing Angelica Cob-Baehler,[2] and announced the release of two albums in 2012. The first album, The Money Store, was released on April 21, 2012 while the songs "Blackjack", "Get Got" and "The Fever (Aye Aye)" have been released as singles. Music videos have been released for all three, as well as the track "Lost Boys" alone with no video accompaniment.[16][17][18]

In May the band scheduled a thirty-show international tour to support The Money Store, but shortly afterward cancelled it so they could complete their second album of 2012, which angered many fans and their label.[2] They spent the next four months recording their next album, No Love Deep Web, in Sacramento.[2] During this period the band also remixed two Björk songs, "Sacrifice" and "Thunderbolt", as part of the Biophilia Remix Series[19] after receiving an artist-to-artist note of support[2] and released two songs; "@deathgripz", an unreleased track from The Money Store named after their Twitter account as part of the Adult Swim Singles Program 2012 was released on September 10,[20] and on September 29 the track "True Vulture Bare" was leaked and made known on YouTube.[21] A video for this track was released on October 17 featuring animation from Galen Pehrson. This project was created for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.[22]

On October 1, the band self-released their sophomore effort via a website which they linked to from Twitter and Soundcloud, and various filesharing services including BitTorrent.[23][24] This was apparently an effort to bypass the fact that their record label was unwilling to release the album until 2013.[25] The band was dropped by Epic Records on November 1 due to the issues surrounding this incident, including the release of private emails on Facebook.[26]

2013–2014: Government Plates, Niggas on the Moon, and disbandment[edit]

In March 2013, the band released a series of videos to their YouTube account, called "No Hands". On March 20, 2013, a music video for "Lock Your Doors", which was recorded on a live show in SXSW was released.[27] Zach Hill did not attend the show physically, but played the drums via Skype.[28]

On May 10, 2013, it was announced that Hill is currently writing and directing an original feature film. Death Grips will be involved with the soundtrack of the film. The announcement also revealed that Hill is currently working on a new Death Grips album.[29] On July 8, it was announced that Death Grips had launched their new label, Third Worlds. The label was created via "a unique relationship with Harvest/Capitol" and will be distributed by Caroline Records.[30]

Death Grips were scheduled to perform at Lollapalooza in Chicago on August 3, 2013, but their performance was cancelled after the band failed to show up for an "after party" show the previous night at the Bottom Lounge. Fans at the Bottom Lounge show destroyed the band's equipment after being informed of the cancellation.[31][32][33][34] Their subsequent performance scheduled for Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, August 4, 2013 was also cancelled.[35] It was later discovered that Death Grips never actually planned to appear at Lollapalooza, and the drum kit that was destroyed was a child's learning kit. [36]

On November 13, 2013, Death Grips released Government Plates on their website and shared the link on their Facebook page, as well as music videos for each of the eleven new songs.[37][38] Included in the album was the song "Birds", which had been released earlier in the year. The band's press has said that Government Plates is not an official record, but is only "where they are right now".[39] On November 19, 2013, No Love Deep Web was released on vinyl and CD through Harvest Records,[40] as well as being made available on Spotify.[41] On January 14, 2014, Government Plates was officially released through iTunes and Spotify.[42] On January 16, 2014, it was announced that Warp Music Publishing signed an exclusive worldwide publishing agreement with the group. This agreement covers the previous and future releases by Death Grips.

On January 19, 2014, Zach Hill stated that the band has started recording new material for the next album and is planning to tour in summer.[43] On March 15, 2014, it was confirmed that Death Grips would be touring in support of Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden throughout their 2014 Summer tour.

On June 8, 2014, Death Grips announced a double album titled The Powers That B, along with a download of disc 1, Niggas on the Moon. The second disc was announced to be titled Jenny Death, with a full release via Harvest Records/Third Worlds scheduled for later in 2014.[44]

On July 2, 2014, Death Grips officially announced their disbandment via Facebook, posting an image of the following message written on a napkin:

“We are now at our best and so Death Grips is over. We have officially stopped. All currently scheduled live dates are canceled. Our upcoming double album The Powers That B will still be delivered worldwide later this year via Harvest/Third Worlds Records. Death Grips was and always has been a conceptual art exhibition anchored by sound and vision. Above and beyond a “band”. To our truest fans, please stay legend.”[45]

2014-2015: Post-disbandment, Fashion Week, and The Powers That B[edit]

On October 10, 2014, Death Grips announced the completion of The Powers That B via their website and Facebook page, as well as revealing the album artwork.[46] A song from Jenny Death (part two of The Powers That B), entitled "Inanimate Sensation", was released on December 9, 2014.[47]

On January 4th, 2015, without any prior notification, Death Grips released a free instrumental soundtrack, entitled Fashion Week. The song titles, follow as: "Runway J", "Runway E" and so on; acrostically spelling out the phrase "JENNY DEATH WHEN", in reference to the upcoming second disc of The Powers That B. Many people believed the Fashion Week title was a hint that Jenny Death would be released during New York Fashion Week or London Fashion Week, both of which fell in February 2015 but passed without the release of the album.

On February 13, 2015 Death Grips uploaded a new video, to their YouTube channel.[48] It showed the group rehearsing new material.

On March 6, 2015, a mysterious Twitter account that has been heavily speculated as being run by the band (@bbpoltergiest[49]), made a surprise announcement that The Powers That B would finally be released (presumably both physically and digitally) on March 31st, pre-orders would be available on March 17th, and a tour announcement would also be revealed on March 24th (with tickets going on sale, that very same week)[50]. This same Twitter account was also responsible for posting a screenshot of the Inanimate Sensation music video, four months before it was actually released, blatantly announcing at one point that they were "going on tour" and that they've never actually broken up, posting a never-before-seen photo of the inflatable "Blackjack" pills that had been used during previous live Death Grips shows (showing more signs of speculation that there would be a tour coming in the near future), and yet another never-before-seen picture consisting of all three Death Grips members attending Disneyland together, therefore validating the account's probable legitimacy. However, almost all posts from the alleged Twitter account, including their latest announcements, have since been deleted.

Style and attitude[edit]

The band's music has been described as combining noise music, hip hop, punk[51] and industrial music.[2] The group is also known for Ride's bleak, dark and highly cryptic lyrics and aggressive rapping style. They have also received considerable attention for their wild physical stage performances and stage presence, in which Ride and Hill often appear topless. Their live performances are notable for containing various amounts of instrument destruction, Zach Hill drumming to the point of severe injury (sometimes performing in handcuffs), Ride's intense and violent stage persona, and Flatlander's spontaneous movements on stage. The band is also notable for engaging in extended periods of live musical improvisation interwoven seamlessly into their set as bridges between songs, typically performed on the fly by Flatlander and Hill. Ride has been known to adopt many different vocal styles on record and during live performances and such as shouting, screaming, spoken word-style talking and even whispering. Flatlander's unorthodox style of production and sampling and drummer Zach Hill's noisy, fast and unconventional drumming styles and patterns are also distinct features of Death Grips' unique sound. The band is also notable for their distinctive and low-fidelity visual style, often made clear in their music videos and performances




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