One: Death Grips have cojones. They really have. Big and fat, like the ones on the roadside billboard bulls in Spain. We've seen loads of bands moaning about their record labels, whining about delayed releases and bad promotion, but when push comes to shove they all do exactly as those big bad corporate labels tell them to (hello, Rage Against The Machine), just waiting for better times or the end of their contract. Then there's people like Prince, who went up against Warner, writing the word 'slave' on his cheek, changing his name into a symbol and things like that. But Death Grips take no prisoners: while Columbia-Sony were telling them their new album, which should have been released this autumn, was going to be delayed until sometime next year, they uploaded the whole thing to the internet so everyone can download it for free. Without threatening to do so beforehand, without discussions or campaigns to win over public opinion, like The-Dream did with “1977”. No no, just: there you have it. Sony's counter-attack, shutting down Death Grips' website hours after the leak, in true hacker war fashion, only proves that the label is not amused (a lot of money down the drain), but that those terrorists couldn't care less about the consequences of their actions.
Two: When you've been underground all your life, it's not a problem to go back. Death Grips can afford these kind of manoeuvres (where other artists would only bluff), because they have nothing to lose and everything to win. Zach Hill (drummer of Hella, among other big jobs in noise bands), Andy Morin and MC Ride actually started with a mixtape, making noise in cyberspace and attracting powerful labels because, at the end of the day, their mix of politically charged and dystopian hip-hop (between dead prez and Cannibal Ox) and Californian 80s hardcore was simply irresistible; especially at a time when social discontent demands energetic music, uncompromising and unwilling to accept the status quo, asking questions and laying all the cards on the table. The leaking of “No Love Deep Web” implies a conceivable intention - that of starting from scratch and running the same course again.
Three: Actually, half of the course has already been run. “Ex Military” (2011) established their sound with abrasive tracks like “Guillotine” and “Thru The Walls”; true exercises in punk ethics in the world 2.0, a time of crisis for liberal capitalism. And “The Money Store” did that same thing again, only with a double portion of rage: angry sounds with the always effective references to turbid sex, atomic raps of the kind you only find on El-P's albums these days, red-hot flashing synthesisers, and riffs soaring with the same virulence as the most respected American hardcore bands - from Minor Threat to Fugazi - but with an analogue texture closer to Kid606 or Atari Teenage Riot. That hasn't changed on “No Love Deep Web”: its 13 tracks (this is a band not for the superstitious; they always put 13 songs on their albums) walk the same path, with Hill and Morin squeezing the beats until they get that massive, granite and isolating wall of sound that undulates like an untameable noise barrier; with MC Ride shouting his head off about death and moral crises. To resist one assault is easy (“Come Up And Get Me”), two already becomes more difficult (“Lil Boy”); when we get to “No Love”, the album has become disturbing, like a turbine, a whirlwind of dementia and anabolic steroids. Its cadence is beating like a bat, and when we reach the end of the line, with “Artificial Death In The West”, we have reached a K.O. Meanwhile its language is alive enough to continue causing damage in your liver, a year and a half after it was born.
Four: If everything had run its natural course (so to speak), Death Grips wouldn't have released two records this year. 2012 would have been the year of “The Money Store”, and 2013 that of “No Love Deep Web”, an effort we would have called something like 'more of the same', built on the same pillars as “Exmilitary” and its agile sequel on the conventional album of earlier this year. But when the music is as throbbing as this, to let it wait is to let it die: it captures a moment of discomfort and strong pulsations (it's the perfect soundtrack for riots, motivational sounds before you set fire to the system or charge against the protesters – it could go both ways, you know), and the band couldn't hold it back, it was burning in their hands. Columbia wanted to cash in, and any good business man should know that you need to be sparing with your merchandise. But Death Grips wanted to hit it where it hurts, and as any fighter knows, you have to strike at the right time, and waiting is losing. It's clear who has won here.
Five: The artwork. An erect, pink penis, veiny, hairy at the base, with the album title written on it with a marker pen. It's about to burst, getting ready to blow its load in the face of the label. They could have done the middle finger thing, like The Prodigy, but that would have been too easy, childish, harmless. This one is much better, setting the record straight, a stiff cock in your face, to reaffirm its importance, its vigour, the unquestionable validity of a project that bites rather than barks, and which you'd better not mess around with.