In the 1960s, the British rock group The Rolling Stones distinguished themselves from their clean-cut competition, The Beatles, when they were dubbed the “bad boys” of popular music for racy lyrics such as “She blew my nose and then she blew my mind” from “Honky Tonk Women” (1969). In 2016, experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips has assumed this same role, upping the ante with lines like “I’ll snub you faster, I’ll f*ck you in half”. Oh, how the times have changed.

Indeed, Death Grips has become modern music’s most polarizing act. Since the release of their debut mixtape Exmilitary in 2011, they have received critical acclaim for their game-changing industrial punk-rap sound and criticism for their violently misogynistic lyrical content and vocMC Ride of Death Grips.alist MC Ride’s atonal screaming. The band has developed a fanatical fan-base over the last five years, despite their tendencies to skip out on their shows, refuse interviews, and criticize popular culture. And 2016’s Bottomless Pit shows Death Grips compromising nothing yet again. As Death Grips fans have come to expect, Bottomless Pit is chalk full of hard-hitting, blood-curdling bangers.

The record opens with a catchy a cappella guest vocal from Clementine Creevy on “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”. Creevy sings the same foreboding melody at increasingly lower intervals, until messy, distorted guitar and Zach Hill’s thrashing acoustic drums thunder in. MC Ride delivers his characteristic bellowing bark atop the searing instrumentation in classic Death Grips fashion. He details the ways in which he corrupts and ruins his fans with his hedonistic lyricism, screaming “This like genocide just louder”. The track is an exceedingly bellicose start to a bellicose record.

Just as on the opening song, much of Bottomless Pit’s lyrical content centers around the expectations of Ride’s fans and the negative influence he has upon them. On the song “Hot Head”, Ride defends his lyrics that taint the innocence of listeners, rapping “What’d you tell them?/I just told ’em hell’s existence/But you know me, don’t nobody know my business”. Here, Ride asserts that he is not to blame because he only raps about evils already existing in the world, and about his own personal struggle that should have no bearing on others’ lives. Similar themes are explored on the songs “Spikes” and “BB death-gripsPoison”. The former compares Ride’s descent into immorality to an unstoppable skidding car that could potentially harm others, and the latter mocks diehard Death Grips fans as Ride’s brainwashed servants.

On the track “Bubbles Buried in This Jungle”, Ride refuses to be confined to a certain musical direction by his fans, yelling “Petty formula never amuses me/F•ck if I ever let a b*tch get used to me”. I admire Ride’s resistance to expectation and desire to experiment sonically, but I take issue with this line on a record such as Bottomless Pit. This album proves to be a combination of Death Grips’ previous musical efforts rather than anything noticeably challenging or new.

Still, several songs on Bottomless Pit sport the unabashedly violent, sexual, and decadent messages Death Grips has become known for, like on “Bottomless Pit” and “Houdini”. The latter track features Ride unleashing his pent-up sexual aggression over tinny, industrial instrumentation. While I enjoyed this cut for the most part, I found myself focusing on the shrill synth line that repeats throughout the song, which grew increasingly unpleasant to my ears the more I listened.

The belligerent lyricism that usually works in Death Grips’ favor, however, becomes cartoonish to a fault on “Ring A Bell”. Although I very much loved the song’s lumbering punky groove and psychedelic synth lead, lines such as “Ring the bell though/hands full of dick/Use your elbows/door to door” made me cringe one too many times.

The songs “Eh” and “Trash” stand out in the loud tracklist due to their laid-back production and relaxed vocals from Ride. The retro-futuristic synths on “Eh” resemble those of German krautrock outfit Kraftwerk. Ride’s quiet delivery subtly lures listeners into a false sense of security before he slams them with his gruff wails. He raps “Then I forget shit like Death Grips, like eh/I wave them off”, suggesting his disinterest in success and fame.

“Trash” employs a electronic groove and a spacey pad resembling a church organ. The soundscape gives Ride room to rap like a more conventional MC. He mocks the lack of artistry that has resulted from the music_mini_death_gripsInternet age, in which musicians can hurriedly upload subpar content with no monetary consequences. Ride raps “Commodify my lack of progress/Specifically the process/But this lukewarm elixir/My blood’s real shit, sir”, asserting that his pain makes for more authentic music than cookie-cutter bullshit.

On Bottomless Pit, Death Grips expands upon the raw, guitar-and-drum-driven punk featured on Jenny Death, the second half of their 2015 double LP The Powers That B. Songs like “Warping” and “Bottomless Pit” use crunchy, cacophonous guitars and blistering acoustic drums to accompany Ride’s violent moaning and groaning. The latter song, in my opinion, could even fit on a Black Flag record.

Bottomless Pit also features the glitchy production, busy electronic beats, and memorable hooks of their breakout debut The Money Store (2012). The song “Spikes” bolsters an extremely indelible synth lead atop buzzy electro-rhythm.  The throbbing synthesizers on “Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood” complement the track’s upbeat tempo and infectious, anthemic chorus that will surely inspire concertgoers to jump and mosh. The song “80808” utilizes blaring instrumentation and a mellow electronic beat, atop which Ride delivers a catchy hook in a subdued voice similar to his inflection on The Money Store’s “Get Got”.

Death Grips masterfully interweaves the synthetic Money Store production with Jenny Death punkish flavor on the song “Hot Head”. The glitchy, fast-paced beat introduced at the track’s start morphs into a thrashy, tenacious blur of guttural guitars and disorienting drum patterns. Ride screams unintelligible syllables like a madman. Mayhem deteriorates into a steady, moderate groove with acoustic drums and720x405-Death-Grips watery synths, over which Ride delivers an intimidating chorus vocal. Beyond “Hot Head”, however, the band does not really attempt to fuse punk with glitchy industrial. Both of these musical directions have their own places on the record, creating a sort of sonic mosaic for Death Grips fans.

Bottomless Pit is the perfect summary of Death Grips’ career so far, combining previous sounds and unashamedly asserting controversial convictions. Despite a few minor hiccups, MC Ride, Zach Hill, and Andy Morin follow through with yet another stellar record, proving with furious energy and bloodthirsty rage that they more than deserve to be labelled modern music’s “bad boys”.

A-

Highlights: Giving Bad People Good Ideas, Hot Head, Spikes, Eh, Trash, Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood, 80808

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