Death Grips have stepped out of the shadows again and brought with them their new release “niggas on the moon,” which is technically side A of a double album is titled The Powers That B. This release is the first half of a double album and contains only 8 tracks at the moment. At this point in Death Grips’ career you’re probably familiar with their shtick and know what to expect when it comes to their releases. The Sacramento-based experimental hip-hop creates music that mixes elements of hip hop and electronica in a way that results in violent and sometimes frightening music that pushes the limits of the genre. This time around Death Grips don’t disappoint, delivering their signature alternative hip-hop style. Death Grips have come back with a refreshing release that is a satisfying agglomeration of the past years of their work.
Although “niggas on the moon” brings back familiar elements that one would find on earlier releases like Exmilitary and The Money Store, the group deviates from their formula a bit with the addition of the distinguished and equally eccentric vocalist Björk, who is featured on all eight of the tracks on this release. This combination of sounds and styles could potentially leave fans of Death Grips and Björk wary, but Death Grips’ abrasive, hard-hitting lyrics and production are complimented well by Björk’s , soaring vocals and the result is outstanding.
Last year’s Government Plates was an almost entirely production driven release which left some listeners who’ve come to enjoy front man MC Ride’s vocals a bit unsatisfied. This release seems to balance the trippy production with the vocals of Ride and Björk creating a much more balanced release.
Some highlights of the release are tracks like “Say Hey Kid” where the syncopated rhythm of the production married with Ride’s slow measured but dramatic delivery creates that classic Death Grips sound that was missing from the most recent release. This track also has a few time changes that can be disorientating to listen to, which is no doubt what the group is going for. The track “Up My Sleeves,” a true high point of this album begins with a sample from Björk and then the hook “up my sleeves,” which haunts the entire track comes in as the track builds until the production is explodes into sounds that can only be described as electric. During the beginning of the track, the tapping on the high hats sounds shockingly similar to the sound a taser gun makes when fired. The track is a little busy with Ride’s lyrics and Björk vocal samples butting heads at some points but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience of the track. This particular track also features one of Ride’s strongest vocal performances in the group’s discography, his style of rapping, which shares more similarities shouting more than rapping, is really effective in getting the raw emotion across. If you’re simply listening to this release to hear Björk’s vocals, the last half of the track “Big Dipper” contains a sample from the artist that’s featured at length but they’ve twisted and distorted it and inserted X that have transformed the sweet melodic vocals of Björk into something that sounds terrifying.
Another refreshing thing about this release the new direction that the group seems to be heading in. Death Grips aren’t afraid to do new things with their sound and tracks like “Viola” and “Fuck Me Out” are just incredibly interesting to listen to. A return to the basics is appreciated but Death Grips understand that they can’t sit on what’s comfortable and have to push their sound and expand upon what they have to continue to evolve.
This isn’t the most accessible of the Death Grips releases but fans of the group will appreciate it because of the noticeable progression that the group proves to have made over the years. It appears that the group are looking at their in a past work takes steps to keep their material fresh while building upon their core sound and style.