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Death Grips is an experimental hip hop group from Sacramento, California, formed in 2010. The group consists of rapper/vocalist Stefan Burnett, known by his stage name MC Ride, drummer and producer Zach Hill, and co-producer Andy Morin (often erroneously referred to as Flatlander, which is another name Death Grips use for their music production as a band). The band's music has been described as combining hip hop, industrial music, and punk rock, and they have been described as "a truly important band of the twenty-first century". 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 and Government Plates placing at 43 on Spin's 50 Best Albums of 2013 list.
The group announced their supposed "disbanding" on July 2, 2014, but denied that they ever actually disbanded in the first place two months later. On February 13, 2015, the group posted a new rehearsal video on their YouTube channel, suggesting a future tour. The video contained the first four tracks from The Powers That B's second disc, Jenny Death, and the first nine seconds of "Lock Your Doors," from their sophomore album, No Love Deep Web. On March 19, 2015, the group posted on Facebook that they "might make some more" music. On March 24, 2015, the band announced a world tour, and posted North American dates for it on their Facebook page. On October 21, 2015, they have announced on Facebook that they would be recording and releasing their fifth official studio album titled Bottomless Pit, along with unveiling unreleased footage from 2013 of famed late actress Karen Black reciting dialogue from a film that Zach Hill was working on at the time, months before her passing in August of that year.
2010–2011: Formation and Exmilitary
Death Grips was formed in Sacramento, California on December 21, 2010, by Zach Hill, Andy Morin, and Stefan Burnett.
On the first day of their formation they recorded their first song, "Full Moon (Death Classic)". 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. On April 26, 2011, Death Grips released a free mixtape entitled Exmilitary, containing several tracks from the EP along with new cuts.
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 NBCNewYork.com calling it "an intense, dark listen". During this time the band members were largely elusive, the only known member being Hill.
2012: The Money Store and No Love Deep Web
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, 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.
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. They spent the next four months recording their next album, No Love Deep Web, in Sacramento. During this period the band also remixed two Björk songs, "Sacrifice" and "Thunderbolt", as part of the Biophilia Remix Series after receiving an artist-to-artist note of support 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, and on September 29 the track "True Vulture Bare" was leaked and made known on YouTube. 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.
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. This was apparently an effort to bypass the fact that their record label was unwilling to release the album until 2013. 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.
2013–2014: Government Plates, Niggas on the Moon, and supposed disbandment
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. Zach Hill did not attend the show physically, but played the drums via Skype.
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. 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.
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. Their subsequent performance scheduled for Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, August 4, 2013 was also cancelled. 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.
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. 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". On November 19, 2013, No Love Deep Web was released on vinyl and CD through Harvest Records, as well as being made available on Spotify. On January 14, 2014, Government Plates was officially released through iTunes and Spotify. 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. 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.
On July 2, 2014, Death Grips officially announced their disbandment via Facebook, posting an image of the following message written on a napkin:
2014–present: Post-'disbandment', Fashion Week, Jenny Death and Bottomless Pit
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. A song from Jenny Death (part two of The Powers That B), entitled "Inanimate Sensation", was released on December 9, 2014.
On January 4, 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. Death Grips uploaded a new video, to their YouTube channel showing the group rehearsing new material in February.
On March 6, 2015, a mysterious Twitter account that had been heavily speculated as being run by the band (@bbpoltergiest), made a surprise announcement that The Powers That B would finally be released on March 31, pre-orders would be available on March 17, and a tour announcement would also be revealed on March 24, with tickets going on sale that very same week. This same Twitter account was also responsible for posting a screenshot of the Inanimate Sensation music video, four months before it was 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, indicating that there would be a tour coming in the near future, and yet another never-before-seen picture of Hill, Morin, and Burnett all attending Disneyland together, therefore validating the account's legitimacy. However, almost all posts from the alleged Twitter account, including their latest announcements, have since been deleted.
Death Grips released the songs "On GP" and "The Powers That B" on March 12 and March 17 respectively, as well as the release date and pre-order links for the album via their Facebook page. The second disc of The Powers That B was put up to stream on the band's YouTube channel in full on March 19, 2015.
On March 24, 2015 Death Grips announced via Facebook that they were going on tour. This marked the beginning of a world tour on June 19, ending with a concert in San Francisco, CA on July 25. Concert tickets were later released on sale for the 2015 North American tour via their Facebook page. Death Grips were announced as a headliner for the FYF Fest 2015 in Los Angeles during May, joining the acts of Frank Ocean, Toro y Moi, Run The Jewels and among numerous others for the festival.
On June 4, 2015, the album I've Always Been Good At True Love by the I.L.Y's was released through Death Grips' official website. The band later announced that the I.L.Y's was a side project of Zach Hill and Andy Morin.
On October 21, 2015, the group uploaded a video to their YouTube page titled Bottomless Pit. It features unreleased footage from 2013 of the late American actress Karen Black reciting lines from a film script Zach Hill wrote months before her untimely death. They also posted on their website and Facebook that this would be the title for their upcoming fifth official studio album.
On Monday, January 4th, 2016, it was announced that Death Grips would be performing at the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
Style and artistry
The band's music has been described as combining noise music, hip hop, punk and industrial music. The group is also known for MC 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 MC Ride and Hill often appear shirtless. Their live performances are notable for containing occasional amounts of instrument destruction, Zach Hill drumming to the point of severe injury (at one time even performing in handcuffs), MC Ride's intense and violent stage persona, and Andy Morin's use of live sampling, improvised synthesizer flourishes, intimidating stage presence, and violent, sporadic 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 Morin and Hill. MC 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. Andy Morin'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, performances, and releases.
In popular culture
Rapper Tyler, the Creator, guitarist Tom Morello, rock legend David Bowie, punk rock icon Iggy Pop, Grammy-winning musician Mike Shinoda, award-winning film director Edgar Wright, actor Fred Armisen, former adult actress Sasha Grey, figure painter/graffiti artist David Choe, comedian/actor Eric André, and many other notable musicians and celebrities have all expressed their fandom and appreciation for Death Grips.
Björk is one of the most notable fans of the band. Death Grips remixed two tracks for Bastards, a collective album of remixes of tracks from her Biophilia album. Björk recorded original vocal samples for the band which they used on every track of Niggas on the Moon. Award-winning actor Robert Pattinson is also another notable fan and one-time collaborator of the band, making a musical appearance on the song "Birds" from Government Plates, on which he played guitar in an audio recording he sent to the band himself, and then which they later on sampled and altered onto the song itself. Pattinson has also appeared with both two-thirds of the group (Zach Hill and Stefan Burnett) and famed pop vocalist Beyoncé, all posing in the same photo together. Sergio Pizzorno of Kasabian is also a fan of Death Grips and cited them as an influence for their album, 48:13, a UK Number 1 album.
The group's song "Hacker" is featured in the video game Battlefield Hardline. Their songs have also been used on various commercials and TV shows like Waterloo Road and BoJack Horseman. The song "You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money But I Know What He Really Loves You For It's Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" was used on an Adidas Predator advertisement.
MC Ride - vocals, lyrics
Zach Hill - drums, programming, production
Andy Morin - keyboards, programming, bass guitar, production