Yesterday, enigmatic noise-rap visionaries Death Grips released The Powers That B, presumably their final album. For those out there who love Death Grips, you'll also love this record: it's a perfect conclusion to the unique musical niche they chiseled -- nah, jackhammered -- for themselves. In a lot of ways, it's the only possible denouement to their career. This is perhaps their loudest, most aggressively experimental, most gleefully violent record yet -- once again, Death Grips provide a great example what happens when aggression trumps logic or convention.
For anyone who doesn't love Death Grips -- and you're wrong, but I at least acknowledge your existence -- this record will make you dislike them even more. This is not a record designed to change your mind, and it shouldn't be.
All that said, there are times and places to listen to The Powers That B. In lieu of a more (ahem) traditional review, I've put together a handy pocket guide to let you know what some of those times and places aren't.
10. At brunch with your parents
SOURCE: Boston Calendar
Your parents are in town for the weekend, and you decide to take them out to brunch. After the waiter brings your second round of mimosas, for whatever reason you pull out your phone, set it next to your plate of cheese grits, and put album opener "Up My Sleeves" on loud. Zach Hill's pounding (yet somehow also skittering) drums blast out, and MC Ride's possessed, borderline screamed vocals interrupt everyone else's quiet Sunday afternoon.
Your parents shake their heads, and mentally make a note to write you out of their will. This happens either before or after you grab a tray of bacon from a waiter and throw it into a decorative sconce before moshing your way over to the bloody mary station, knocking over a couple who are there on their first date.
9. During a pickup football game
You're hanging out in your old college town, and you meet up with some of your friends. You start talking about how much you miss tossing around the pigskin on the old intramural field, so you sneak a couple beers out there and pick teams. You volunteer to get some tunes goin', and you're obviously feeling sporty, so you put on track 3 from The Powers That B, "Black Quarterback." MC Ride's initially pseudo-patois gives way to screaming over stuttering synth drums, before going to a modulated female vocal sample and a somehow almost buoyant synth line.
The people politely playing ultimate frisbee on the other field look over, wondering what sort of ungodly, atonal mayhem has suddenly come their way. Your friends are like "dude, what the hell?" and make you leave.
8. Romantic time with your signficant other
SOURCE: Apothecarian Tendencies
After an eventful week, you invite your partner over for an evening of wine, Netflix, and light conversation. Things go swimmingly, and the two of you retreat to the bedroom. She/he asks you to put on some music, and you oblige: with "Fuck Me Out."
Your partner doesn't like the hypnotizingly syncopated hi-hats as much as you do, and s/he certainly doesn't find MC Ride's commands to "fuck me, just don't touch me, just fuck me out" to be the sort of playful, lighthearted mood music you (misguidedly) intended. S/he gets dressed right as the crazed vocals get more and more off-beat, and leaves, vowing this will be the last time s/he puts up with your shit.
7. At the office (specifically on a conference call)
SOURCE: Brightest Young Things
Your boss is on an important conference call with one of your most lucrative business partners, and you're hanging out taking notes. You reach for your glass of water, but you accidentally hit the volume button on your laptop, and The Powers That B pick up where you left off -- the jungle drums of "Say Hey Kid."
Unfortunately, nobody digs the transition to lurching, discordant synth as much as you do, and you get escorted out. You smash a computer monitor on your way out, because MC Ride made you think it was a good idea.
6. Breaking mirrors with your face while abroad
Seeking to take advantage of the freedom that recent unemployment affords, you take a vacation. You're at a club in Prague, or Copenhagen, or Belo Horizonte -- it doesn't matter much, it'll be the same result. You feel great -- foreign countries can be overwhelming, somehow alienating -- but you've managed to meet some locals you're really vibing with. At some point in the evening, perhaps after entirely too many caipirinhas, or Eastern European powders which have been cut with who-knows-what, you march over to the DJ booth, punch the guy right in his smug face, and put on "I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States." You then proceed to, well, break all the mirrors in the club. With your face.
You new (and probably former) friends interpret this as a boorish act of jingoistic nationalism, perhaps because they didn't appreciate the electrifying double-time drums as much as you did, or because they thought that MC Ride's claims that he "[doesn't] care about real life" to be horrifyingly detached. Regardless, you find yourself abandoned and bleeding in some strange alley, thinking to yourself, "Well, this is the only logical conclusion of The Powers That B."
5. Breaking up with your significant other
SOURCE: Guys Guide To Breakups
Your boy/girlfriend didn't take kindly to you interrupting an otherwise sweet couple's night, nor you returning from your vacation with severe facial lacerations, so they text you that they need to talk and that they're coming over. You know what's about to happen, and these conversations are always awkward, so you decide to lighten the mood with some music.
You put on "Why A Bitch Gotta Lie." You figure (wrongly) that the distorted screams and straight-up metal riffs that alternate with a vocoder -- perhaps the ugliest, darkest use of a vocoder in musical history -- will ease the tension. You're wrong. And the neighbors end up calling the police, mostly because of the distorted screams.
4. Fighting police officers
SOURCE: Millersville University
We here at Earhole do not condone fighting police officers, but if you listen to The Powers That B, it's a statistic inevitability -- especially given recent events.
When the altercation starts, you rip off your shirt. You run inside for a kitchen knife, and -- in a moment of clarity -- see your boombox by the door, and run out with it, blasting title track "The Powers That B." You figure, the explosively apocalyptic synth soundscape, half-time drum breakdowns with furious double kick drums, and MC Ride's shouted proclaim of "I'm WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENS, WHEN SHIT HAPPENS. WHEN A FUCK GIVES UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES" and "I CAN'T KNOW WHAT I'M ABOUT TO DO" will give you the hype you need for this.
We probably know how this ends. We definitely know the cops won't like the stunningly powerful way that MC Ride's vocals echo into themselves, forming a discordant wall of noise.
3. At a job interview
SOURCE: Fox Business
You're trying to get your life together. You're in your early twenties, you may have recently been fired, so you decide to hit the job hunt hard. A company decides to take a chance, so they fly you out for an interview, and after a tumultuous flight -- you were detained by security after taking your shirt off (again) and grabbing a stewardess demanding all the liquor they have and screaming the lyrics to album highlight "Inanimate Sensation -- you've finally arrived. You decide, walking into the office, you need some grandiose entrance: thankfully you brought your boombox, and you hold it over your head blaring "Pss Pss." At first, this is actually received fairly well: the beat is more accessible than most of Death Grips' previous work, and the buzzsaw synths let folks know you have gumption.
But then MC Ride's vocals become truly animalistic, and after the first airhorn, everyone in their cubicles gradually becomes less amused. Security grabs you and you don't even get to interview.
SOURCE: Smugglers' Notch Babysitting
Your neighboors -- for some reason -- trust you with looking after their young children. Deciding to take it upon yourself to broaden their musical horizons towards rap's typically underrepresented experimental underground. Death Grips' music is a breath -- or rather, a gasp -- of fresh air from what you perceive as an increasingly stagnant musical landscape. You think -- perhaps rightly -- that hip hop should reclaim some kind of energetic, noise- and distortion-fueled primalism that -- you admit with a sigh -- the genre hasn't probably actually ever known. Death Grips represent a revolution, you remind yourself, taking an entire genre to unforeseen levels of rage, attitude, and sonic danger that have been replicated in recent releases by groups like clipping., Ratking, and been presented -- adulterated, of course -- to mainstream audiences by Yeezus. Anyway, you play all of The Powers That B for your young charges. You figure they'll get a kick out of the frenetic mysticism of another album standout, "Beyond Alive."
Anyway, the kids are probably scarred for life and you probably end up on some kind of list. At the least, their parents aren't happy when they come back to their little ones beating each other with 2x4s, covered in full-body tattoos they somehow gave each other, and trying to score drugs or something.
1. Your grandmother's funeral
Let's be real, you probably shouldn't self-appoint yourself DJ here, no matter what you're playing, so this is a shoe-in for the top slot. That said, of all the music in the world, The Powers That B is still probably your worst option.
Your sweet grandmother was the kindest, gentlest woman you've ever known. She was a role model who nurtured not just you, but your whole family, into the great people you are today. But somehow you convinced yourself -- perhaps through some powerful combination of disassociative drugs -- that it would be a great time to push your tastes on all the kind, bereaved people. You play "Centuries of Damn," which is the most beautiful -- and in my opinion, best -- song that Death Grips has ever recorded.
C'mon man. This record is great, but get your shit together.
This is literally what will happen if you listen to The Powers That B. This album will ruin your life if you let it, and if you do, you'll be glad you did.