A mere six months ago, the experimental hip-hop group Death Grips released their debut album, The Money Store, which isn’t substantial to know until knowing the following facts:
- Death Grips created one of the most buzzed about (and abrasive) mixtapes of 2011 in Exmilitary, and yet didn’t seem as hot as the buzz for similar rap of that point, namely Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown, or even Childish Gambino. Because, of course, their music is more about pissing people off. This will come into play later.
- While they earned a great deal of exposure, it was genuinely surprising that major label imprint Epic Records, headed by X-Factor judge L.A. Reid threw down a deal. Presumably this came out of the success of Odd Future, but even considering how “traditional” an act like Frank Ocean or even Tyler, The Creator sounds in comparison to Death Grips kind of pushes this to an extreme.
- Upon the release of The Money Store, the album earned “universal acclaim” on Metacritic. Because this is the music industry, this means that the album sold maybe 3,000 copies in its first week. Oh, and they made videos with people that look like this:
Also of note in the wake of The Money Store was a small teaser placed on the inset of the CD version of the album noting “No Love Coming Fall 2012.” Meaning the album they released just this year would get an immediate followup within the calendar year. I don’t know if anyone knew how that was going to work.
So now we go to October 1st, 2012 when suddenly Death Grips released the album on the internet for free. Now this is the part where stories get murky and the more cynical sides of folks wonder if this is solely based around publicity. The album’s original release date in stores was to be October 23rd, a date that Death Grips cemented into their fans’ minds via an ARG game which would take far too long to explain. Death Grips claimed via Twitter that the label (the aforementioned Epic Records) wanted to push back the new record to sometime early next year.
It’s to be expected given past examples that major labels don’t really like cutting short the life cycle of a CD, but this is also a band that’s barely accounted for probably 15,000 album sales in the United States and again, records videos based around a tumbler tumbling weed and unknown beer-like liquids. None of either rationale makes sense. If Epic was concerned about immediate sales, they wouldn’t sign a band that is based on shouting and hooks over complete noise obstruction. But then they wouldn’t immediately serve to limit a band that put out one of the most abrasive major-label albums of recent memory, either. Or would they?
It’s hard not to disconnect the means with which the world received No Love Deep Web with the music itself. Every song seems to point to the type of shady dealing where one doesn’t know if the man with the power (in this case, the band themselves) is working for or against them. Everything on No Love Deep Web could be a massive prank. After all, the album’s cover is literally a man’s penis with No Love Deep Web in marker. (Umm, Google that because I don’t feel too comfy linking to that, as artful as it could be.) And while a lot of TV shows have openly mocked the idea of the “wild card,” there’s no other way to respond than to place that cliche on this record.
As an album, No Love Deep Web is spectacular. It takes every element that I enjoyed from The Money Store and essentially wonders if it can make that environment darker and more foreboding. There is commentary of the scarier aspects of an internet generation, or at least as much as the howling of Stefan Burnett can be understood. There are references to ass rimming, warfare, the line “fuck a Nazi,” and Jimmy Page. It makes zero sense and yet all of the sense that it should be. Perhaps it makes the most sense that No Love Deep Web is a comment to the Reddit/Twitter audience than anything else, which is funnier when Reddit outright doubts the idea that this record was released as anything more than a publicity stunt and downvoting the idea that Death Grips are embodying punk’s rebellion.
It will take more investigation for me to find out how I view No Love Deep Web, which is funny because I often say this about records that have a lot to dissect. Only No Love Deep Web might be made almost entirely to confound its audience and divide camps on everything about it, even to its own release.