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Death Grips: 'Government Plates' Album Review

Arash Zandi |
November 14, 2013 | 2:01 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

The group's fourth album was released for free. (Wikimedia Commons)
The group's fourth album was released for free. (Wikimedia Commons)
“It goes, it goes, it goes, it goes, GUILLOTINE..............YAH.” If you know this line, then you probably know the heavily abrasive experimental and industrial hip-hop group from Sacramento. Death Grips consists of vocalist Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett, drummer and producer Zach Hill of Hella fame, and keyboardist, sampler and producer Andy “Flatlander” Morin. The group took the underground world by storm on March 8, 2011 with the release of their debut EP, aptly titled “Death Grips”. A month later, the group released their first album, “Exmilitary”, which featured five tracks from the EP and seven new tracks. Death Grips signed with Epic Records on February 27, 2012 and released their second studio album, “The Money Store” in April of the same year to widespread critical acclaim. Six months later, the group released their third album “No Love Deep Web” in controversial fashion, on their own website, as their record label wanted it released in 2013. Due to this act of defiance, they were dropped from Epic Records the following month, which led the group to create their own record label, “Thirdworlds”, through a partnership with Harvest Records and Capitol Records with distribution being taken care of by Caroline Records.

Death Grips has acquired a cult following across the internet, especially on the music section, “/mu/”, of the popular imageboard, 4chan, where its members participated in an alternate reality game (ARG) to promote the release of “No Love Deep Web.” Yesterday, the group’s fourth album, “Government Plates”, was released on their website, free of charge, in similar fashion to “No Love Deep Web”, with music videos released on their YouTube page on the same day. Fans have speculated that this album may also serve as the soundtrack for Hill’s upcoming film.

The first thing you notice about the first track on the album is the really, REALLY long name, “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”, which is a reference to Bob Dylan’s song “Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat.” MC Ride is a fan of classic rock, having expressed his fondness for Jimi Hendrix in an interview with Pitchfork. The album kicks off with the shattering of a glass, followed by Ride’s familiar screaming vocals. A classic rock-esque instrumental leads the track, which is similar in nature to the first track on “No Love Deep Web”, “Come Up and Get Me”. The lyrics are violent and murderous in nature, which is nothing new to seasoned fans of the group. This is the writer’s personal favorite track off the album.

“Anne Bonny” is the next track, which is laden with drug references, which again, is nothing new for people who have listened to the group’s previous albums. The instrumental sounds somewhat like the one on “Guillotine” from “Exmilitary.” The lyrics “sub under gaze of sadistic dom” are a reference to “The Money Store”, which has a drawing of a BDSM dominatrix and slave on the album cover.

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“Two Heavens” starts off with a reference to MC Ride’s tendency to rap off beat: “Single strike cadence slip.” Ride also makes references to Zach Hill’s other music project, Hella, as well as the Japanese text, “The Book of Five Rings.” The song’s title is a reflection of Ride’s opinion that there is no hell for him, only two heavens.

“This is Violence Now (Dont get me wrong)” is a mostly instrumental track, with the only lyrics being MC Ride screaming different parts of the title throughout the song. The instrumental has a faint similarity to “World of Dogs” from “No Love Deep Web.” About halfway through, a female robotic voice says, “You have been banned from the channel”, a possible shoutout to the group’s fans from 4chan.

The next track, “Birds”, was first released three months ago, as a separate track, but makes its return to “Government Plates.” The song has a reference to Charles Bukowski’s poem “Bluebird.” The birds mentioned in this song can be viewed as passing thoughts and ideas that struggles with a belief that life has no essential meaning or purpose and that no action is necessarily preferable to any other. This belief is similar to occultist and magician Aleister Crowley’s mantra, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” The song also has a reference to MC Ride’s feeling of being paranoid, or as he says in his own words, “Noided.”

Another primarily instrumental track, “Feels like a wheel”, would find its place at an underground rave party, as it has jungle-like beats and a tribal air to it. The track’s title and the words “let me live my life” are repeated throughout the song.

“Im Overflow” continues the trend of instrumental tracks, furthering speculation that this could also be the soundtrack album for Zach Hill’s upcoming film. Another jungle-like beat plays over MC Ride’s brief lyrics, “I am overflow undertow shots licked/Where’d he go? Federal cloaked key and lock s***/Dopamine hot s***.”

“Big House,” is another name for a prison, which is what this song’s subject is about. MC Ride mentions a “big island”, which may be referencing the famed island prison of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay. This prison, however, is a mental one, in which Ride is trapped in. Alcatraz is surrounded by water, as the brain is with brain fluid, which further adds to the song’s subject of mental prisons. In the lyrics, “Jungle call f*** back indoors”, “jungle” could be referencing the electronic subgenre of the same name. The instrumentals in this song, as well as some songs throughout the album, pay tribute to the old-school underground electronic scene that started in the United Kingdom.

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The title track of the album, “Government Plates”, is yet another primarily instrumental track, which sounds slightly like “Black Dice” from “No Love Deep Web”, but darker in nature. The lyrics are tyrannical in nature, possibly reflecting MC Ride’s perception of government: “On your feet/Overlord/Government plates/On location/I’m a corporation.”

“Bootleg (Dont need your help)” is the last primarily instrumental track on the album. The lyrics “Bootleg/No I don’t need you/No I don’t need your help”, could possibly be an act of defiance against their record label, as the group believes that they can achieve success without anyone’s help. “Bootleg” could be a reference to the fact that they released the album for free.

“Whatever I want (F*** who’s watching)” is the final track on the album. At 6:38, it is Death Grips’ longest track to date, beating out “I Want It I Need It (Death Heated)” from “Exmilitary.” The lyrics “hand yourself over remain calm I only plan to steal whatever I want/f*** who’s watching”, sound ethereal and could represent the Grim Reaper, ready to take someone’s soul. “My head in furnace” could represent MC Ride suffering from a fever or a headache, possibly due to the effects of drugs. The pace of the song changes from fast to slow and vice versa a few times.

Death Grips pulls no punches with “Government Plates” as they continue their reign at the top of the underground music scene and forever urging their fans to “stay noided.” Details are not yet clear about the true purpose of this album, but Zach Hill’s upcoming film should answer more questions. Until then, the always harsh sounding group will flare up your listening device with graphic and morbid lyrics and drug-filled references.

Read more of NT’s album reviews here.


Reach Executive Producer Arash Zandi here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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