If you are anything like me, you appreciate music that sounds different from what is being played by everyone. This can bring you into some fun and memorable territory, like the alternative trio Battles or the soulful throwback sound of Mayer Hawthorne. But other times, it takes you to a place that almost makes you scared for yourself and the people around you. That’s what Death Grips is for me; a scary, abrasive, and loud trip to your inner psyche. If you listened to their first mixtape, Exmilitary, then you would know what I mean by that.
However, what Death Grips brings to the table not only gets people shaking, but gets people talking. Mainly, if this project would be considered “hip-hop.” At the surface, the answer might be easy and would be no. But if you really clawed at Exmilitary, then you’d find a rather polarizing hip-hop album. And maybe because that WAS so polarizing, their latest effort The Money Store doesn’t really hold as much of power over me. I would go as far as saying that The Money Store is a rather tame rap album coming from Zach Hill and company.
The thirteen track album starts out with “Get Got,” a raw, ambitious, and truly the most commercially accessible song the collective have put out to date – which will suck the casual listeners into the craziness that would follow. That’s not more on the next track, the trademark screaming-heavy “The Fever (Aye Aye),” who’s great production makes this a stand-out track. “I’ve Seen Footage” sounds like it took Salt N’ Pepa’s “Push It” and distorted it to a level that only someone like MC Ride could rap to. “The Cage” has a one of the dirtiest (in the best way possible) beats that can really match up with the best of their past mixtape.
Not everything here though is as great as the tracks I mentioned above. “Punk Weight” has a weird and interesting Indian-esque back beat to it, which is eventually drowned out by the overpowering synths. “Hustle Bones” is a rambunctious slow burner, filled with an electric section that was interesting for the first couple of bars, but started to wear on me as the song continued. “Bitch Please” is the closest thing to a club banger, almost making a parody of the notion of one. But somehow, it doubles as the weakest track on the album, not only production-wise but lyrically as well.
The biggest problem with the album is that it carries two different listening experiences, and whichever way you choose to listen to it will dictate how much you like it. The first time I listened to the album as a whole, I did it without headphones, but blaring over my laptop. And sadly, I didn’t feel any of the beats or lyrics or effects that litter this entire album. However, once the headphones went on, it made for an entirely different experience. All the effects finally clicked with the lyrics, making The Money Store finally felt cohesive. The problem with this realization is the knowledge that Exmilitary worked as a whole when played through anything, which made for a more moving feeling throughout. Even with the headphones on, The Money Store couldn’t quite Grip me (see what I did there?) like they have in the past.
The Money Store is a hip-hop album, one that follows a lot of different hip-hop acts that sound nothing like it. What I mean by that is that sadly, the mixtape before it sounds better than the actual full length. That’s not saying The Money Store is bad, just not on the level that Exmilitary was – and still is. There are some tracks that sound great, due to the outlandish and incredibly consistent productions of Zach Hill and Andy Morin. And though the production might be great, it just doesn’t grab, throw, then beat me like their last effort did. In fact, this just kinda pushed me around like I was in a mosh.
Final Grade: B
Go Download: “The Cage”