This article was originally published for Radio UTD on June 11th, 2014.
RT: "Have A Sad Cum" "Black Quarterback" "Up My Sleeves" "Billy Not Ready" "Big Dipper" "Say Hey Kid" "Viola" "Fuck Me Out"
RiYL: infectious beats, paranoid lyricism, Bjork
"The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas On The Moon" is the first part of a double album series, the second one announced to be called "Jenny Death" and set to be released later this year. After mysteriously dropping their previous mixtape, "Government Plates," late last year, Death Grips have done it again, and man, have they done it big. "Niggas On The Moon" shares the rawness, dissonant bass lines, and ensures the permanency of the slick grooves showcased by the band in the 2013 release. This release improves upon last year's with it's meticulously crafted lyricism, atmospheric samples, infectious hooks and cohesiveness.
Teaming up with one of the most powerful voices of the last two decades, Bjork, Death Grips are able to craft an album that takes their distinct sound and elevate it to new heights. She appears on all 8 tracks, contributing a few lines on some, but mostly, her voice is used as an instrument, adding depth to the complex textures of drums and synths found throughout the album. The hooks created from Bjork's vocal samples are incredibly dazzling, inescapable, and add a different flavour, a different colour and a sense of melody to the spastic madness Death Grips spawn in every track on "Niggas On The Moon." The juxtaposition between the female singer's harmonious vocal samples and Death Grips' chaotic and glitchy sound works so perfectly, it's a wonder that the combination took so long to come about.
One could mention so many memorable hooks on this album because, as a matter of fact, they're all memorable. From the manipulated hook in "Up My Sleeves", to the oh-so-reminiscent of "Homogenic"-era Bjork hook found on the earth-shattering "Black Quarterback," right into the bliss that is Bjork's sample in the atmospheric hook of "Have A Sad Cum", the all-over-the-place and distorted but incredible hook in first single "Voila", or even the agonizing and terrifying hook at the end of album closer "Big Dipper." Better developed than anything in the Death Grips distinct discography, the ability the band has to write hooks this huge is admirable.
Zach Hill's incredible drumming may be the most overlooked part of the album. His grooves are compelling, his skill is almost unmatchable, and his creativity is unearthly. Prime examples of this are the polyrhythmic juxtaposition of two different time signatures in "Say Hey Kid", or the hard-hitting and simultaneously technical and proficient drumming in "Billy Not Really." It may take a few listens to realize the greatness here, but it's no wonder Fred Armisen raved about him on The Rachael Ray Show.
MC Ride's vocal delivery has never been more varied. This release showcases the various personalities that we have seen in previous releases, from spoken-word, to rapping, to shouting, to yelling, to shrieking, to screaming, to shouting and even a sort-of whispering impersonation. His vocal delivery is rawer and more aggressive than it has ever been, drawing comparisons to earlier releases such as, "Live from Death Valley" and "Death Grips." He sometimes becomes extremely emotional at times, one can feel the schizophrenic-like sentiment in the line "Oh, my agony's priceless."
With "The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas On The Moon," Death Grips managed to mark a sonic achievement, both in their discography and in hip-hop's musical culture as well. As bizarre, raw and sadic as it is infectious, atmospheric and immensely addicting characteristics. This album is a swirling storm of stimulation, both musically and emotionally.
Yeezus, eat your heart out.