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Death Grips’ ‘The Money Store’ turns 10: A look back at one of the most influential albums of the 2010’s

| Thursday, April 14, 2022

Claire Kirner | The Observer

In the many debates over what was the greatest album of the past decade, a record that is often cited along the likes of Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” or Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, m.A.A.d city” as one of its landmark releases is Death Grips’ sophomore effort, “The Money Store” originally released on April 14. Although the Sacramento based experimental hip-hop group has acquired somewhat of a reputation for their uncompromisingly abrasive musical style, their music is held in high regard by critics and audiences alike, especially on the internet where the Death Grips has a devoted cult following. But how and why has “The Money Store” become such an important inflection point for music in 2010?

Formed in 2010, the trio consists of Rapper Stefan Burnett (better known as MC Ride), Drummer/producer. Zach Hill and keyboardist/DJ/audio engineer Andy Morin who in 2011 released their debut mixtape “Exmilitary” which was met with widespread acclaim. Critics especially noted Morin’s creative unorthodox use of samples, (such as interview with cult leader Charles Manson used in the opener track “Beware”) and MC Rides aggressive delivery as well as his raw lyrics expressing themes paranoia, rage and anxiety. Almost overnight, Death Grips became the point of conversation and debate in many online spaces, especially in sites such as Reddit and 4Chan where the group gained their status for their left field approach to hip hop as fans eagerly awaited a follow up.

And then came “The Money Store.”

Even as a fan of Death Grips and the many artists that were directly influenced by this album, I find it extremely difficult to compare “The Money Store” to anything that came before or after; it almost exists in a vacuum of musical influence because although being distinctly a hip hop album, it almost serves to deconstruct every single trope in this genre, burning it and using its ashes to build something entirely new while infusing it with elements of noise music, punk and electronica to form a sound that is unique and unmistakably Death Grips’.

“The Money Store” does what seemed impossible and improves on the ideas presented on “Exmilitary” in almost every single way. The production, while still containing the raw primitive qualities from the debut, is much more sophisticated and cleaner than before, the sampling in here is even more interesting and weird than in “Exmilitary,” often mashing several songs and noises in a way that every track sounds like a completely different brand of maniacal than the last. 

But of course, the star of the show is undoubtedly MC Ride. If in “Exmilitary” Ride’s delivery is described as merely aggressive, here, his demented screams and howls can only seem the result of someone in some sort of demonic possession. Tracks like “The Fever (Aye Aye)” and “Hustle Bones” show Ride at his most violently paranoid, an effect amplified by his manic surreal lyricism best exemplified in “I’ve Seen Footage” where he morbidly describes his experience of becoming desensitized by watching gory videos on the deep web.

But even amongst all this insanity, “The Money Store” still manages to be a strangely catchy album, with the songs having memorable hooks and lines guaranteed to stay in the heads of even those who don’t particularly like their music style. The closer and probably best track in the record, “Hacker” is a goldmine of catchy synth riffs and hilariously quotable nonsense and a perfect example of how Death Grips manages to create music that is simultaneous experimental and memorable.

The influence that “The Money Store” had throughout the decade is unmistakable especially in artists such as JPEG Mafia, Denzel Curry and even Kanye West on “Yeezus” who emulated Death Grips’ hyper violent approach to hip hop. But even beyond rap, the record influenced a plethora of artists in other genres such as Bjork, who would later collaborate with Death Grips, and the great David Bowie himself who cited the record as one of his major inspirations for his last album “Blackstar.”

Artist: Death Grips

Album: The Money Store

Label: Epic

Favorite tracks: “I’ve Seen Footage,” “Hacker,” “Double Helix”

If you like: JPEG Mafia, Run the Jewels, Rage Against the Machine, Denzel Curry

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

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