Album Review : Death Grips - Fashion Week (2015)
If you don't know who Death Grips is, you're not very connected with what's going on in the music industry. They became the talk of the town overnight after the release of Exmilitary and The Money Store and a worldwide phenomenon after No Love Deep Web and their spectacular break with Epic Records. The most puzzling release in their discography will always be Fashion Week, though. A 100% instrumental album dropped without warning halfway between a breakup and the release of the second half of The Powers that B Jenny Death. What was that about? What is Fashion Week supposed to mean within the scope of of Death Grips' legacy?
Let's find out.
The first thing you need to understand about Fashion Week is that is exists solely within a context. Death Grips mysteriously announced their breakup with a message scrawled on a napkin a month or so after releasing the first half of The Powers that B N*ggas on the Moon in 2014. They promised to deliver Jenny Death anyway, time passed and the band announced they were never disbanding after all, so fans started getting restless. Their social media accounts started getting flooded with the message: "JENNY DEATH WHEN". So, Fashion Week dropped without explanation in the early days of 2015. The track listing spelled the phrase J-E-N-N-Y-D-E-A-T-H-W-H-E-N and the title said "Fashion Week"...
Hum...I wonder what kind of message Death Grips was trying to send here?
But, what is Fashion Week exactly? It's not that easy to answer because I don't feel it's an album that has a beginning or an end. It's just a series of beats the band has been working on. They're structured like songs (verse/chorus/verse) but don't quite fit the identity Death Grips developed for themselves until them. I don't see MC Ride rapping on them. A lot of them are too upbeat and EDM influenced. They're great, intricate beats with many sonic layers: pulsating synth lines, syncopated drums and a lot of aggressive downtuning, but very few of them feel extreme or threatening. Death Grips have since embraced a more electronic sound. Their latest release Steroids (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Gabber) is a great example of that, but it doesn't sound anything like Fashion Week. That's the kind of constant reinvention we came to love from Death Grips.
So, why was Fashion Week released exactly? Were Death Grips trying to make a statement or further their musical explorations? I don't think so. When it comes to interpreting what Death Grips are trying to do, my guess is as good as yours, but I sincerely believe Fashion Week is what Government Plates should've been: a palate-cleanser meant to put people in the mood for the following release. They purposefully kept MC Ride (a major selling point for the band) and offered their own version of waiting room music. It's a much less ambitions, but much more cohesive project than Government Plates. Fashion Week serves a purpose: announcing the upcoming Jenny Death and helping the legion of impatient Death Grips fans to wait until then. And it successfully does so.
This review completes my retrospective of Death Grips' discography. Of course, I'm going to review any new project they put out, but I'm not going to review Interview 2016 because it's a project of a similar nature and I believe it's meant to be an audiovisual venture and not simply an album. There's no point in listening to Interview 2016, you have to watch it. Fashion Week is neither a highlight or a lowlight in Death Grips' career. It just is. It's a fun project, but it's music that needs a purpose. It would age better if played in the background in cocktail parties or for waiting customers anywhere else in the world. It served its purpose for Death Grips. I could see them coming back to these beats and reinventing them with MC Ride's contribution, but for now they're a whole other place. Don't let Fashion Week fall into oblivion, though. It's more than throwaway music.