Album Review : Death Grips - Year of the Snitch (2018)
The most exciting band in music is back. Sacramento-based experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips have released their sixth full-length album Year of the Snitch, last Friday. And it's quite discombobulating in a Death Grips kind of way. I mean... I think it's great? It's, by far, the most aggressively experimental and genre-bending album in the band's discography and there's nothing that can prepare you for it. It's not the first time I've been saying this about a Death Grips album, but Year of the Snitch surfs the line between abrasive and catchy like none of their prior efforts.
Year of the Snitch is the spiritual successor of Death Grips' enigmatic 2017 megamix Steroids (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Gabber). Being the genetically gifted heir that it is, Year of the Snitch also explores new and bold directions for the band. It's a 37 minutes onslaught of deconstructed musical genres alchemically merged together. There's hip-hop, punk rock, industrial, noise, gabber, classic rock, post-punk, alternative rock and possibly more that should reveal itself with additional listens. Death Grips have (again) created something new and exciting that eludes definition.
How can I even talk about these songs? Year of the Snitch is 37 minutes of non-stop music that seamlessly transition like it was one long, multifaceted piece. It could've been one song, for all we know. I loved the organic rock music elements incorporated on the album, like the buzzing, distorted guitars on Black Paint, for example. The punk rock, staccato delivery of Shitshow is also great because it seamlessly blends electronic and organic music and explores outside the boundaries of a musical genre that's not supposed to be this original. But guitars and drums are far from being the only surprises on Year of the Snitch. There's so, so much more.
The Fear, one of my favorite songs on the record, has this distorted, funhouse keyboard mixed with electric guitar in the background and MC Ride's maniacal screams that will make you feel like you're losing your goddamn mind. Disappointed is this angry, glitchy... I guess more typical Death Grips songs where Ride incarnates his angry, paranoid persona facing his failures and taking a victimizing stance, screaming : "WHYYY MEEE" from the top of his lungs. I mean, you're not fucking human if it doesn't echo some of the worst days in your life. And I don't know how to qualify that. Year of the Snitch is not straightforwardly enjoyable, but it's something to be admired.
The million dollar question is: what the fuck was Death Grips trying to do with this album? There are some references to Rolling Stones with the album cover and the song Black Paint, some shots at California living with Linda's in Custody and Dilemma, to a certain extent, but I think they were primarily looking to innovate. Break boundaries and shock people, like they've done with Exmilitary and The Powers that B. Year of the Snitch is the most cohesive and powerful version of that angered plea for new music, though. I'm not sure if it's Death Grips' best, but it's damn close and I believe this album is the closest to the music they always wanted to make. Year of the Snitch is a record we'll still talk about in 30 years.