Death Grips

Sacramento Hip Hip Collective

From a mixtape given away free in best cyberpunk tradition on the net, Death Grips have built up a reputation as the most promising new group to have emerged from the recently torpid world of hip hop. It’s not like they don’t have form; Californian uber-drummer Zach Hill is behind the project, but no-one could have predicted that he would form around himself a hip hop outfit so abstract and unrelenting that they make Anti Pop Consortium sound like Jay Z.

The anticipation at the tiny Captain’s Rest is at fever pitch, intensified by the fact that Hill insists on setting and resetting the levels to get the desired sound. When they finally start playing, we are hit a with a punishing wall of noise, and the crowd erupt into a frenzy, with crowd surfing (a first for the normally implacable hipster hangout) threatening to engulf the stage, only held at bay by the band’s tour manager.

Two tracks in, Charles Manson’s voice fills the room, and “Guillotine” works the crowd up into a frenzy, brutalist 303 stabs punctuating MC Ride’s furious delivery, Zach Hill’s frenzied drumming provides complexity and fill, constantly threatening to break from rhythmic straitjackets.

MC Ride commands the stage, sweat dripping over his tattooed torso, as he hangs from the low ceiling berating the crowd.The real star of the show though is probably Zach Hill. A sample from the Castaways’ “Liar, Liar” is mangled and looped as a backdrop for his spectacular drumming. He plays so hard that at one point he almost slips from his drum stool, but without missing a beat. Now that’s cool.

It’s almost light relief when Link Wray’s Rumble emerges as a brilliantly low slung backing track for “Spread Eagle Cross the Rock”; otherwise it’s sheer aural assault. Judging by the reaction of tonight’s crowd, their gamble of posting online with no physical release has created a truly underground phenomenon, that feels like something new, much needed and much anticipated. This isn’t the future of hip hop, but it’s a fascinating detour.

Words: Brian Beadie

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.