There are a lot of places I could begin: with the giant dick on the cover art, with the photo of MC Ride tempting death on top of a building, with the possibility that this entire album might be part of a clever viral publicity stunt à la Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero. Or maybe I could start with how Death Grips’ second of two promised major label albums may constitute one of the best “fuck you, label” moments in music since Neil Young’s Everybody’s Rockin’. Or, of course, I could start with the music itself, which is definitely one of the most unsettling I’ve heard all year. But you’ve read all that before — as soon as NO LOVE DEEP WEB burst forth on October 1, the internet became host to a seemingly infinite array of discussions about the aforementioned — but mostly about the penis.
In the past, MC Ride — the veritable, contorted public face of Death Grips — has been hastily and unfairly marginalized into a variety of contexts that have nothing to do with the music: a “hobo rapper,” the type of madman you only run into in the deli at 3 AM on a Tuesday morning. Perhaps this co-opted identity stems from the face we saw back in 2011, on fractured, glassy-eyed visage on the Exmilitary album art. Perhaps we don’t understand him, so we classify him in the context of the “other.” He doesn’t care for the inner-city lyric poetry of Killer Mike, and he’s certainly not smooth like Drake. The closest analog would probably be Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but even that’s a stretch; where ODB has batty banter and flippancy, MC Ride has only rage. And this rage elevates him to something much more than a stage name. He’s a character, and the two-year story Death Grips a parable. If Exmillitary was the rabid suicide-jump down the rabbit hole and The Money Store the continued downward spiral into hedonistic extravagance and nihilistic abandon, then we find ourselves at the very bottom with NO LOVE DEEP WEB: the money spent, the drugs used up, the hangover kicking in with hurricane force.
But we start off on the rooftop from that now-famous photo. We barely reach the minute-and-a-half mark in “Come Up and Get Me” before it appears a jump is imminent. The throbbing bass detaches from the elementary hand-clap beat, and Ride works himself up into such a fury, gasping and sputtering, that you think he might puke from the intensity. It’s only the first track, but it feels like the cathartic end to a Greek tragedy. Indeed, subtlety is not an option — though, it’s worth mentioning that NO LOVE DEEP WEB includes some of the group’s most accessible material; “Lil Boy” and “Deep Web” are the type of glitch freak-outs over which Lil Ugly Mane acolytes and Crystal Castles fans can come together.
One of the most interesting aspects of this record is how very paranoid it is, how it bites us on the hand when we get too close. Tracks like “Stockton” and “Lock Your Doors” churn themselves into an industrial frenzy, with walls of white noise and Ride’s shouts layered on top of each other to form a strange counter-rhythm. The cuts here are catchy in the technical sense, but there’s no mutuality here — the listener is confronted for our voyeuristic curiosity, and they aren’t trusted at all. “It’s all suicide to me,” goes the refrain on “World of Dogs,” and slowly comes the realization that we’re all pushing the threshold further and further past its limit; the song, meanwhile, spins on, a suicidal Tasmanian devil of break-beats and nonsensical utterances. “No Love” reminds us that Zach Hill, one of the most talented noise-rock drummers alive, is in this group; he pummels away on the snare before letting the drones march in.
And so the finale of this most peculiar of musical experiments continues, supplying a consistent string of razor-wire-wrapped goodies: the twisted party jam “Bass Rattle Stars Out The Sky,” along with a track called “Hunger Games” that’s less Jennifer Lawrence and more acrid one-liners (“You need a lift?/ You can sit between the backseat and my dick.”). The best is obviously saved for last, and considering how there are few listening processes as exhausting as this one, it’s a real joy. “Artificial Death in the West” revolves around a simple, deadpanned hook about technological expansion, shining pyramids, and death by sexual impalement. You could probably draw some large-scale political allegory out of all that, but the real takeaway are the lines about “watching them watch me:” a re-affirmation of the paranoid mindset of Death Grips that, in turn, echoes our own. In sharp contrast to the abrasive opening, NO LOVE DEEP WEB doesn’t go out with a temper tantrum so much as it passes out, exhausted, hopeless, and angry.
And that’s when I realize that this isn’t really a trilogy at all. That Death Grips isn’t so much the rise and fall of MC Ride, but all of us; that’s why L.A. Reid latched on to their sound, that’s why so many of us lie rapt with our headphones melting from all the aural acid. This project is never-ending, a reflection of our collective, delirious, and collectively delirious search for meaning in a world that can only supply hatred, excess, and confusion. It’s a mirror that forces us to come to terms with the fact that we may never truly understand, and that the best solution for that angst is to let it pour forth: Take a picture of your junk and release it as album art. Wear socks that say “suck my dick.” Fling cigarette ashes from the rooftops, and revel in the irony of random strangers collapsing into blubbering wrecks, begging you not to jump. The niceties can come later, with the press release. For now, we can simply bask in the ire.