Yesterday, Death Grips announced via all their social media outlets that their label wouldn’t give a proper release date to their new album, NO LOVE DEEP WEB. In response, they leaked their own album, streaming the entire thing on Soundcloud, offerring up free downloads, and coordinating a seemingly rebellious but clearly carefully planned attack: a barrage of Facebook and Twitter updates, a scheduled time for the leak, a tracklist reveal, several sites picking up the news, and a “fuck the world” picture to really rally the troops.
After the leak, their website, ThirdWorlds.net, was temporarily shut down. The band’s drummer, producer, and music industry veteran Zach Hill told Pitchfork that the label shut the site down. Pitchfork then updated, without citing any specific sources, that Epic involvement with the shutdown.
At face value, the whole thing looked like a punk-spirited rebellion against a major label. This is something that very much appealed to Death Grips fans, as evidenced by all the tweets that the group retweeted. But for the first time, a lot of Death Grips followers, including myself, were starting to wonder what was going on.
The initial news of Death Grips signing to a label seemed premature in the first place. Ex-Military got them a lot of buzz, but the aggressive, noisy style being labeled as “punk hip-hop” and “noise rap” wasn’t the easiest thing to digest, and the band’s somewhat mysterious nature wasn’t decidedly inaccessible. Then again, Odd Future made it, and mystery is a hot selling point these days.
And so it was, at the beginning of 2012, Death Grips signed to Epic Records and announced that two albums would be out by the end of the year. The first, The Money Store, dropped on April 24th to much acclaim. Things were going according to plan, and they even made a surprising move when MTV put together an interactive video for the group’s most accesible song to date, “I’ve Seen Footage.”
As well-received as the major label debut was, it also wasn’t a huge seller, pushing under 4,000 units in the first week and making little noise in the mainstream. So what happened with the second album, NO LOVE DEEP WEB? Was the label not ready to commit to another release? Was this whole leak a scheme to further Death Grips’ reputation as an anti-mainstream, rebellious enigma (that just happens to be signed to a major label)?
Whatever the case, the whole fiasco seemed to have backfired. While some fans are excited about the leak and rallying behind the defiance of the experimental hip-hop group, there are plenty of others who are suspicious that they’re being had, and that this was all part of some bigger plot that the label may be in on. After all, is the group really this upset over a push-back? And if they are, why did they sign to a major label in the first place?
Not only are people starting to question the authenticity of this leak, but they’re starting to investigate the originality of Death Grips. Much of this digging has lead to one artist in particular: B L A C K I E. He’s an experimental hip-hop artist from Houston who has performed with Death Grips in the past, exhibiting a very similar sound, style, and aesthetic. The other thing worth noting: he’s been doing this since the mid-2000s, and judging by his tweets and retweets, he doesn’t seem to be too convinced of DG.
@b_l_a_c_k_i_e is tweeting himself & slaying you mainstream acts one by one
— B L A C K I E (@B_L_A_C_K_I_E) October 2, 2012
B L A C K I E has been at it since like 2005, and Death Grips kinda maybe ripped him off & got marginally famous for his sound.
— Craig Jenkins (@CraigSJ) October 2, 2012
@deathgripz: AND THAT STUNT YOU COLLUDED WITH YOUR LABEL TODAY WAS ONE-UPPED BY REAL DIY CULTURE.
— Yorrissey. (@YUNGYORRISSEY) October 2, 2012
So what do you think? Was this all a big coordinated attempt to maintain an image while still riding with a major label? Is it a genuine case of what happens when a less-than-accessible act gets picked up by a major? Will it end up paying off or hurting what Death Grips built in the first place?