On July 2nd, 2014 Death Grips unceremoniously announced their departure from the music industry by way of an image of a note written on a napkin posted to Facebook. Let’s revisit that sentence before proceeding. It contains two fallacies when talking about Death Grips. First is the fallacy that they would be considered part of any music industry much less “the” music industry, and second is the expectation that anything the trio had done before followed any semblance of ceremony of any kind. “Unceremonious” is the group’s modus operandi.
“We are now at our best and so Death Grips is over” the note opened. Soon after, Pitchfork – in their constant quest to prove they’re not caught off guard by any music news ever – unflinchingly declared the group dead. Mike Powell eulogizes, “I’m glad Death Grips broke up. I think I’d been waiting for them to all along.” The “spoiled dicks” finally self-imploded, because of course they did. What were you expecting?
None of this makes any sense if you’ve been paying attention. Since getting myself and my best friend whipped into a frenzy about seeing Death Grips perform live at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago only to get my fanboy heart stomped on by their no-show “conceptual art piece,” I’ve come to expect absolutely nothing from the group. They made it clear through their frequent cancellations and breaches of obligation that their whimsy comes before the music. So a banal and thought out “we quit” letter, while not surprising, isn’t “fuck you” enough. It reads like yet another calculated move.
Having called it “quits” between the releases of the first and second halves of their fourth studio album The Powers That B, the napkin still “promised” the release of the latter half in 2014, which – surprise – didn’t happen. After that, the rest of the Death Grips year was pretty quiet. That is until the November vinyl release of Government Plates listed Rob Pattinson – yes, the sparkling vampire Rob Pattinson – as the contributing guitarist on the track Birds. So that’s why they were all hanging out together with Beyonce. It was the perfect kind of strange minutia that proved they’re not done screwing with us.
Then comes the turn of the New Year. Still no Powers That B part two, otherwise known as Jenny Death. Just when the typical “oh great, why did we ever expect them to pull through” internet bemoaning began to surface, they dropped this:
A 14-track, instrumental album cryptically titled Fashion Week. It’s a completely unexpected, somewhat subdued exploration into the Death Grips sound without MC Ride’s voice. Sure, it does sound like this could be the backdrop of a sufficiently avant garde runway show, but there’s nothing terribly weird about it if Death Grips is palatable to your ears already. Each track is titled Runway followed by a random letter, like Runway J, Runway E and so on. Upon further-inspection, the seemingly arbitrary letters spell out: J-E-N-N-Y-D-E-A-T-H-W-H-E-N. What? So they were listening to our complaints and decided to deliver…well not Jenny Death but something completely different. The internet hive mind soon correlated the title Fashion Week to London Fashion Week that kicks off on February 10th. So Jenny Death when? Well, Fashion Week, February 10th. There’s your answer. What the hell is going to happen on February 10th?
Death Grips has reached a point in their supposedly concluded career that their creative output exceeds their release schedule. Andy, Zach and Stefan have so much up their sleeves, that they’ve taken to pissing off fans by exceeding our expectations. Disappointing us must have gotten too boring. All of a sudden, Death Grips is at their most generous and communicative – see also: their spike of activity on Twitter right now – and they’re supposed to be kaput. If you want this writer’s opinion, it’s not over. It’s never been over, and it will never be over. My guess is that Zach and Andy, the instrumental arm of Death Grips, went on an sound excursion that MC Ride didn’t care to join and that’s why we now have Fashion Week. The napkin resignation was another piece in the giant Death Grips jigsaw puzzle, of which we haven’t even finished emptying the box. So Jenny Death is on the way, or maybe it isn’t. Death Grips has literally conditioned its audience to receive nothing and still like it, so their creative space is utterly formless and limitless. Stare with me into the void on February 10th, will you?