10 years ago today, Death Grips released their groundbreaking debut mixtape, Exmilitary, and in the time since then, they’ve continued to push themselves, and the music industry at large, forward, whether that be musically with their fine balance of pop structures and harsh textures, from a marketing standpoint with their anarchic surprise releases, or culturally with the way the band embraced (and didn’t embrace) the internet for their gain. However you want to look at it, Stefan Burnett, Zach Hill and Andy Morin have made a major mark on the music world, as when artists these days makes an experimental, usually loud, turn, comment sections and replies usually light up with comparisons to Death Grips.
But now that we’re a decade removed from their opening statement, and almost three years from their last proper release, we think it’s time to take a look at their discography as a whole and see how every release stacks up against one another. But first, some ground rules. We will only be counting full-length releases, so no one-off singles like “@deathgripz,” “More Than The Fairy” or, unfortunately, the “Live From Death Valley” single they put out after Exmilitary via Deathbomb. We’re sticking to EP-length (or longer) projects officially put out by the band. So with that said, let’s dive in.
13. Year of the Snitch (2018)
Year of the Snitch doesn’t just have the distinction of being the worst Death Grips album; it also has the distinction of being the only complete dud in their discography. While songs like “Death Grips Is Online” and “Hahaha” (especially the latter) show some potential of what this record could have been, it’s bogged down by muddy engineering (seriously, why does this album sound like this?), terrible sound design and some of the worst songwriting the trio has ever put together. Tracks like “Streaky” and “Linda’s in Custody” are just straight up annoying with their tacky production and corny lyrics, while others like “Dilemma” are awkward and, honestly, amateurish. For a band that broke through with such a clearly defined sound and image, Year of the Snitch feels like listening to a band who has lost the plot entirely.
Just a year before, it felt like the band had rejuvenated their creative energy and introduced some fresh ideas by dipping more into their electronic influences. And while Year of the Snitch attempts to return to the pure, early internet anarchy of Exmilitary, the times have simply changed too much, as the LP sounds more like works in progress that leaked on Napster in 2000 (sound quality and everything) than an actual studio album. And with this being their last proper album for now, it leaves the Death Grips story off on a very sour note.
12. Fashion Week (2015)
In early 2015, the Death Grips fan base was in a fervor that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen from an artist fanbase. Seriously, if you think the BTS Army or Swifties are bad, you should have been on r/deathgrips from 2014-2015. The band had announced that they were broken up following the release of part one of their forthcoming double album, The Powers That B, but they also were still working on part two of said album and had even released a single for it (they had also promised the album would come out before the end of the year). So when 2015 came and there was still no Jenny Death, Death Grips fans got a little … crazy. Instead of the band calming fans down by saying, “Hey, we just had to work out some stuff with the physical release and whatnot,” they instead surprise-dropped Fashion Week, an entirely instrumental album where all the tracks were named “Runway” with a letter at the end—letters which then spelled out “JENNY DEATH WHEN,” a running meme/demand among the fanbase.
So with all that backstory out of the way: This project is fine. It’s a fun collection of loosies and whatnot the band had been creating that in no way comes together as a cohesive whole, but the stakes aren’t high enough for it to be that disappointing. Tracks like “Runway H” and “Runway Y” feature some really fun and inventive sections, and others like “Runway E (2)” actually sound like they could have fit right in on Government Plates. But overall, Fashion Week is an extremely low-stakes album that feels like it was meant to simultaneously troll their fans and quench their thirst for Jenny Death.
11. Gmail and the Restraining Orders (2019, 2021)
Though technically their most recent release, Gmail and the Restraining Orders was not exactly new music. While the version we hear today was played on NTS Radio in 2019 during Warp’s 30th anniversary WXAXRXP broadcast, Death Grips fans probably heard this first as a nauseating soundscape played before the band went onstage during their 2015 tour. It’s the most purely experimental thing the band has put out, and possibly the most experimental thing Hill has worked on since his Hella days. Gmail is a fucked up Frankenstein’s monster of the ideas the band played with on both sides of The Powers That B, mixing together Hill’s live, frenetic drumming with the vocal sample chopping techniques heard on n-ggas on the moon, and while it doesn’t always come together, it serves as an interesting time capsule of one of their most creatively fruitful periods, and displays an attitude that the band should’ve maintained on their releases following Jenny Death.
10. Interview 2016 (2016)
While Fashion Week was clearly overstuffed to fit in the meme, Interview 2016 feels much more purposeful. The album was originally intended to go along with their 2016 visual piece of the same name, in which actor Matthew Hoffman watches the band perform and interviews them while being filmed by cameras from the 1980s. Of course, you never actually hear any sound from the performance or the interview, in typical Death Grips fashion—just these instrumentals. But hey, they’re pretty good instrumentals that serve as a nice extension of the musical ideas heard throughout Government Plates and perfectly tee up their next record, Bottomless Pit.
9. Bottomless Pit (2016)
Coming on the heels of Jenny Death and a seemingly renewed creative energy following Death Grips’ initial break-up, Bottomless Pit’s hype was pretty unreal. But even almost five years removed from the album, it’s hard to say whether all that hype was justified. A lot of songs, like “Spikes”, “Bubbles Buried In This Jungle” and “Bottomless Pit,” feature some of their most exhilarating and frenetic production since The Money Store, which brings out some great performances from Burnett. But at the end of the day, Bottomless Pit is redundant. The core ideas on this record had simply already been heard before and done better on all of their previous releases, as Bottomless Pit is their sole, “core” album that lacks an identity of its own. It just feels like the band wanted to put together another album like The Money Store that combined sticky hook songwriting with an anarchic approach to sound design, but played more into their strengths as a live band with improved production values. And while for most bands, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, it just felt like a small betrayal of Death Grips’ original, core ideas of forward momentum, something Hill and Burnett stressed in early interviews with the band.
At the end of the day, Bottomless Pit is an extremely fun album—just not as thought-provoking as their earlier works. But since they were winding down an unprecedented creative streak, I can’t blame the band too much for the approach they took on this release.
8. Jenny Death (2015)
By the time Jenny Death rolled out in March 2015, the band and its fans had put themselves on a massive rollercoaster full of sickening twists and exhilarating turns that spanned the band’s original break-up, Fashion Week, lo-fi rehearsal videos, fake Reddit accounts, German music websites containing snippets, and music videos rife for overanalyzing. All of this culminated in the band using their recently unearthed Twitter account to announce the album’s release date, along with a tour, to a random girl on Twitter commenting on another girl’s MC Ride skirt. But how does the album hold up over six y