Sunday, October 2, 2016

From the Graveyard Shift - Hip-hop for Metal Fans

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. It is I, your most humble Professor, returned from the sleepless land inhabited by those so blessed (or cursed, depending on where you stand) to have a newborn child while also working the graveyard shift. I was given a special task, one that may seem at odds with the very mission of this particular blog
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

Greetings and salutations, friends. It is I, your most humble Professor, returned from the sleepless land inhabited by those so blessed (or cursed, depending on where you stand) to have a newborn child while also working the graveyard shift. I was given a special task, one that may seem at odds with the very mission of this particular blog, but bear with me. You see, I have been enlisted to provide to you, fans of metal music, with a handful of hip-hop artists that might appeal to your sensibilities, a goal I hope I will have achieved by the end of this missive. Let us begin.


Death Grips is as logical a starting point as I could find. Undoubtedly by now, many of you will have heard of them, and many of you will likely be familiar with at least some of their work. For the rest of you, Death Grips are a bizarre, experimental noise rap trio featuring Zach Hill (drummer for Hella, Team Sleep, and a number of other projects), Flatlander (aka audio engineer Andy Morin), and MC Ride (aka vocalist Stefan Burnett). They’ve made headlines for their unpredictable behavior, from canceling shows and briefly “breaking up” to releasing albums for free with no prior warning and leaking a major label release (resulting in their subsequent removal from said label). Along the way, they’ve released a series of albums, each finding new ways to vary the group’s foundation of harsh noise, unpredictable drumming, and Ride’s shouted lyrics. Pair this with a series of equally strange music videos, and you’ve got a perfect antidote to the tired hip-hop mainstream and its shameless trends. Death Grips doesn’t actually have much of a Bandcamp presence, but you can find their mixtape Exmilitary, a brilliant release that served to establish the group’s sound for a wider audience.




It’s hard to mention Death Grips and not mention clipping., as both groups have a basis in noise and feature distinctive frontmen. However, the difference between the two groups couldn’t be more pronounced. Where Death Grips are the hip-hop equivalent of a brick to the head thanks to MC Ride’s blunt style, clipping. are more of a surgical scalpel to the throat thanks to Daveed Diggs’ razor-quick flow and street life lyrics. (If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Diggs won a Tony over the summer for his role in the smash-hit musical Hamilton.) Musically, clipping. are as experimental as Death Grips, but take their experimentations in a different direction, from the straight harsh noise of Midcity to the more varied, industrial CLPPNG. The group has released the brilliant Wriggle EP already this year and are following it up with the dystopian sci-fi concept album Splendor & Misery, which was released Sept. 9 and is an utterly brilliant new direction for the trio.




This was a difficult choice, because I very nearly went with the entirety of Minneapolis’ Doomtree rap crew, rather than settling on a single member. The five rappers and two beatmakers that comprise the group have released several collaborative albums, and although each member brings something different to the table, they work incredibly well as a single unit. However, I felt the need to focus on a single member of the group, and ultimately the choice came down to P.O.S or Dessa, and P.O.S won by the barest margin, in large part due to the influence of his punk background, something that bleeds through into his music. His wry sense of humor and nimble delivery suit his anarchic, intelligent lyrics perfectly, allowing him to match up with a number of different musical styles.




First, a confession: this slot was originally going to be occupied by El-P (whom you may best know as half of Run The Jewels), but unfortunately, his solo work isn’t on Bandcamp aside from a few demos and b-sides, so I had to find another pick. Fortunately, there’s a ton of great rappers out there, and so finding a replacement was simple. Tonedeff was a logical choice due to his versatility, as the man raps, sings, produces, and makes his own beats. His most recent release, Polymer, is the culmination of several years of work spanning three EPs, each of which represent a different aspect of his style. These three EPs are joined by a fourth set of tracks to create a full album showcasing his many talents. And then there’s perhaps the most distinctive element to Tonedeff’s style, the sheer speed and smoothness of his flow, which reaches some dizzying heights (see "Crispy", which sees him hitting 14 syllables per second while still maintaining recognizable lyrics).



Cover art by Alex Pardee

I conclude with my favorite rapper of all time, the incomparable Aesop Rock. Aes possesses a highly distinctive voice that pairs with the most verbose, adventurous sense of lyricism that hip-hop has ever seen to create something wholly unique. To put it quite simply, there is no one like him in all of music, and if you can find it within you to pierce the massive wall of words that the man throws at you on every track, you will find something truly special. There are few rappers who can even keep pace with him (most notable is Rob Sonic, Aes’ collaborator on the Hail Mary Mallon albums and one of the few artists out there who can nearly match him phrase for phrase while bringing a similar gift for lyrical non-sequiturs), and any track that features him as a guest is immediately elevated. His most recent album, 2016’s The Impossible Kid, is his most personal and intensely emotional album, laying out his life like only Aesop can. It is at this point in the year my favorite album of 2016, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.


Tagged with 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, clipping., Death Grips, hip-hop, P.O.S, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth
3 comments:
  1. Good suggestions, but you missed the best example of all: Dalek. The godfathers of noise rap, clearly an influence on death grips and clipping. Start with the album Absence, their heaviest.

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  2. Another group I really like is We'rewolves. The lyrics are more terrifying and nihilistic than any black metal band.

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  3. Thanks for reading and listening. And for the suggestions. I'm hoping the professor will be back with more from his graveyard shift.

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