Exmilitary is the stunning debut by Death Grips, a noise-hop trio from Sacramento, California. Hella drummer Zach Hill founded the project along with vocalist Stefan Burnett, and since then they've garnered a pretty big reputation in the underground scene.
To someone educated in the ways of hip-hop, these guys may seem to have an unorthodox style. Fuck, to someone uneducated in the ways of hip-hop, these guys have an unorthodox style. The vocals are not really fine-tuned for flow, but are instead loud and abrasive. It's a shock and awe tactic that works wonders on Stefan Burnett's part. Featuring some very no-wave influenced beats, each with plenty of held notes and strong basslines, Exmilitary is an album that has to be heard to understand.
It's hard not to get behind Burnett's vocals on Exmilitary. They're mixed loud and fast, filled with gusto, and are absolutely empowering. You feel like beating in someone's face when you hear his gut wrench out those wretched shouts on "Guillotine" or the killer "Takyon." Lyrically speaking Exmilitary is just as dark as it is abrasive, and features some new takes on classic topics. Take for example, "Klink," which approaches police-state dominance from a more intelligent angle that questions the concept that police are "protecting" people by invading their privacy. The track ends with a shoutout: "For my real ones who understand, What it feels like to have your rights read to you by the ..." It's relatable and it's a more explorative way of looking at how worthless and hindering police presence can be for the average person doing no wrong. At least it's more explorative than moronically shouting "fuck the police" over and over...
...Well that's not to say Death Grips doesn't go the extreme route from time to time. On the same track, there's lyrics like:
"Six feet deep below the street
So they can't never say shit again
Fuck the man with a thick broomstick
And put a black flag on the end"
It's the way Burnett goes about delivering such great lines that make Exmilitary in my opinion a modern hip-hop classic. His delivery is pounding, anguished, and pissed off. It's like listening to a grindcore album in hip-hop form. Tracks like "Takyon" and "Lord Of The Game" are absolute monsters in this regard, featuring plenty of furious delivery. There's plenty of dark religious undertones too like the numerous "Satanic" references, which are all in good fun.
Some of the later tracks like "Known For It" are a bit less exciting and energetic, but they have their own unique qualities. "I Want It I Need It" for example features some cool riffs, while "Thru The Walls" has some loud and driving rhythm courtesy of Zach Hill's drumming. His production job in general is really solid too, making Exmilitary one of my favorite experimental hip-hop releases.
8.75 out of 10
3. Spread Eagle Cross the Block
4. Lord of the game
6. Cut Throat
9. Culture Shock
10. Thru the Walls
11. Known For It
12. I Want It I Need It (Death Heated)
13. Blood Creepin
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