Death Grips to the Majors: Drop Dead!

The infamous band's latest middle finger to the industry: breaking up

When noise collective Death Grips, anchored by drummer Zach Hill and vocalist MC Ride but with an always rotating roster, called it quits - announcing the news on July 2 with a note handwritten on a napkin - it was only the latest in a string of shocking (some might say self-sabotaging) moves by the critically lauded and uncompromising 3-year-old Sacramento, Calif., outfit. The scrawled and stained nail in the coffin was presaged by years of tumult; in fall 2012, the album "No Love Deep Web" was uploaded for free despite its label's wishes alongside vaguely embarrassing internal emails from Epic Records ("We're extremely upset") and ending in Death Grips being dropped from the label. Nearly a year later, the act caused a near riot at Chicago's Bottom Lounge when its "set" turned out to be little more than a film projection of a suicide note supposedly written by a fan accompanied by Death Grips' music on loop. That led to Lollapalooza's last-minute cancellation of its 2013 slot.

Now Death Grips is dead, leaving its new label partner, Capitol's Harvest Records (in tandem with Death Grips' imprint Third World), with a highly anticipated double album, "The Powers That B," to promote - and no band. "It's hard to characterize how these things happen," says Piero Giramonti, Harvest GM along with Jacqueline Saturn. "Were we a party to it? Not really."

Indeed, this latest middle finger is par for the course for the self-declared "conceptual art" project. As Prospect Park's Angelica Cob-Baehler, the band's current co-manager, recalls of its Epic signing: Chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid took one look at MC Ride in the video for "Guillotine," bellowing and berating someone from the passenger seat of a car, and said, "I ain't scared of shit, and I'm scared of this motherf---er."

So why keep investing in a band that seemingly wants nothing to do with the music industry? "Death Grips' impact that will never be measured in the short term," offers Cob-Baehler. For his part, Giramonti says Harvest won't lose the farm. "In this business, the more you take [up front], the less creative freedom you get ... we structured the deal so no one would get bent out of shape."


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