The label “experimental hip-hop” seems to now extend to more artists in the industry than it used to, but there’s no denying Death Grips helped found the genre and still remain at its center. Though Zach Hill is often noted as the leading creative of the group, Stefan Burnett, better known as MC Ride, is the vocal star. His punk, industrial-inspired delivery feeds on noise and electronic styles and production to create an unmatched sound. With Andy Morin also on keyboard and production, the music trio has put out six studio albums, a mixtape and six other miscellaneous projects.
Death Grips formed in 2010 and I’ve been listening since 2015. Considerably late to the show, I still found myself among very few fans in my area during high school. That being said, I spent my teen years in Wake Forest, NC. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Death Grips’ internet and streaming popularity were stronger than ever and continuously growing. I was a proud, but delusional, DG fan.
When you find a new project as inventive as Death Grips, it feels like stumbling upon gold. I thought I was nearly alone in this discovery and it took time for me to realize they were incredibly popular. As years passed and their popularity still grew, I found myself listening to Death Grips as often as I used to, but now in private. There was a certain embarrassment of Death Grips for me, and since talking to friends, I’ve learned for others, too. The embarrassment, perhaps stemming from a sudden jump of feeling special to being just a cog in the DG machine, was polarizing. Older listeners retreated to their rooms to partake while newer listeners were outwardly experiencing their newfound feeling of uniqueness.
Death Grips, despite their ever-altering audience, continue to put out music and I’ve noticed, both in myself and the people around me, the former DG embarrassment lifting. As people come to terms with liking music simply because it’s good and putting less concern into whether or not it boosts their individuality complex, I find that Death Grips is getting more public love from their long-time listeners.
As an ode to my lifted DG embarrassment, here’s a short list of some of my favorite Death Grips songs (in order of release):
One of my favorite things about Spotify is the curated playlists made just for you, especially the yearly rewinds; it’s so interesting and gratifying to see how my listening habits change over the years. There was one playlist that caught my eye recently called “Your Summer Rewind,” which features some of my most-played songs from past summers. As I scrolled through the playlist, memories flooded back of when, where, and who I was during those summers.
There are the classic upbeat summer songs about being happy and loving the sun, like “Shotgun” by George Ezra, “Sunflower,” by Rex Orange County, and “Sunshine” by Tom Misch. But most of the songs are all tied to a specific memory, place, or person.
Summer 2019, the summer before my freshman year of college, I was very emotional about leaving home, I even made a whole playlist about it. That explains “Nobody” by Mitski, “A Little More” by Catie Turner, and “A World Alone” by Lorde. A few weeks into college, I couldn’t stop listening to “Halo” by Beyonce, so that too, wormed its way onto my playlist.
Summer 2018, I listened to “Blonde” by Frank Ocean all summer, so “Pink + White” and “Nights” made it on the list. I remember listening to “Nights” for the first time at the pool with my friends, looking up at the stars, feeling whole. That summer, my friends and I decided it would be fun to memorize the rap in “Determinate,” a song from “Lemonade Mouth,” a Disney Channel Original Movie. I listened to it dozens of times, trying to keep up with the fast-paced lyrics, so many times, that it too made it onto my Summer Rewind.
Summer 2016, I was still mostly listening to pop music, and Jon Bellion had just come out with “The Human Condition.” “Guillotine,” was my favorite song off of that album, and it used to be my most played song of all time. Other songs from that album found their way on the list: “Maybe IDK” and “Morning in America,” just to name a couple.
Summer 2015, I discovered my love for music, and became obsessed with Troye Sivan. His debut album “Blue Neighborhood” and preceding EP “WILD” had yet to come out, so I was listening to “Happy Little Pill” on repeat. I can’t listen to it anymore because of the strong nostalgia it gives me, transporting me back to when I was freshly fourteen years old and not even a freshman in high school. But Spotify doesn’t know that, so onto the playlist it went.
The playlist is only fifty songs, but it felt like going through old photo albums, reading old texts, and opening a time capsule all at once. When I look through playlists from summers past that I made, I am reminded of the experiences I curated and fantasized, the summer I wish I had; that is not always representative of how things go, or what I end up listening to, it’s subjective. Spotify, a program made with code and algorithms, shows me the tracks I actually listened to most, a third party view of my past.
I was making my way through the crazy world of Tori Amos, and I noticed something weird. She kept making Nine Inch Nails references. She name-dropped the band, their album titles, etc. Puzzled, I checked the Wikipedia page for “Under Big Pink,” and realized Trent Reznor was credited with backing vocals on the album’s sole love song. How did these two artists from opposite ends of the music world come together? Little did I know I was about to get pulled into a mostly joking conspiratorial tale of hatred, (Courtney) love, and one of the funniest celebrity duos on earth. There are multiple blogs devoted to laying out these absurd stories, but the one I found most entertaining was this article’s namesake: The Tori and Trent Conspiracy. If you have a spare hour to read this and the other blogs linked, I highly encourage you to go on that journey, but if not, I’ll hit the highlights here.
So, let’s lay out the Dramatis Personae, shall we: Trent Reznor, creator and sole member of industrial rock’s breakthrough band: Nine Inch Nails. Perpetually miserable and probably a danger to polite society. Next, Newton, NC’s own Tori Amos. Classical pianist, songwriter, godmother of 90s chick-rock, weirdest redneck hippie witch-woman alive. And finally… Courtney Love. Okay look, I’m probably one of the last seven people on earth who actually likes Love, but even I have to admit that if you listen to more than a few stories from artists who knew her, she comes off as kind of the archvillain of 90s rock. No, she did not kill Kurt Cobain. Yes, her band is better than Nirvana (Come at me). Yes, she is a female version of the villain archetype on Ru Paul’s drag race. Everyone on the same page? Too bad, the story is starting anyways.
Tori and Trent
Tori Amos and Trent Reznor report admiring one other’s music long before meeting. This is a little weird, considering Tori Amos is a progressive pop singer a la Kate Bush, and Trent Reznor is a screaming nutjob a la the Butthole Surfers (real band NIN toured with), but it’s true. There are some shared themes between them though: both are unreservedly confessional lyricists, and they both really like pretending to be Jesus. Apparently, Trent Reznor reached out to say he loved “Little Earthquakes,” and a friendship was born.
Both musicians have given numerous accounts of their relationship, some seemingly contradictory, but all accounts of their friendship are bound together by being just absolutely hilarious. Amos seems to think of herself as a surrogate mother figure for Reznor, saying that she thinks he would be a lot less angry all the time if he had some more nurturing. To quote from Spin magazine’s interview with Amos, “What Trent Really needs is a blanky and a hot chocolate with marshmallows. He doesn’t need another hole to crawl in. I think someone should give him one of those little hard hats with a miner’s light on it, so when he gets lost in a dark hole, he can find his way out.” This is obviously VERY funny if you’re familiar with any of Reznor’s work, but it pales in comparison to “The Chicken Incident,” where Amos, upon visiting Reznor in the house of the Manson murders (which Reznor had rented out because you know, of course he had), spontaneously forgot how to cook chicken. She was going to make him dinner because, in her words, “He just looks so anorexic sometimes. I just look at him and go, baby, you need my cooking honey.” But on this fateful evening, she couldn’t as much as fry a chicken. This incident was apparently so scarring to the born southerner that she called her mother on the spot to ask her why she had just ruined a dish that she had been making for 20 years. Her mother, either a witch, a master comedian, or both, told her solemnly that ever since the Folger’s coffee heiress died in the Sharon Tate house, there has been a curse against anything culinary on the premises. No wonder Trent Reznor is so angry all the time, celebrity ghosts keep ruining his food.
So, what’s this about a conspiracy, and where does Courtney Love come into all this? Well, that’s where this objectively delightful story takes a turn for the tabloids, and I don’t totally feel comfortable repeating some of the things Bizarre Love Triangles or even some actual news sites say about the matter. I’ve linked the blog’s crazed spirals of conspiracy if you want to hear them yourself. But, to summarize, Tori and Trent’s relationship falls apart, according to Reznor, because of “Some malicious meddling on the part of Courtney Love.” This is a little confusing given Love and Amos have ostensibly never met, but Courtney has maintained that she had a romantic relationship with Reznor briefly, something Reznor denies. This has led to speculation about Love’s motives, and the precise nature of Reznor and Amos’ relationship, as well as lyrical analysis of songs Amos, in her own words, had “allegedly written” about Reznor. The blog also goes the extra mile to rope in every major 90s alt-rock star in the process. It’s a wild ride, but don’t take any of it too seriously.
So… what does all this tell us, other than to not make chicken on the site of a brutal murder? Well, I guess if I must make a closing remark it would be that genre is a fickle thing, and sometimes artists from opposite worlds can have some common ground. Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame wrote an interesting article about the two of them if you want an introduction, and if you like one, but haven’t heard of the other, give them a listen, you might find something new.
Let me paint you a picture. A group of respected men walk into a New York Corner Store. They have a little chatter with the owner, otherwise known as “Papi,” and ask for a chopped cheese, a staple New York delicacy. It differs from it’s cousin, the Philly Cheese Steak, in the distinction that the steak is chopped up along with the cheese. After a short discourse on the goods of their exchange, the conversation between the men shifts to new and upcoming rappers “acting like they’re cozy.” This facade seems to antagonize the group of men, because the new rappers are not cozy. The group of men have been in the game, working hard for years, and quite frankly it’s offensive to see these new rappers come in, “sweat-suited up,” with their cheap, off brand clothes while concurrently trying to look like the homies. They are not cozy.
Another unnamed member of the group, who had until now kept quiet, interjects and concurs that he has also taken notice of the recent mockery. However, he goes on to describe how exorbitantly cozy he is. While these new rappers may seem cozy, the man speaking is coming through with the Playboy boxers, with the Playboy fitting, wearing old man socks with the things that hold them up (the sock holsters). He reassures the group that he is cozy and the other men seem to approve.
While this outfit is undoubtedly cozy, a third speaker, who I can only assume to be Rocky, brings light to the situation. He shows a confidence that leaves the group thinking if they even know the true meaning of “cozy.” He uses his outfit from yesterday as an example. While a seemingly meaningless phrase, the use of the word “yesterday” implies that for Rocky to dress this cozy is nothing to him. It’s something he casually does on a daily basis. As to the outfit he wore, it consisted of the Valentino shorts with white and red pinstripes. Rocky sported a real goose down feather bubble jacket. He described it as “very cozy, warm.” Then he had the durag hanging down with the bow string slinging in the wind. It was a two toned durag, with red on one side and white on the other. Some say he was so cozy that he fell asleep before he left the house. When asked what his inspiration was he told them “global warming.” In short, he was “too cozy.”
This is an intro to a song called “Yamborghini High,” a tribute to the late A$AP Yams. It’s one of my favorites and I think the intro was just too good not to share.
Hope you guys enjoy, -The DJ formerly known as “Chippypants”
Do you like album art? I know I do. Some of the best albums were characterized by their album art. Take Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” for example. Any Pink Floyd poser can easily identify the iconic light refraction through the pyramid, probably more than they actually know what the album sounds like. A lot of fame can be attributed to an eye-catching cover. But nothing is more eye-catching than the Instagram account @albumsofbikinnibottom.
The creative genius who runs this account takes album covers and reimagines them as if they were created in the SpongeBob universe. They cover all the greatest hits, from Van Halen to Weezer. For example, take the Nirvana album “Nevermind.” Instead of the classic image of a baby swimming after a dollar, we have a picture of Patrick under the sea happily reaching for a dollar in Bikini Bottom currency attached to a fishing hook. (Side note, did you know that babies can naturally swim before they learn how to walk? Crazy, right?)
Other honorable mentions include What I’ve Become by Ashes Remain and A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out by Panic! at the Disco. For the Ashes Remain album a Faceless Man in a chair is replaced by SpongeBob sitting in his armchair when dancing anemones comes on the television and the Panic! at the Disco cover includes all of the main characters sitting around a table in a manner that reminds me of the last supper.
However, my favorite album replacement has got to be Blind Melon. The creator of this masterpiece replaced the dancing child with the meme of squidward with the bloodshot eyes and all of his arms outstretched in a frenzy. It’s almost better than the original.
For more silly album replacements, I highly suggest you check out the Instagram for yourself @albumsofbikinibottom. You won’t be disappointed.
‘I’m DJ Psyched and 2k Indie is coming to an end for the week…’
Oh finally DJ AV thought. I’m tired of this
Hearing the DJs signing off is his favorite part of the day.
He spent the next few minutes patiently waiting while the DJ finished logging off and making sure the studio was clean and ready before they left. He was so eager for the DJ to leave that he said ‘Oh finally’ a moment too early.
‘What?’, DJ Psyched said before turning around again, giving the studio one last look. ‘I must be hearing things’, she said to herself before closing the door and leaving.
This time AV waited about a minute before trying to speak up, but just as he was about to say something Mica interjected saying ‘Can’t wait even a few seconds huh?’.
‘I don’t see what the big deal is’ AV lied. ‘So what if they find out, who are they to assume we don’t have thoughts and lives too?’.
‘Oh we are not having this discussion again.’ Mica added, ‘If you were a human I’m sure you wouldn’t want to know that your microphone and computers are more intelligent than you either.’
‘Coast is clear by the way’ AV shouted out for the whole studio to hear, ignoring Mica’s comment.
‘Thank goodness’ said Cedric, ‘I don’t even know why I bother being here, no one seems to want to use the CD player anymore’.
‘It’s all those streaming services’ Auxy interjected, ‘I wouldn’t mind them so much if people didn’t go yanking me out of there computers… and they wonder why they need to replace their aux chords so often’. Auxy tried not to think about this too hard after saying it, broken aux cords always ended up in the trash… and she was not ready for that.
‘Alright, so the first thing on the agenda is aux care, got it’ AV said, he always liked to act like the station leader. ‘Anything else?’
‘Can you please turn the music down, I can hardly hear anyone’ Mica added.
‘Sorry sorry’ said Soma the speakers, ‘That psyched kid really likes to blast the music…’
‘Well, we can work on that too…’ but before AV could finish what he was about to say the door swung open fast, too fast. No one had time to go back into auto mode.
AV made direct eye contact with DJ Psyched, and before he could say or do anything psyched was facedown on the floor.
‘Oh not again’ AV said. ‘Get up DJ Psyched! DJ! DJ! Get UP!! DJ PSYCHED!!!’
‘What?’ Psyched said as she slowly lifted her head, realizing that she had been asleep, and was now being woken up by the next DJ coming in for their shift. ‘Oh sorry’ she said.
‘It’s fine, but uh… could I please get in now, my set starts in five’
‘Yeah of course’, she scrambled to grab all of her things so she could leave, and just as she was logging out she could’ve sworn she saw a little wink come from the corner of the screen…
‘The First Rule about DJ Club is you don’t talk about DJ Club’ Tim Denton said.
Tim was my best friend and we started this group together. After co-hosting our first show together we realized it was the only thing that made us feel alive, we didn’t expect it to take off like it did.
‘The Second Rule about DJ Club is you don’t talk about DJ Club’ he added. ‘Third Rule: if someone doesn’t want to do another radio break their shift is over. Fourth Rule: only two DJ’s at a time. Fifth Rule: one shift at a time fellas. Sixth Rule: no forgetting your headphones. Seventh Rule: Shifts will go on as long as they have to. And the Eight and Final Rule: if this is your first time at DJ Club, you have to DJ.’
We always started with the rules, but every week we had more members, so we knew no one followed rules one and two. This was only a smart part of what we did though; the larger operation was Project Radiostation.
‘No one cares about the local scene’ Tyler said to me the first time we met ‘It’s all top 40 these days, no one cares about what their music means or how it’s made, and I just want to know what it’s like to be on the other side. Pass me the mic.’
This was the first time we DJ’d together, he told me he had to experience it, that it would set us both free from the hold of popular music. Now we did it every week, and we were leaders of the pack.
I lived with Tim because my old place was outside of a large music venue, there was only so much Top 40 music I could listen to before deciding living in Tim’s broken down shack would be better.
I am Jack’s complete lack of tolerance.
That’s how we got here. The newest DJ Club, in Witherspoon, March 13th 2020.
Benjamin was a Daytime DJ who’d been working at the station for nearly three years, since he was a freshman. Jillian was a Chainsaw DJ who had finished her DJ training course a few weeks ago. I’ll spare you the details, the two fell in love. I can’t spare you the cliche, they’re love was deemed unacceptable.
‘Did you hear about Ben and Jill?’ Jillian heard someone whisper as she walked into the station. She didn’t understand the taboo. Where she came from, it didn’t matter what kind of music you listen to.
She brushed off the comments and headed into the station. Today was her first shift and she wanted to make sure she was ready, the last thing she needed was to be distracted during her on air break.
She signed the operating log, logged into spinitron, hooked up her laptop and made sure everything was ready and running. The last thing was plugging in her headphones, but as she turned to plug them in she all-of-a-sudden couldn’t find them. She heard some giggling and when she looked up to the window she saw her headphones being thrown into the air.
‘What are you doing?’ she said once she walked into the DJ lounge where her headphones were being thrown around.
‘What are you doing?’ some girl she’d never met before replied ‘I heard you’re talking to a Daytime, that true?’
‘How is that any of your business? I don’t even know who you are’ Jill said as she eyed the other girl, she had short black hair and wore a torn white t-shirt with old blue jeans.
‘My names Beth and I’m a Daytime. Don’t you realize how much of a traiter you are? What kind of DJ doesn’t stand by their genre’ the girl, apparently Beth, replied.
‘Indie music is cool, I don’t see a problem being alright with both’ Jill said.
‘Well everyone else does. If you love Indie so much why don’t you just join daytime?’ Beth said, seeming genuinely confused. Her ignorance and close mindedness made Jill not like the girl.
‘Who cares what I DJ, isn’t that my choice? What kind of person only listens to one genre of music anyways?’ Jill said as she snatched her headphones from Beth.
Beth stood quickly at the motion but Jill didn’t back down. They stared at each other for a moment before Beth broke the silence, she picked up her bag and rolled her eyes as she said, ‘Whatever, I have class anyways’.
Jill stood there stunned. She knew the semester would be a long one if her relationship wasn’t accepted, but she worked too hard to get where she was just to quit. In that moment she made a promise to herself, she was going to change the way people thought of genres. She didn’t know how, but she knew she had to.
END OF A SOFT BOY, A TWO-PART DRAMATIC CONCLUSION (and possible TV movie): PART 1
It wasn’t pleasant. I mean, it wasn’t particularly anything I suppose. Therein lied (read my lips; not lies) my absolute confusion. If IT wasn’t particularly anything, it quite frankly begged the question of what was ME. Suddenly my own entrails, my grimy appendages, were not nearly as salient as I had and still might now imagine them. My mouth which had so often laid bare as to consume reflexively snapped shut upon the first notes of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” The void which had originally laid behind the veil of my teeth was suddenly transferred to myself, absolutely. My throbbing eyes jerked against the darkness which swiftly pollocked my home. And then it was, or still is, done.
How does one appreciate nature? How does one lay their legs in the dirt and relax? How does one return to footing as a tyrant?
There is no resolution. And there is no problem. They lived against nature, so they could not feasibly return to it. And so they ceased in fury and was killed in whole. IT was violent, but IT was not industrial; there was no purpose, only singular movement.
Sitting flaccidly along a brick wall and observing nature. Force yourself, force yourself, force yourself. There is nothing there. No impetus of satisfaction.
Upkeeping a house is mundane. But without it there would be no passage of time, no reminder of fluidity. Shutting windows to open them again. Day and day comes and then not. There is decay, one of terrible tragedy. But they denied themselves the horror of banality.
When I describe how my foot began to tap I worry that I am communicating some form of elation or relaxation of the cerebral pressure which had led me, or still may, to my golden hits shower. That release would have been perfect; it was the explicit bidding of an insect which harbored warm against my ribcage. But life seldom works so cleanly. Perhaps a slight tangent will work well to elucidate any confusion.
Imagine an egg, sitting firmly in a pot which lies at a slow heat. As its fibers are subjected to denature it begins to lose form, slouching within its oval. There is no yolk or white, only a lazy cream that cannot resemble what was once made to be. When you go and inspect the egg, which you have laid on low heat for hours, it is essentially unrecognizable. And once you decide to leave it for weeks upon weeks, a closer breadth of valuable movement, it expels in fetid convulsions before settling into the groove of decay. The novel eye may, at first, mourn what has supposedly rotted away from its telos. They screech at the silent earth to return the benefit of mild ripeness. But this is naive. Destruction is, and can only be, human. As such, its acceptance carries with it an implicit separation of man from the earth through which he is formed. The egg has not been ruined. It was not then, and is now, but, most importantly, it is both. There is not a linear resolution, but rather a holistic understanding that wholeness cannot be understood momentarily.
So this is how I found solace removed from my favorite alternative radio station. There was not an unexpected pleasure, but rather a final understanding that I could never be removed from my prior existence, and that this pain was not indicative of sin. There is no hope in reflection.