Back in 2011 when skinny jeans, floppy hair and being nice to your parents was en vogue, I’d had enough of being part of mainstream culture. I was a wanky little teenager with a dislike for pretty much everything; everyone around me was lame, the music they listened to was lame and I wanted to set myself apart from them in every way possible.
One Saturday (the day I dedicated to being cooler and more original than everyone else), I stumbled across a thread on a music forum with the title ‘Music You Listen To but Your Friends Hate’. I can remember getting butterflies just at the thought of slowly strolling up to my friends on Monday morning with the swagger of a prohibition-era mobster and saying, “Oh guys, have you heard this new band? No? Oh God you guys, it’s 2011 and you’re still listening to Arctic Monkeys…”
I never got my Pretentious Twat of the Year award because the first video I watched fucked my mind. The description was something along the lines of ‘check this out, it’s fucking nuts – an experimental hip hop group from Sacramento, CA doing the weirdest shit I’ve heard in a long time’, and instantly I clicked on the YouTube link to listen to ‘Guillotine’ by Death Grips. I was not ready for Death Grips. Every fuzzy electronic zap made my brain warp into a Kandinsky painting as I tried to take in the claustrophobic white noise surroundings in the video, and MC Ride’s puppet-like bopping along to the beat reminded me of why I cried watching Punch and Judy shows as a kid. I closed the lid of my laptop, went outside to smoke a grand total of four cigarettes and tried to erase what I’d seen from my memory.
I tried to go way outside my comfort zone for all the wrong reasons. Just from watching 39 seconds of ‘Guillotine’, I realised that finding music should be a habit of gratification, not a tool to slap a metaphorical dick across the faces of my peers. From that day, I became less of a pompous know-it-all who attempted to use obscure reference points in general conversation to make me feel good about myself and just enjoy what I enjoyed without contempt for everything else.
I’ve always appreciated the discussions about Death Grips – the way they carry themselves as artists is fascinating and leaking their own album with the drummer’s erect penis as the album art is probably the shining example of a group of people that solidly do not give a toss. Now, amidst the rumours of Death Grips breaking up/getting back together/releasing post-breakup material, I find myself looking back on that Saturday morning with an amicable glint in my eye. That was my ‘I need to stop being a wanker’ moment, and I feel like I owe Death Grips a fully engaged, fully prepared listen.
I asked my friend, an avid Death Grips fan, where I should start, and he told me that The Money Store was probably their most accessible album, and so began my journey.
Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed The Money Store and it dawned on me just how powerful music can be in removing people from their own reality. A bunch of chords or bleeps and whirrs or a sorrowful lullaby can take you somewhere else in your mind, or it can completely shock your way of thinking – in my case it was a realisation that being a music wanker is a bad thing and that music, although used in many ways, should primarily be relished and revered, not used as a egoistic platform.
I found myself thinking about how many people have been positively influenced by Lil B, a rapper that has been reduced to memes on the Internet but somehow has an astronomical following. In Carrie Battan’s piece about Lil B’s ‘Based’ fans, she spoke to Skip, a guy who heard Lil B’s track ‘I’m God’ and used the positive message to get out of a suicidal, drug-fuelled rut.
As childish and asinine as it sounds to say “music has the power to change lives”, the statement is steeped in truth whether it’s saving someone from calling time on their lives or stopping someone from being an incorrigibly detestable human being. We should all treat music respectfully, appreciate the positivity it can encourage and above all, never use it for pretentious wankery.