In last week’s Halloween Season kickoff we covered five classics of horror punk. But punk isn’t the only genre that has a horror section: Meet horrorcore, or horror-themed hip-hop.
If horror punk is ’50s and ’60s drive in B-movies, horrorcore is ’80s slasher movies. While there is occasionally some humor, in general, it’s more overtly violent and visceral with more serious themes. It’s also been blamed for all manner of bad things and has come under far more scrutiny, for reasons I can only assume rhyme with “black people.”
Join me on this journey through horrorcore. I promise I won’t include any ICP.
Geto Boys — “Assassins”
“Assassins,” from the Geto Boys’ first album, Making Trouble, is generally accepted as being the first horrorcore song, where gangster rap went from hyperbolic parables to straight-up slasher horror. And to think, all you know them for is that song from Office Space.
It was, of course, decried as glorifying and encouraging violence. Just like how Friday the 13th encourages the machete-murder of teenagers, and Nightmare on Elm Street encourages beds to eat Johnny Depp. Unless the Powers That Be think the Geto Boys’ audience is somehow more impressionable and has worse judgment than Freddy Krueger’s, but why would they have that impression?
The Geto Boys went on to solidify the genre with “Mind of a Lunatic” on Grip It! On That Other Level, but the first song should come first. Plus “Mind of a Lunatic” was covered by Marilyn Manson which takes away most—if not all—of its cred.
Gravediggaz — “Diary of a Madman”
Did you know the Wu-Tang Clan isn’t RZA’s only rap group? It’s true! He’s also part of the Gravediggaz. And what kung-fu movies are to the former, horror movies are to the latter.
A lot of rappers have horrorcore songs, but there aren’t a whole lot of dedicated horrorcore rappers or groups, at least not to the degree you see in punk and metal. But Gravediggaz is one of the first and one of the best. And “Diary of a Madman,” not to be confused with the Ozzy Osbourne song of the same name, is probably their most popular song.
Dr. Octagon — “Earth People”
Simultaneously lighter and weirder than RZA’s horrorcore project, Kool Keith’s horror alter ego Dr. Octagon definitely goes the sci-fi horror route. Sci-fi and surreal. Oh, and also he invented the term “horrorcore” and solidified it as a subgenre.
Technically Dr. Octagon is a trio with the other members being San Francisco native turntablist DJ Qbert and Dan the Automator, also of Deltron 3030 and the other half of actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s music project, Got a Girl. So it’s got quite the pedigree and is two-thirds from the Bay.
All that said, Kool Keith’s relationship with Dr. Octagon is… complicated. Octagon was killed and eaten by Dr. Dooom, another of Kool Keith’s alter egos, in 1999. Then he came back for The Return of Dr. Octagon, but due to contractual problems and label interference Dr. Dooom killed Octagon again by stabbing him 17 times and electrocuting him with an electric razor. But he still tours and performs as Dr. Octagon.
Did I mention it’s surreal?
Tech N9ne — “It’s Alive”
The entire album Anghellic is a horrorcore classic, starting off with an introduction that includes a line from Hellraiser and not slowing down much from there.
Granted, this specific song isn’t extremely horror. It’s got a couple lines but mostly he just shouts out Missouri like a dozen times and talks about how great he is. Which is suspicious; the only good thing to come out of Kansas City is barbecue. It’s a city that straddles two of the worst states, after all. Who brags about being from there? It should be a shameful secret at best. But it’s the album’s single so I guess it has to represent the whole.
Listen to the whole album, though. Even though it’s from… ugh… Kansas City.
Necro — “Creepy Crawl”
Pretty much any Necro song works, but this one makes the cut because if you include Charles freaking Manson, you’re officially horror. I mean that’s hardcore.
This one is last because it’s kinda cheating; Necro is open about the fact that he started out in a metal band and is heavily influenced by death metal and horror metal. It is horrorcore, so it does count, but it works best as a lead-in to next week, when we get to my favorite horror-inspired subgenre.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.