Usually, when horrorcore is a topic in rap discussions, lyricists such as Brotha Lynch Hung, Geto Boys, Three 6 Mafia, and even Eminem are the subjects; and rightfully so. Defined perfectly by The Michigan Daily:
Marked by harsh, aggressive beats and over-the-top depictions of taboo subjects, horrorcore is hip hop’s foray into the supernatural. Often it was an outlet for their twisted fantasies. Drug abuse, slasher-style murder, mental derangement, and satanic messages all found a home in horrorcore.
With horrorcore’s huge presence in Midwest, West Coast and South, New York’s participation and pioneering in the horrorcore subgenre can be traced back to Kool Keith and Jimmy Spencer before the term was even invented. Gravediggaz, as pioneers of horrorcore, were composed of The Undertaker, The RZArector, The Grym Reaper, and The Gatekeeper. Gravediggaz’s music was filled with themes of black humor, death, suicide, and more taboo subjects that were met with criticism by the media upon the release of their first studio album in 1994, “6 Feet Deep.”
Another pioneering group, Flatlinerz, composed of Tempest, Gravedigga and Redrum, meshed hardcore and horror to create some horrific rhymes and visuals.
Although horrorcore is largely known for its gruesome lyrics and themes that can be deemed as “cartoonish,” as the use of imagery can paint scenes straight out of a slasher flick, New York’s horrorcore often used dark realities of the poor Black experience as its “horror.” Here are a few of my favorite examples:
- Big L – “Danger Zone”:
Still, one of the most creative ways to explain the horrors and ills from the poverty he experienced in Harlem. He metaphorically treats Harlem as “hell” due to all of the occurrences stemming from such poverty and placed himself first person as the “Devil’s Son.”
2. Mobb Deep – “Survival Of The Fittest”
All throughout their second album, “The Infamous,” Prodigy and Havoc explore the dark days they’ve spent throughout Queensbridge. In “Survival Of The Fittest,” the duo spit about the depression faced as they casually hustled for money, sported bulletproof vests to see another day in conditions “similar to Vietnam.”
3. Onyx- “Last Dayz”
The gritty and raspy trio from Queens which composed of Fredro Starr, Sonny Seeza and Sticky Fingaz was also spitting about the dark realities of incarceration, committing crimes against their own, and wishing for riches.
4. DMX – “Damien” trilogy
DMX’s Damien trilogy starts in his debut album, “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot,” continues as “The Omen” featuring Marilyn Manson in “Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood,” and finishes as “Damien 3” in “The Great Depression” album. DMX commits acts of violence for Damien, a character that symbolizes the devil, in exchange for fame and fortune, even being convinced to shoot a friend. The Damien character references the movie “The Omen.”
New York horrorcore has proven that life’s ills create some of the scariest realities that one could imagine, and laying it on wax gives listeners the chance to hear the horros for themselves.