Horrorcore

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Horrorcore is a subgenre of hip hop music based on horror-themed and often darkly transgressive lyrical content and imagery. Its origins derived from certain hardcore hip hop and gangsta rap artists, such as the Geto Boys, which began to incorporate supernatural, occult, or psychological horror themes into their lyrics and, unlike most gangsta-rap artists, pushed the violent content and imagery in its lyrics beyond the realm of realistic urban violence to the point where the violent lyrics became gruesome, ghoulish, unsettling, or slasher film- or splatter film-esque. While exaggerated violence and the supernatural are common in horrorcore, the genre also frequently presents more realistic yet still disturbing portrayals of mental illness and drug abuse. The term "horrorcore" was popularized by openly horror-influenced hip hop groups such as Flatlinerz and Gravediggaz.

Characteristics[edit]

Horrorcore defines a style of hip hop music that focuses primarily on dark, violent, gothic, transgressive, macabre and/or horror-influenced topics that can include death, psychosis, psychological horror, mental illness, satanism, self-harm, cannibalism, mutilation, necrophilia, suicide, murder, torture, rape, drug abuse, and often supernatural or occult themes. The lyrics are often inspired by horror movies and are performed over moody, hardcore beats.[1] According to rapper Mars, "If you take Stephen King or Wes Craven and you throw them on a rap beat, that's who I am."[2] Horrorcore was described by Entertainment Weekly in 1995 as a "blend of hardcore rap and bloodthirsty metal."[3] The lyrical content of horrorcore is sometimes described as being similar to that of death metal, and some have referred to the genre as "death rap".[4] Horrorcore artists often feature dark imagery in their music videos and base musical elements of songs upon horror film scores.[4]

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

It has been argued that Jimmy Spicer's 1980 single "Adventures of Super Rhyme" was perhaps the first example of anything that resembled horrorcore, due to the segment of the song in which Spicer recounts his experience of meeting Dracula. Following this were groups like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, and songs like Dana Dane's "Nightmares," which spun more frightening, imaginative narratives.[5]

Since 1983, Ganxsta N.I.P. has performed horror-themed lyrics that he described as "Psycho Rap", but was not commonly considered to be horrorcore until the term came into mainstream prominence.[6] Ganxsta N.I.P. has written lyrics for other groups, including Geto Boys.[6]

In 1988, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released "A Nightmare on My Street", which described an encounter with Freddy Krueger,[5] and the Fat Boys recorded the similarly-themed "Are You Ready for Freddy" for the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and its soundtrack. 1988 is also the year Insane Poetry released his debut single "Twelve Strokes Till Midnight," one of the first examples of music specifically made to be horrorcore.[5]

While Kool Keith later claimed to have "invented horrorcore",[7] the first use of the term appeared on the group KMC's 1991 album Three Men With the Power of Ten.[5] Nonetheless, Kool Keith brought significant attention to horror-influenced hip hop with the 1996 release of his horror and science-fiction-influenced, absurdist, trippy, experimental album Dr. Octagonecologyst.

Rise in the hip hop genre[edit]

Scarface, of the group Geto Boys, whose violent, horror-themed lyrics have been singled out as the first recorded example of horrorcore.

The Geto Boys' debut album, Making Trouble, contained the dark and violent horror-influenced track "Assassins", which was cited by Joseph Bruce (Violent J of the horrorcore group Insane Clown Posse) in his book Behind The Paint, as the first recorded horrorcore song. He said that the Geto Boys continued to pioneer the style with its second release, Grip It! On That Other Level, with songs such as "Mind of a Lunatic" and "Trigga-Happy Nigga."[8] The Geto Boys' 1991 album, We Can't Be Stopped, was also influential on the horrorcore genre and contained themes of paranoia, depression, and psychological horror, especially in the track "Chuckie," and "Mind Playing Tricks on Me".[9][10]

While rappers in the underground scene continued to release horrorcore music, including Big L,[11] Insane Poetry,[12] and Insane Clown Posse,[5] the mid-90s brought an attempted mainstream crossover of the genre.[5]

Eminem onstage in a white T-shirt
Horrorcore rapper Eminem in Germany, 1999

In 1994, according to Icons of Hip Hop, horrorcore gained prominence in 1994 with the release of Flatlinerz' U.S.A. (Under Satan's Authority) and Gravediggaz' 6 Feet Deep (released overseas as Niggamortis).[13][14][15][16]

In 1995, an independent horror film called The Fear was released, which included a soundtrack that consisted entirely of horrorcore songs, including Insane Clown Posse's biggest radio hit, "Dead Body Man".[5]

In 2009, dark music themed website Fangoria named Tech N9ne's 2001 album "Anghellic" as an iconic and influential album to the genre, to the artist, and to hip-hop as a whole.

The genre is not popular with mainstream audiences as a whole; however, performers such as Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid have sold well.[13] Also, rapper Eminem sold millions of copies with his horrorcore albums The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP. The Slim Shady LP was certified 3x platinum in October 1999 and 4x platinum in November 2000.[17] The Marshall Mathers LP sold 1,760,049 copies in its first week of being released[18] and was certified diamond.[19] Horrorcore has thrived in Internet culture and sustains an annual super show in Detroit called Wickedstock.[20] Every Halloween since 2003, Horrorcore artists worldwide get together online and release a free compilation titled Devilz Nite.[21] According to the January 2004 BBC documentary Underground USA, the subgenre "has a massive following across the US" and "is spreading to Europe".[20] Rolling Stone in 2007 referred to it as a short-lived trend that generated more shlock than shock.[22] New York Magazine put horrorcore in the spotlight by listing off the ten most horrifying horrorcore rappers.[23] Spin asked Violent J of Insane Clown Posse to list off his favorite horrorcore songs. Songs included, The Dayton Family's "What's On My Mind", Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Mr. Ouija", Necro's "Billie Jean 2005", and Michael Jackson's "Thriller".[24]

Notable artists[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Meyer, Frank. (2004-10-28) Frankly Speaking: Halloween Horror-core Hip Hop g4tv. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
  2. ^ Darcy, Pohland. (May 19, 2005) The dark world Of Horrorcore music Archived 2007-11-24 at the Wayback Machine. WCCO-TV. Accessed November 4, 2007.
  3. ^ Browne, David. (24 Feb 1995) Fifth anniversary music Entertainment Weekly. Accessed November 4, 2007.
  4. ^ a b Strauss, Neil (September 18, 1994). "When Rap Meets the Undead". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Chaz Kangas. "The History of Horrorcore Rap". LA Weekly. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "AllHipHop » Ganxta NIP: The Psycho Becomes A God Of Horrorcore". AllHipHop. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Kane; QED (July 19, 2007). "Kool Keith Interview". Original UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on June 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  8. ^ Bruce, Joseph; Hobey Echlin (August 2003). "The Dark Carnival". In Nathan Fostey. ICP: Behind the Paint (second ed.). Royal Oak, Michigan: Psychopathic Records. pp. 174–185. ISBN 0-9741846-0-8. 
  9. ^ Sciaccotta, J.C. "Geto Boys - "Mind Playing Tricks on Me"". Popmatters.com. PopMatters. Retrieved 11 December 2015. 
  10. ^ "#1: Geto Boys "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"". Complex.com. Complex Magazine. Retrieved 11 December 2015. 
  11. ^ "Fright Night". Vibe. November 2004. p. 74. 
  12. ^ a b Cordor, Cyril. "Biography of Insane Poetry". Allmusic. Retrieved 12 November 2008. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Hess, Danielle (2007). "Hip Hop and Horror". In Hess, Mickey. Icons of Hip Hop. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 369. ISBN 0-313-33903-1. 
  14. ^ a b c Passantino, Dom. (07 Jan 2005) Top ten Hip-Hop gimmicks of all time Stylus Magazine. Accessed November 4, 2007.
  15. ^ a b Fernando Jr., S.H. (September 18, 2007) The Pick, The Sickle & The Shovel Rolling Stone Accessed November 4, 2007. (archived
  16. ^ Gravediggaz star loses cancer battle. NME (16 July 2001) Accessed November 4, 2007.
  17. ^ "American album certifications – Eminem – The Slim Shady LP". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  18. ^ Skanse, Richard (May 31, 2000). "Eminem Bounces Britney From Top Spot". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 3, 2008. 
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  20. ^ a b Underground USA BBC. Accessed November 4, 2007
  21. ^ http://kikaxemusic.com/reviews/album-reviews/item/193-examining-the-annual-devilz-nite Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ Fernando Jr., S.H. (September 18, 2007) The Pick, the Sickle & the Shovel Rolling Stone Accessed November 4, 2007.
  23. ^ Fennessey, Sean. "The Ten Most Horrifying Horrorcore Rappers". Vulture. New York. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  24. ^ Schultz, Christopher. "Insane Clown Posse's Violent J Picks 11 Horrorcore Classics". Spin. Buzz Media. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  25. ^ Daniel, Jamila (April 1995). "Uptown Renaissance: Big L". The Source (67): 36. ISSN 1063-2085.
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  29. ^ Faraone, Chris (November 30, 2007). "Shia LaBeouf: Horror-Core MC? Transformers star hopes to play indie rapper Cage in biopic". Spin. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  30. ^ Montgomery, James (May 18, 2009). "Shia LaBeouf-Directed Video Puts Cage's Dark Hip-Hop On The Map". MTV News. Retrieved May 26, 2009. 
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  32. ^ a b Cohen, Sara (2007). Decline, Renewal and the City in Popular Music Culture: Beyond The Beatles. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 52. ISBN 0-7546-3243-1. The music journalist and author Dan Sicko describes certain strains of Detroit hip-hop as 'an extreme, almost parodied' version of inner city life, which he links to the extremities of urban decline in the city: 'both the horrorcore of hip-hop outfits such as Insane Clown Posse, Esham and (to a lesser extent) the multi-platinum-selling Eminem, utilize shocking (and blatantly over the top) narratives to give an over-exaggerated, almost cartoon-like version of urban deprivation in Detroit' (cited in Cohen and Strachan, 2005). 
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  35. ^ Mickey Hess (2007). Is Hip Hop Dead?: The Past, Present, and Future of America's Most Wanted Music. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0275994619. Alice Cooper's horror-movie imagery may have inspired the hip hop genre known as horrorcore, in which artists like Ganxsta N.I.P., Gravediggaz, and The Flatlinerz imbue their lyrics with stories of horrific torture and murder. 
  36. ^ Peter Shapiro (2005). The Rough Guide to Hip-Hop. Rough Guides. ISBN 9781843532637. He calls his black-metal schtick "acid rap" and his splatter patter has influenced everyone from horrorcore artists the Flatlinerz to Motown neighbours Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, Kottonmouth Kingz and Eminem 
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