|Other names||Horror hip hop, horror rap, death hip hop, death rap|
|Cultural origins||Early 1980s, United States|
Horrorcore, also called horror hip hop, horror rap, death hip hop, or death rap, 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. Unlike most hardcore hip hop and gangsta rap artists, horrorcore artists often push the violent content and imagery in their lyrics beyond the realm of realistic urban violence, to the point where the violent lyrics become 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. Some horrorcore artists eschew supernatural themes or exaggerated violence in favor of more subtle and dark psychological horror imagery and lyrics.
The genre has incited controversy, as some members of the law enforcement community assert that the genre incites crime, and fans and artists have been blamed for numerous high-profile instances of criminal activity and mass murder, including the Columbine High School massacre, the Red Lake high school massacre, the Farmville murders, murders of law enforcement officers, and gang activity across the United States.
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. 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." Horrorcore was described by Entertainment Weekly in 1995 as a "blend of hardcore rap and bloodthirsty metal." 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". Horrorcore artists often feature dark imagery in their music videos and base musical elements of songs upon horror film scores.
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.
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. Ganxsta N.I.P. has written lyrics for other groups, including Geto Boys who are also an influence on the early horrorcore sound.
In 1988, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released "A Nightmare on My Street", which described an encounter with Freddy Krueger, 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. 1987 is also the year Insane Poetry (at the time called His Majesti) released "Armed & Dangerous" & then their debut as Insane Poetry with "Twelve Strokes Till Midnight" , one of the first examples of music specifically made to be horrorcore.
While Kool Keith later claimed to have "invented horrorcore", the first use of the term appeared on the group KMC's 1991 album Three Men With the Power of Ten. Nonetheless, Kool Keith brought significant attention to horror-influenced hip hop with his lyrical content from his group the Ultramagnetic MC's and of course the 1996 release of his horror and science-fiction-influenced, absurdist, trippy, experimental album Dr. Octagonecologyst.
Rise in the hip hop genre
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." 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".
While rappers in the underground scene continued to release horrorcore music, including Big L, Insane Poetry, and Insane Clown Posse, the mid-90s brought an attempted mainstream crossover of the genre.
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).
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". 1995 also saw the release of Three 6 Mafia's debut album "Mystic Stylez" which touched on heavy drug use, ritualistic sex, mass murder, torture and Luciferianism. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "E. 1999 Eternal" LP, furthered tales of the occult on songs such as "Mr. Ouija 2", "Mo' Murda", and "East 1999". Tension would soon rise between Bone Thugs and Three 6 over their presumed similarities in style and use of dark imagery.
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; though in some cities like Detroit it is the dominant style of hip-hop and performers such as Esham, Insane Clown Posse, Eminem, and Twiztid, as well as artists like Necro, from Brooklyn, have sold commercially well nationwide. Horrorcore has thrived in Internet culture and sustains an annual super show in Detroit called Wickedstock. Every Halloween since 2003, Horrorcore artists worldwide get together online and release a free compilation titled Devilz Nite. According to the January 2004 BBC documentary Underground USA, the subgenre "has a massive following across the US" and "is spreading to Europe". Rolling Stone in 2007 referred to it as a short-lived trend that generated more shlock than shock.
In the 2010s, at the rise of the SoundCloud era, several young, up-and-coming artists on the internet platform started pulling from Horrorcore acts of the '90s as a source of inspiration, not just lyrically, but aesthetically. Though Tyler, The Creator and his loose collective, Odd Future, denied the label in many interviews and songs, that early releases from their camp (such as Tyler's "Bastard" and "Goblin", and Earl Sweatshirt's eponymous debut "Earl") lyrically, fitted the mold of the genre. Other acts at the time who were more accepting of the label include SpaceGhostPurrp's Raider Klan, which featured solo artist such as a young Denzel Curry and Xavier Wulf. Brooklyn's Flatbush Zombies shook up the scene with their first two official mixtapes, thus launching a successful career independently and cult following, while fellow New York natives City Morgue and Florida's Ghostemane gave rise to trap metal, with lyrical influences rooted in horrorcore innovators Three 6 Mafia, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. In 2015, Seed of 6ix, consisting of DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia’s nephew Locodunit, and the late Lord Infamous's son Lil Infamous, released their debut self-titled mixtape, too much acclaim in the underground. XXXTentacion, though not categorically a Horrorcore artist, was known for dark, moody, lyrics from the start of his career on songs like "I spoke to the devil in Miami, he said everything would be fine" and "ILOVEITWHENTHEYRUN".
Some members of the law enforcement community have asserted that the horrorcore genre is dangerous and incites crime, and the genre's artists and followers have been linked to a wide variety of crime, ranging from mass murder to gang activity and drug trafficking.
In 1999, horrorcore group Insane Clown Posse was considered a potential influence on school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. ICP responded that if the shooters had been Juggalos, they would have "gotten the whole damn school". However, Brooks Brown, the best friend of Dylan Klebold and a friend of both of the shooters, was, in fact, a Juggalo and had introduced Klebold to Insane Clown Posse's music. Horrorcore-influenced rapper Eminem also received negative publicity in the wake of the massacre and has referenced it throughout his discography.
In 2009, aspiring horrorcore rapper Syko Sam committed the Farmville murders; bludgeoning his internet girlfriend, her friend, and her parents to death. Like Weise, he was a fan of horrorcore rapper Mars.
Juggalo gangs have caused law enforcement concern throughout the United States due to their tendency for extreme violence and have been linked to diverse crimes. Arizona Department of Public Safety Detective Michelle Vasey has expressed concern at the Juggalos high potential for violence, stating "The weapons, they prefer, obviously, hatchets ... We've got battle-axes, we've got machetes, anything that can make the most violent, gruesome wound," and "Some of the homicides we're seeing with these guys are pretty nasty, gruesome, disgusting homicides, where they don't care who's around, what's around, they're just out to kill anybody."  A 2017 Denver Police Department guide warned that even Juggalos who are not affiliated with a gang are prone to commit "murder, shootings, kidnapping, rape, necrophilia, cannibalism, assault, and arson" and that "such acts give a Juggalo a sense of pride and street credit amongst peers". Allegedly horrorcore-related criminal activity has, in rare cases, even branched out into ad-hoc domestic terrorism, with a Juggalo-led terrorist cell calling itself the "Black Snake Militia" attempting to raid a National Guard armory in 2012.
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