The History of Horrorcore

During the 1992 bidding war for Long Island rapper R.A. the Rugged Man and his Crustified Dibbs project, he was brought into the Def Jam offices by Chris Lighty and Lyor Cohen and had his potential future as a Horrorcore star mapped out for him. "I was incorporating horror films in all my rhymes," he told us. "They were looking at me to be that guy. They wanted me to be the 'Bloody Axe' kid. I got the lecture from Def Jam. Lyor said 'Rappers from the street have gats and guns, but you could have bloody axes! Fucks the gats, we're going to do bloody axes!' I always wanted to do everything opposite, all the films from my childhood influenced my music, but when everyone jumped on the horror thing it looked like a fad to me. It looked corny so I pulled my horror references out." While R.A. went on to sign to Jive, Def Jam still attempted to make a foray into pushing Horrorcore with The Flatlinerz, a group lead by Def Jam founder Russell Simmons' nephew Jamal Simmons.

While there had been more popular ad horrific hip-hop songs around this time from Rap-a-Lot artists Ganksta N-I-P (whose album Psychic Thoughts (are what I conceive) may have the single most perplexing cover in rap history) and the Geto Boys, the Def Jam push for Horrorcore really made the burgeoning sub-genre seem like a fortified movement. So much so that, being this was the early '90s when entire genres were popularized via the symbiotic relationship of a film soundtracks, A-Pix Films tried to capitalize with their 1995 release The Fear having an entirely Horrorcore soundtrack. Lead by a title track performed by Esham and featuring The Flatlinerz, even the VHS box art for the film plugged the music, boasting a quote that says the film's soundtrack will do for Horrorcore "what Singles did for Grunge."

Also on the soundtrack was "Dead Body Man," the biggest radio single for the Detroit duo who would go on to become something of Horrorcore's good will ambassadors, the Insane Clown Posse. While Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope seemingly preferred to refer to their music as "the wicked shit," they eventually seemed cool with the term to the point where their annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival would promote various acts as pioneers or influential contributors to Horrorcore. Their label, Psychopathic Records, has also spent 20 years signing Horrorcore artists young and old, as well as matching them on tour with other hip-hop acts they respect.

But as the initial Horrorcore boom somewhat fizzled out, the acts who survived managed to change with the times. Hip-hop Horrorcore supergroup Gravediggaz -- RZA, Prince Paul, Stetasonic's Frukwon and Poetic -- released 1994's 6 Feet Deep on G Street Records, an album considered the sub-genre's finest hour. But as RZA and eventually Paul departed from the group, Frukwon and Poetic moved away from the more macabre elements and focused on the more philosophical side of death. As times continued to change, the New York underground also saw the rise of Necro AKA Necrodamus, hip-hop psychic. With an emphasis on multi-syllable-heavy lyricism at the forefront and the more unspeakable sex and violence imagery riding shotgun to Hell with him, Necro's sidestepped the Horrorcore designation by referring to his music as "Death Rap," something which has made both his work and collaborations with artists like Raekwon and groups like Non-Phixion a little easier to swallow for more traditional hip-hop heads.

It's a divide that's become somewhat indicative of the Horrorcore "us vs. them" mentality that's seemed to define the genre through most of the 2000s. Not unlike the same divide that Nerdcore's often perceived as, Horrorcore's return to the underground has made a substantial chunk of the fan-base appear self-contained, as if they were introduced to Horrorcore, only like Horrorcore and that's it. While this seclusion had a brief visible moment in the mainstream thanks to G Child's appearance on VH1's "White Rapper Show," in recent years this sentiment's seemed to subside thanks to the likes of Tech N9ne and his Strange Music family's efforts to reach out to any listeners who might seek out something that's a bit weird and connect them to all corners of the hip-hop map.

Today, it seems the only people who don't see "Horrorcore" as a dirty word are its listeners. When early reviews of Odd Future referred to their music as Horrorcore, to the point where Rolling Stone in their annual summer Hot List referred to Earl Sweatshirt as "Hot Horrorcore Revivalist," leader Tyler, the Creator had to repeatedly point out that they were "not fucking Horrorcore." But, as we've seen, this sentiment echoes back to the sub-genre's infancy. Perhaps its how cartoony the name "Horrorcore" sounds, or the failures of it to catch out as a mainstream phenomenon, but nobody's ever really wanted to take credit for creating it. Well, that is except for legendary Harlem rapper Big L who made no secret about believing his 1993 single "Devil's Son" made him one of the originators of Horrorcore.

Regardless, now that the internet has made music fans more connected than ever, once marginalized sub-genres like Horrorcore can now find a fanbase and flourish like never before. Horrorcore's always going to be there lurking in the shadows.

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9 comments
AMKR
AMKR

Any artist who makes a fuss about "not being horrorcore' needs to stop worrying about stupid labels and just DO THEIR THING. Dark subject matters, grim reality, and horror influenced fantasy aren't going anywhere whether or not you like the sub-genre name. No one's pigeon holing anyone. Genre is a box, do it all and break out of it. For christ sakes... Like making up a 1000 and 1 different names for the same dark influenced rap music is going to make a bit of diffference.

AMKR
AMKR

One question, how is G Child from The White Rapper show Horrorcore in the least? I watched that whole clip (ICP is in an episode ahah). Dude from Third Bass hosts the show (granted Serch is more talented the van. ice but I love how he looked shocked at the vanilla ice commet LOL, dude's still beefin' in his head like its 91/Derelicts of Dialect shit LOL - come on now.)

AMKR
AMKR

and as far as Kool Keith other than some Ultra Mag material, Dr. Octagon and Dr. Doom (and thier successor proejcts, and if you must Thee Undertakerz but the effects on the voices kill me on that one :-d) isnt really horrorcore. I mean - you've gotta have more than a few albums in your repitoire that could be called horror before you earn the title IMO. He raps way more about all kinds of different things (space elvis record? lol sex style, etc etc)

AMKR
AMKR

lol Acid Rap, Horrorcore, Wicked Shit, Death Rap. Its all the same to me. (People are HEAVILY opinionated about this so to each his own). Early esham and Insane Poetry resonates together, whilst boomin words from hell uses metaphors to craft the grim realities of being crack dealer, as a young kid in the streets of detroit (listen to Eshams Boomin') INsane Poetry's Grim Reality does much the same, in showing you the grim side of reality (for the "reality" half the album, and the other half is more horrorcore straight raps "grim side")

AMKR
AMKR

Also nice spot on that Adventures of Super Rhyme, never heard that before. REMINDS ME ALOT of the Contempary (who was inspired by the best of the 80s, early 90s rappers) EDAN. His albums Primitive Plus & Beauty and TheBeat (esp. the latter is a work of ART). Not horrorcore but if you listen to Edan, the listen to Super Rhyme, you can tell what era he gets his inspiration from.

AMKR
AMKR

*achem - I actually forget the other name for Cyco's style pre-hororcore/wicked shit lable. But I know his highschool friend 'madman' (I think that was his name) came up with that "Terrorfying Style" freestylin' at lunch. Very happy with this history of horrorcore - doesn't try to claim late-runners like Gravediggaz/Flatlinerz started the shit, and doesn't focus simply on more mainstream acts like Insane Clown Posse, Necro, etc.
5
There are alot more epic under-underground groups out there too. (Too many to name, but heres some classicks - KGP (necCology 1996 - and Tha Ungod 2001, most prolific but you cant go wrong with KGP - hatred 1 & 2 and united corpse of america are both ill as helll - Bedlam - Chemical Imbalancez Vol. 2 is a must have. Q Strange-Creation 2 ExeQtion, Syck Syde's White Crosses (2001) and Sometimes They Come Back (2008 - which actually featured Insane Poetry on the song Flashlite!) - KryptiK - Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (2000-2001?) and The Beyond:

From The Beyond: The Se7en Songs Of Death (2008). Bloodshot - The Black Rose Revisited, The Saw Is Family, Bloo(dshot Inn, (and so many more), KannabalistiK - Blasphemy; True Words of Worship,

Thats just some REAL classicks from the under-under ground yall should check out if you dig Horrorcore. The scene is huge.

KGP in 95-96 played Hallowicked with Insane Clown Posse (and Simken Heights).

Speaking of which Simken Heights - Smoke Box, Religion of The Beast, Redrum & Coke, and Cap Ones solo Holy Water are must haves (can be found in a box set / with all their material on "The Eternal Flame Anthology" 3 discs and 5 albums (plus rare unreleased and hard to find tracks). Can't beat it really. No one was like Simken in the Detroit wicked shit scene.

LU Cipha - Witchez Caludron, Witchez Night, Deadly Nightshade, TOXIC2000, Keystoned and Mental Hellth - and the side project Spaced Out - Fortean Phenomena are must haves.

The J. Hexx Project - The Seven Doorz To Death/ Twitch Of The Deadz Nervez - must have.

I could go on but I this is a nice little primer into the under under ground. If you like the blasphmey of Esham - you'll love hearin it pushed to the ultimate extreme with KGP, Beldam, KannabalisitIK and the like. Simken Heights is more gangster horrorcore, but definetly horror - just with a sort of gangster feel with out the gangsta content. LU Cipha is really unique and their topics are original for their time, witchcraft, h6llow66n, toxic chemicals, nuclear explosions, etc. They've got the TOXIC style, their Keystoned laid back weed style (Marijuana and Hororcore Lovers - LU cipha is a match made, IN HELL muahaha). Spaced Out is about fortean phenomena produced by Scissor hands and just featured Hex of LU Cipha - raining frogs, ufos, the unknown/unexplainable.

J. Hexx Project is a new breathe the the genre, with his classic release Seven Doorz/Twitch - and his follow up Mountain of The Cannibal God which is a full story, track 1 to 2 with voice over interludes, the works. It really plays like a movie. Great albums. KryptiK are Komatose & Rukus - two zombie from the Black Blood Cemetary - content follows suit haha. Syck Syde has some of the most unique voices in all of the underground scene, can be a detractor or attractor but me I love it. Their albums are pure halloween creepy horror story awesomness, with lots of members!

AMKR
AMKR

I was about to say, as a long time horrorcore fan (since 1996). Im surprised you mentioned KMC before Insane Poetry (1988 - 12 Strikes Til Midnight 12", even before that Cyco was in a group called His Majesti they released some cuts in 87). KMC was dope no doubt but to me, Insane Poetry is more prolifiic (I mean he's stilll around an ill as ever, Grim Reality is a CLASSICK and Faith In Chaos 2001 was a MASTERPEICE, Blacc Plague though less HC was G-Funk Horror. I believe he just released his Creative Destruction mixtape. Cyco also called his style "

AMKR
AMKR

* KGP - Necrology (1996) - one of my favorite albums of all time easily. Gotta make sure its spelt right ;-)

AMKR
AMKR

and *track 1-till the end

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