Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Horrorcore Potpourri

If you could sum up the entire 90's horrorcore phase in one, tidy album (and you can!), this would be it. It's the soundtrack to The Fear, and with only, like, two omissions that I can think of, offers a thoroughly near-definitive sampling of horrorcore in its heyday. It's an education, and it's fun, which is a lot more than you can say about the movie.

This album is what the Tales From the Hood soundtrack should've been, had they not dropped the ball: a sampling of every horrorcore artist working at the time, except again for those two ommisions. The only people who stand out as missing to me are The Cella Dwellas (who may not've wanted to been associated with the horrorcore fad) and Crustified Dibbs. And two out of every-fuckin'-body ain't bad! So let's jump right in:

1) "The Fear (Morty's Theme)" - Although Esham - like pretty much everybody associated with the horrorcore - has since attempted to distance himself from the subgenre, he may well be the man who started it. At least in the sense of making "horrorcore" a full-time rap career, as opposed to a single novelty song, like "Haunted House of Rock" or Bushwick Bill's "Chucky." And considering he's saddled with actually making a theme song for the goofy movie's villain (a wooden dummy that springs to life whenever you're really scared), Esham acquits himself very well. His style, the hook, the music (which I can only guess is by Esham himself, since this album features no production credits, but he usually produces all his own stuff) are all very effective at evoking the best elements of this movie and just being an engaging little song. Sure, he's done better work on his own... but when you burden the artist with having to make a song about Morty, I don't think you could ask for more.

2) "Black Peter" - Half Pit and Half Dead only managed to release one single, independent 12" in their career; so to see that this album even scooped these guys up is a real treat. What's more, we learn a bit more about their crew, including the fact that they rolled with a reggae guy named Machete, who appears on this song. (Black Peter, by the way, is an in-film reference, so this song must've been specifically written for the movie.)

3) "Here Come the Gravediggaz" - Ok, this is right off their debut album, but it's kinda impressive that this little rinky-dink movie with a Warlock Records soundtrack got The Gravediggaz at all. Remember, this was right at their peak, and everything Wu-related was huge.

4) "Necrophobia" - Not much is known about The Headless Horesemen, except apparently they were signed to Def Jam (we know this from the liner notes of this album), and they did a guest appearance on Def Jam's other horrorcore act, The Flatlinerz', debut album. Like them, I suspect The Horsemen got dropped when Russell Simmons saw horrorcore wasn't going to be the new gangsta rap. I think these guys were doper than the Flatlinerz, though, with more creative "out there" flows.

5) "Better Off Dead" - This is that Half Pit and Half Dead song that they'd put out on their aforementioned 12".

6) "Life After Death" - Esham got popular enough to put out several albums by his weedcarriers, collectively known as Natas. This is the title song off of their debut album. It helps that Esham made himself a member of his own group, and often appeared on their songs.

7) "Fear, Flesh & Blood" - This is Machete from that Half Pit song, going solo this time. This album probably would've been a nice boost to their careers if they'd ever managed to follow up on their first single. He's probably also the first horrorcore reggae artist, like, ever.

8) "Graveyard Tales" - This is a song by a guy named Terror, who I believe is from New York, with a flow that meshes a throaty grimy style with playful "all over the place" enunciation, a la King Just. Not bad.

9) "Dead Body Man" - Yep, The Insane Clown Posse are included here. This is a song right off their 1994 EP, The Terror Wheel, and it's one of their better ones.

10) "Rocks Off" - If you're going to include another Esham song, particularly one that's just lifted from one of his albums (the Helter Skelter EP), you'd think you'd do one of his better horrorcore songs than one of his cheesy sex songs. But the filmmakers actually used this song in the movie to score a "sexy" scene, which both explains the song's inclusion here and the artistic failure of the film.

11) "Infared's Terror" - I don't really know who Infared is either, except the fact that he and all the Half Pit Half Dead acts are all credited as appearing "courtesy of Army From Hell." I guess that makes it pretty clear he was down with them, too. Again, I'm really surprised they didn't muster up an album after this. His flow's really grimey... pretty cool and very 90's.

12) "Run" - Flatlinerz are here being represented, too. This would have just been another "song off their album," but since it got shelved, this song becomes another soundtrack exclusive.

13) "Sweet & Saxxy (A Moment of Calm Before You Die)" - Like its title implies, this is the only non horrorcore (or rap at all) song on here. It's a little easy listening, light jazz number by somebody named Kim Waters. I think you'll find that everybody who owned this back in the day learned to stop the tape at track 12.

So, there you have it. It's a pretty sweet Whitman's Sampler of horrorcore in its prime. Sure, a sizeable chunk of these songs had been previously released, but a lot were exclusive. I'm not sure of there's a vinyl release, but the CD is easily found and worth picking up for a nostalgic trip back to the early 90's.


  1. That's not really horrorcore in its prime. That's like horrorcore at 10 AM. Necro carries the torch too hard... his exclusion means the soundtrack is incomplete!

  2. Necro wasn't around in those days... but if anyone were to do a similarly-themed compilation now, you'd have to include him, no doubt.

  3. Dope write up. I never saw this album before. I used to have that Half Pit track,"Better Off Dead", on tape and LOVED THAT SHIT!
    Speaking of Flatlinerz, to me, there best cut was "Rivaz Of Red".
    That instrumental is incredible.

    I'm figuring if anyone would know what I'm talking about, you would.
    I used to have this cut off a tape, probably a Hank Love/Half Pint or Special K/Teddy Ted tape.
    The track must have been named "Devil In Me". At least that's what he said(or growled) on the hook.
    I have no idea who the artist was.
    I loved it when I first had it. This is around 94-96. Of course, I lost the tape, but I found it like 3 years later. I didn't like the cut so much, then, but I still need to hear it again. Definitely some horrorcore ish.
    Any clues?

    1. Don't you have a Machete song Trust no man? If what. Send me a mail please Sautov_Ivan@mail.ru

  4. Hmm... that kinda sounds familiar, but I can't place it.

    I always liked the track for Flatlinerz' single, "Live Evil." Predictable, maybe, with the Omen-style chanting, but I dug it.

  5. i always thought that Machete track "Fear, Flesh & Blood" was the standout. almost ahead of its time, matches up w/ Dr. Octagon, Company Flow, Chino Xl, and such..to my ears anyway. Great & informative post!

    1. Don't you have a Machete song Trust no man? If what. Send me a mail please Sautov_Ivan@mail.ru

  6. you def didnt do your homework before saying this was horrorcore in its prime of acidrap/ wicked shit as its truly called many years later n ot only are acts like esham and icp still standing . but in an idustry that is eating itself they continue to thrive icp made over 10 million in merch alone for 2009 . i love all hip hop and grew in the golden era of hip hop but still have respect for these outer fringe acts who have brang the mainstream to them now theres a whole new word of horrorcore artist necro,twiztid, tech nine ect.

  7. Acid rap, horrorcore, same thing... Don't forget, Esham was calling himself "The Stephen King of rap" when horrorcore was the big movement in '93/'94. But when it got labelled as a gimmick, Esham and others backed away from it (just check out the change in lyrical content of everything up to Maggot Brain, to Dead Flowerz).

    Yeah, Esham and his crew were calling it "acid rap" in those days, too. But seriously, how is Esham rapping about a killer wooden statue that knows your deepest fears not horrorcore?