In the fourth instalment of Josh Rotchelle’s Music Lesson, the genre on the chalkboard is horrorcore.
What do you get when you mix wearing your heart on your sleeve, a self-exaggerated sense of one’s own edginess, and a life on the streets? The correct answer is horrorcore, a fringe hip-hop genre unique for its fixation on violent and horrific lyrics. This sign would also have been an acceptable response, however:
Pioneered in Texas and perfected in Detroit, home to 2014’s meanest streets in the US, horrorcore earns itself a life sentence’s worth of GBH charges by assaulting your ears with its twin fists: a Tarantino-ish love for gore, and Marilyn Manson-style hounding of controversy. It’s never subtle, sometimes darkly hilarious, and always disturbing.
The first suspects in the genre were Texas rap posse Geto Boys, who put forward ‘Assassins’ in ’88, a chirpy tune detailing the process of prostitute murder. Soon after, Detroit rapper Esham took the same concept and applied it in force with ominous, satan-referencing tunes such as ‘Closed Casket‘, making an enormous dark fingerprint on the Detroit sound.
After seminal releases such as this, many followed in Esham’s fearful footsteps. The Insane Clown Posse came to the fore shortly after with a catchier, more mainstream sound in tracks like ‘Chicken Huntin’‘. Tech N9ne also followed with a dash of great speed: check out ‘Demons‘. Even Eminem dipped into horrorcore, with tracks from the early ‘Demon Inside‘, to the recent ‘3 a.m.‘, and at one point described himself as a cross between “[Marilyn] Manson, Esham and Ozzy [Osbourne]”.
However, the scene has never been exclusive to Detroit: elsewhere, New York’s Necro is an icon with tracks like ‘Dead Body Disposal‘ and ‘Who’s Ya Daddy?‘, while the late Big L managed to put out tracks such as ‘Devil’s Son‘ before being gunned down in his native Harlem (apparently that particular relationship offered no preferential treatment).
No matter who you pick however, horrorcore as a genre is pricklier than a porcupine with a bad case of caffeine withdrawal. Newcomers will find that the genre’s fuck-you attitude does not offer many entry points, but if you can brave the blood and blasphemy, the genre does have some cool tracks, so it’s worth checking out. Start with Eminem, since he’s a known voice, and cross with a ouija board and a darkened room for best effect.
Josh Rotchelle, Lifestyle Editor