Hip hop is sometimes innately considered a scary genre, and when it first arose, people were extremely frightened by it, especially when Gangsta rap began to take over. With the murder, bloodshed, robbery, chaos and gore of the ghetto often reflected in the music, it had a lot of caucasian Americans in horror.
During the 1970s, hip hop was fairly benign, trivial and funky however, after political acts such as Public Enemy and N.W.A began to take over the radio in the 1980s, the music began to explore subjects that were slightly darker, and the music most definitely became less jaunty.
Following on from the 1980s, the East Coast vs West Coast beef of the 1990s was when hip hop showed its ugliest side. The horror and bloodshed of the feud gave fans the license to kill, it, in fact, fueled homicide rates in New York and LA. Hip hop can be scary and can be psychotic, but often it is nothing more than a reflection of people’s lives.
In the late ’90s, simultaneously, hip hop became less scary but also scarier as a result of one individual. Eminem. Eminem shifted hip hop’s status as an art form in the US and globally. He debased the prevailing narrative that hip hop was merely a vehicle for black people to disrespect white America and showed it in an inclusive light leading to a decrease in fear of the genre.
However, he also introduced horrorcore which is also labelled horror rap or hip-horror. Horrorcore was really pioneered by Eminem, or at the very least popularised by him. Horrorcore explores themes surrounding psychological horror, mental illness and death. A controversial sub-genre of hip hop, horrorcore is still quite popular with the youth as artists like Tyler The Creator and Lil Uzi Vert continue to explore themes surrounding suicide, satan and other macabre subjects.
Talking of horror, all too often, rappers mention horror movies in their music, so we have compiled a list of the top five horror movie references in hip hop.
Top five horror movie references in hip hop:
5. ‘Transylvania’ – Tyler, The Creator
An artist that has explored many grotesque themes, Tyler The Creator truly is the new generation’s king of horrorcore. A pretty self-explanatory title, on ‘Transylvania’, the rapper references the famous horror film Dracula. An adaptation of the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, Dracula is about a Transylvanian vampire who travels to England and plagues the seaside town of Whitby.
The rapper’s track contains lyrics such as, “Bite her in her fucking neck, bite her in her fucking neck / Bottom of the fucking lake, bottom of the fucking lake / Call my gang of wolves and bats / It’s a full moon tonight and these hoes ain’t acting right It’s because / I’m Dracula bitch, swag, swag, swag It’s because, Left Brain, Wolf Haley, Free Earl, Golf Wang!”
4. ‘Gravel Pit’ – Wu-Tang Clan
The Wu-Tang Clan always explored eerie subjects, and a lot of their music referenced unknown spiritual forces, heavily focusing on Asian folklore. The crew was even named after the Hong Kong kung-fu film Shaolin and Wu-Tang. They continued to explore themes surrounding Shaolin culture and Buddhism.
However, in ‘Gravel Pit’, the crew referenced the well-known film House on Haunted Hill. Released in 1999, the film sees strangers spend the night in an abandoned asylum. Likening ‘Haunted Hill’ to the Castle Hill area of Staten Island, a lyric from the track states, From Park Hill, the house on haunted hill Every time you walk by, your back get a chill Let’s peel, you want to talk rap skills? I spit like a semiautomatic to the grill”From Park Hill, the house on haunted hill / Every time you walk by, your back get a chill / Let’s peel, you want to talk rap skills? / I spit like a semiautomatic to the grill”
3. ‘Criminal’ – Eminem
One from the king of horrorcore, Eminem is not only a pioneer of the genre, but he is also the artist who brought it into the spotlight. Often taking on the voice and role of psychopaths, Eminem as Slim Shady is quite graphic and extremely scary. In fact, some of his lyrics have been so gory and controversial that they caused a backlash.
Senator Lynee Cheney described Mathers as “a rap singer who advocates murder and rape.” Upon release, The Marshall Mathers LP was met with outrage en masse with regard to the lyrical content of the track ‘Kill You’. Cheney told the US senate, “He talks about murdering and raping his mother. He talks about choking women slowly so he can hear their screams for a long time. He talks about using O.J.’s machete on women, and this is a man who is honoured by the recording industry”.
In ‘Criminal’, the godfather of horrorcore references the infamous film Friday The 13th in a lyric saying, “Sh*t, half the sh*t I say, I just make it up To make you mad so kiss my white naked a** / And if it’s not a rapper that I make it as I’mma be a f*cking rapist in a Jason mask!”
2. ‘Monster’ – Kanye West ft Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z & Rick Ross
Naturally, a song entitled ‘Monster’ is going to have some gory themes and there is most definitely more than one horror movie referenced in this Kanye track from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Released 2010, this track was one that cemented Nicki Minaj’s place in the music industry as she rapped destroyed all the males on the track.
As well as eerie lyrics, the track also has a high-budget, disturbing music video to accompany it. In her verse, Minaj references everybody’s favourite doll, Chucky. In fact, she mentions two editions of the film, the 1988 original Child’s Play, the first-ever film to feature Chucky and then the 1998 sequel Bride Of Chucky. She does this in her verse, in which she raps, “And I’ll say bride of Chucky is child’s play / Just killed another career it’s a mild day / Besides, Ye, they can’t stand besides me / I think me, you and Amb’ should ménage Friday.”
1. ‘Diary Of A Madman’ – GraveDiggaz
The name of the act is already horrifying, but the track is even more gruesome. Entitled ‘Diary Of A Madman’ in this track the duo reference the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder. The film explores the themes of what many would consider PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The film focuses on an American veteran of the Vietnam war who is haunted by his past with ghastly hallucinations and visions.
In the track, the duo rap, “You’re sinking and sinking deep into the earth Thoughts was possessed since the first day of birth / My mental says it’s my turn to possess the matta Stab you with a dagga of Jacob’s Ladder!”