If you spent your adolescent days pawing over lyric sheets and finding the most gruesome example of lyrical murder on the page like we did, then chances are you’ll be more than familiar with horrorcore. The subset of hip hop is one of the genre’s most unapologetically vibrant.
Below, we’re bringing you our ten favourite artists in the genre, picking out where to start if you’re new to the space and picking a fight if you don’t agree with our choices. Expect to see some Juggalos and some of hip-hop’s finest spitters.
The style of horrorcore focuses on the darker side of life. When we say the darker side, we mean the pitchest of blacks. If you were looking for your music to be imbued with the horrors of the human mind, then look no further.
See the full list, below.
10 greatest Horrorcore artists of all time:
10. Insane Poetry
Insane Poetry are one of the pioneers of horrorcore music. Often left out of lists like this, they don’t often receive recognition for their contribution. Their 1992 debut Grim Reality cemented them as talented lyricists and introduced a plethora of fans to the genre.
The Cannibal Clown, or Shawn, to his mum, is a multi-talented South Australian rapper, actor, composer and producer who has broken into the almost impenetrable U.S horrorcore scene.
With gritty vocals ranging from a laid-back hip hop flow to ear melting death metal screaming, his music is as recognisable as his face paint. He went from releasing self-made music videos on YouTube to touring with Tech N9ne, ICP and West Coast pimper of rides: Xzibit.
8. Bone Thugs n Harmony
No horrorcore list would be complete without the Bone Thugs. From their seminal album E.1999 Eternal, with its occult themes and tongue-twisting violent lyrics, through to solo efforts by Cleveland’s finest.
Bone Thugs n Harmony have always had one foot in the horrorcore genre and have even spawned less successful spin-offs such as Krayzie Bone’s thug pirate rap group: Kneight Riduz.
7. Kool Keith
One of the greatest storytellers in rap, Keith is as confounding a character as his lyrics. Claiming to have invented horrorcore and certainly influencing a generation, Kool Keith (and his several stage personas) is a stand-out figure in hip hop.
From his first appearance on 1988’s Critical Breakdown with Ultramagnetic MCs, to 2020’s Space Gortex, Keith’s discography is a must-hear for any self-respecting hip hop head.
6. Kung Fu Vampire
Fangs? Check. Pale skin? Check. Supernaturally good looks? Check. California’s Kung Fu Vampire has the lot. Long gone are the contact lenses and face paint, but the stage presence remains. The influences are clear.
Kung Fu Vampire has been inspired by the best and has firmly established himself as one of the leading acts in horrorcore.
5. Tech N9ne
Perhaps the most popular artist on this list, Tecca Nina, started life as an unknown horrorcore rapper. Quickly gaining notoriety amongst Juggalos, with his choppy flow and horror theatrics, he rose through the ranks of mainstream culture and now rubs shoulders with celebrities, going so far as to be cited as one of Eminem’s friends. Aww.
Nothing can compare with Tech N9ne’s flow, and here he lets rip and dominates the genre with his crippling grasp on lyrics.
4. Geto Boys
Described as “music truly without redemption, only dread” by Neil Kulkarni, an expert authority on hip hop journalism. Geto Boys were controversial from the outset but delightfully stepped things up a level under the father-like gaze of Rick Rubin.
Their sound was distinctive, their lyrics enough to make parents double-check what their children were listening to. Not to mention the infamous album cover for We can’t be Stopped, in which Bushwick Bill poses on a hospital gurney after just being shot in the eye. Bill would later admit that the incident occurred when goading his then-partner to kill him for insurance purposes.
3. Insane Clown Posse
Once basking in the label of the Most Hated Band in The World, ICP are enjoying mainstream success at last. You will still be hard-pressed to find their music on daytime television, but the clowns are now a staple of pop culture references, memes and TikTok trends.
‘Mama don’t love this Wicked Clown’? Maybe, but I think you may find mother dearest holds a secret soft spot for them.
Madrox and Monoxide have laid claim as kings of the underground. Since leaving Psychopathic Records in 2012, they have gone on to not only better replicate but succeed in ICP’s legacy altogether. Their label: Majik Ninja Entertainment, has one of the best artist line-ups since Psychopathic’s glory days.
Helped possibly, by the number of artists that jumped ship to join the Demented Duo in their venture—still they remain unchallenged at the top.
One thing we must address—without Esham and the Flatlinerz, there’s a possibility there would be no horrorcore and a definite chance that there would be none of the other artists mentioned here.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and some might argue there are names missing which should be included.
– 1. Flatlinerz
Hailing from New York, The Flatlinerz coined the term ‘horrorcore’, but they didn’t just come up with a catchy name to file their CDs under. Their contribution to music shaped hip hop as we know it and added some twisted devil horns.
Not bad for a group with only one official album to their name: U.S.A (Under Satan’s Authority), which sold only 36,000 copies during its 1994 release.
Yes, others may claim to be the originators of horrorcore, but Esham took their formula and completely changed the game. He formed the foundations of what we hear in today’s underground scene. Many have tried, but few have matched his originality.
Esham was then, and is now, the most shocking lyricist to emerge from Detroit. He’s more chilled out these days but still continues to drop albums consistently.