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A Brief History of Horrorcore

by Mosi Reeves

A Brief History of Horrorcore

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Ah, horrorcore: Few music worlds are as contentious as this one. Lovers of the form argue over who is a true horrorcore artist, and who is simply a dabbler. Critics deplore its unrepentant lyrics of rape, murder and bloodshed. It has produced some of the most bizarre and extreme performers in rap history, from self-described cannibal Brotha Lynch Hung to Insane Clown Posse's psychopathic empire of face-painting Juggalos.

There seems to be general agreement that the Geto Boys created the first horrorcore song with "Assassins" (the original 1988 version, not the 1990 re-recording). However, Kool Keith claims that he is its true inventor due to a few lines on Ultramagnetic MCs' 1987 single "Traveling at the Speed of Thought." In 1994, industry hype surrounding Gravediggaz' 6 Feet Deep -- which was initially a sales disappointment, but is now considered a classic of the genre – gave the style its name and made it a mid-'90s fad. Arguably, it's more effective when used by rappers simply dreaming up their weirdest fantasies, whether it's Big L flipping battle raps on "Devil's Son," Keith as the delusional surgeon Dr. Octagon, or UGK's Pimp C dreaming he's a killer on "Feel Like I'm the One Who's Doin' Dope." It's less so when the likes of D12's Bizarre says disgusting things for pure shock value on "American Psycho." What's the difference? Therein lay the debate.

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