06. Project Pat – “Out There”
Whether he’s laying the smack down on bleeding enemies, portraying a ruthless Mafioso boss in the cult film Choices, or storing rocks in his socks while hollow-points fly, Big Pat is down for his crown as the true king of North Memphis. He’s a large, cunning man who doesn’t have time for foolish play or modest censorship. And “Out There” — the standout track off his 1999 debut album, Ghetty Green — proves the rapper understands that the valuable real estate within a car’s trunk is best suited for kidnapped victims over odd bits of stolen merchandise.
To give the song its foreboding minimalism and eerie tones, Pat enlisted the darkly hypnotic skills of his energetic little brother, Juicy J, and mix master extraordinaire DJ Paul. The two minds help propel Pat’s complicated internal rhyme schemes and deep-fried southern cadence, both of which reinforce the idea that Pat is not a man to be trifled with: “A game-spitter, I’m also a wig-splitter/ Yo’ ass getta, shot up by the nine milla/ Your cap I drilla, when fuckin’ with a real nigga/ The chrome trigga’ should regulate a punk quicker/ The bullet hit ya’, I’m zoned off that brown liquor.”
Scarier than? The original theme of Friday the 13th, which also makes an appearance on Project Pat’s “Ballers”.
05. Gravediggaz – “Diary of a Madman”
Gravediggaz quietly became one of the most influential groups in the Horror Core canon. Comprised of Prince Paul (The Undertaker), Frukwan (The Gatekeeper), Too Poetic (The Grym Reaper), and RZA (The Rzarector), the group’s hilariously abrasive, haunting, and disturbing songs took RZA’s already damp, dimly lit production to terrifying new levels — essentially horror film audioplays written by rappers. But no song in the group’s oeuvre gets the point across as well as “Diary of a Madman” from Diggaz’s 1994 debut, 6 Feet Deep.
The scene: A crying mother pleads with a judge (“They killed my baby!”) as four defendants await trial for a brutal murder, to which they will be pleading insanity. The four defendants (played respectively by each Gravediggaz member) subsequently make their case that they are possessed by evil spirits, describing at length the horrors within their minds. It’s so in-your-face disgusting and dramatic that it’s kind of hilarious. Nevertheless, hearing a woman scream for the life of her child amidst gavel pounding is about as haunting as it gets on a hip-hop record.
Scarier than? Just your nuts on a dresser.
04. Cage – “Agent Orange”
“People said his brain was infected by devils,” the Shogun Assassin sample haunts over Wendy Carlos’ brilliant theme to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. It’s a fitting line and a choice score given that Chris Palko, a.k.a. Cage, has one of the most twisted histories of drug use, both illegal and prescribed. As a teenager, he was sent to Stony Lodge psychiatric hospital at his mother’s request for what was supposed to be a two-week stay — it ended up being 16 months. Inside, he was roped into a small test group for fluoxetine, a commonly used Prozac, but was misdiagnosed leading to multiple suicide attempts.
It wasn’t until he was released that he adopted the name “Alex”, courtesy of Malcolm McDowell’s Alex DeLarge character, and began rapping. “Agent Orange”, one of 18 tracks off his 2002 debut, Movies for the Blind, feels like his dark, twisted theme song. In it, he describes his drug-influenced murderous rampage (“Know a crew of devils in my head that force me to walk/ With, Death in my pocket for the curious”) and insists that comprehension might lead to psychosis (“Try and pick apart some Agent Orange perception/ Catch frontal lobe damage and not manage correction”). The mind’s a dangerous thing.
Scarier than? Anything Ken Kesey ever wrote.
03. B L A C K I E – “Knives, Inc.”
Houston-based B L A C K I E (all caps all spaces) has been making blasphemous left-field hip-hop and noise music for over a decade. Michael LaCour’s music bursts with the schizophrenic fury of a man apart, which is why it’s hard to pick just one of his tracks as they’re all pretty terrifying. Still, one can’t deny stand-out track “Knives, Inc.” off of 2008’s Wilderness of North America. It’s a disassociating tale of a relationship gone wrong, one surrounded by desolate production that crescendos into a wall of distorted sound that would make even Kevin Shields quake. This is music so bleak that if your mother walked in on you playing it alone in a dark room, she would most definitely run for the rosary — or your neighborhood’s greatest therapist.
Scarier than? Five minutes in a tiny room with GG Allin. B L A C K I E is no joke and that extends to his live show, which from personal experience can include a discordant saxophone solo (see “Cry, Pig!”) turning into blood-curdling screams into the sax microphone. Scarier still when you consider that B L A C K I E lives in a reality where many fail to realize Death Grips is the afterbirth to his Antichrist.
02. Immortal Technique – “Dance with the Devil”
Activist, political scientist, and no-holds-barred social commentator are precise descriptions of the Peruvian-born Immortal Technique. Whether he’s outlining the flowchart of third-world narco exploitation or comparing Condoleeza Rice to Sally Hemings, Technique never tidies up the harsh nature of life. This candid style makes his most impactful track — “Dance with the Devil” — a challenging listen that showcases a new gang pledge’s descent into vice, eventually leading to sexual mayhem, murder, and eternal shame.
Unbeknownst to the condemned recruit, the final target of his ultra-violent initiation is his own mother, who dies battered and broken soon after, prompting his immediate suicide. Listeners, along with the gang who arranged this tragedy, are left to dance in the pale moonlight with the devils who will haunt them long after this partially hidden track finally reaches its bitter end.
Scarier than? King Oedipus making breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day.
01. Kendrick Lamar – “u”
Much of To Pimp a Butterfly hones in on the tension between Kendrick Lamar’s success and him wanting to stay keyed in to the Compton community that he came from. At times, this duality becomes cathartic. With “u”, though, it becomes downright terrifying. Holed up in a hotel room, Lamar finds himself trapped in his own private Hell, desperately wanting to use his fame and his gifts for good, but powerless to stop the demonic voice in his head calling him a hypocrite. How can he preach to millions when he couldn’t even be a good mentor to his sister? How can he speak on widespread black compassion when he couldn’t make the time to a visit a dying loved one in the hospital?
As the free-jazz arrangement ups the anxiety, the moral dilemmas get more personal, and thus, more specific. For many people, it’s this kind of psychic pain that’s more terrifying than any murderer or monster could ever be. And for those who do like a grotesque creature at the center of their horror, the darker side of Lamar’s psyche completely takes over in the second half of “u”. Guttural, malicious, and constantly gasping for air, his personal Mr. Hyde could easily hold its own against Freddy, Jason, and the rest of ‘em. In fact, it’s way scarier than any of those boogeymen. Real life always is.
Scarier than? Everything. Simply put, there’s nothing more terrifying than the human psyche.