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Horrorcore, also called horror hip hop, horror rap, death hip hop, or death rap, is a subgenre of hip hop music based on horror-themed and often darkly transgressive lyrical content and imagery. Its origins derived from certain hardcore hip hop and gangsta rap artists, such as the Geto Boys, which began to incorporate supernatural, occult, or psychological horror themes into their lyrics. Unlike most hardcore hip hop and gangsta rap artists, horrorcore artists often push the violent content and imagery in their lyrics beyond the realm of realistic urban violence, to the point where the violent lyrics become gruesome, ghoulish, unsettling, or slasher film- or splatter film-esque. While exaggerated violence and the supernatural are common in horrorcore, the genre also frequently presents more realistic yet still disturbing portrayals of mental illness and drug abuse. Some horrorcore artists eschew supernatural themes or exaggerated violence in favor of more subtle and dark psychological horror imagery and lyrics.


Horrorcore has incited controversy, with some members of the law enforcement community asserting that the genre incites crime. [1] [2] Fans and artists have been blamed for numerous high-profile instances of violent criminal activity, including the Columbine High School massacre, [3] [4] the Red Lake high school massacre, [5] the Farmville murders, murders of law enforcement officers, and gang activity.


Horrorcore defines a style of hip hop music that focuses primarily on dark, violent, gothic, transgressive, macabre and/or horror-influenced topics that can include death, psychosis, psychological horror, mental illness, satanism, self-harm, cannibalism, mutilation, suicide, murder, torture, drug abuse, and often supernatural or occult themes. The lyrics are often inspired by horror movies and are performed over moody, hardcore beats. [6] According to rapper Mars, "If you take Stephen King or Wes Craven and you throw them on a rap beat, that's who I am." [7] Horrorcore was described by Entertainment Weekly in 1995 as a "blend of hardcore rap and bloodthirsty metal." [8] The lyrical content of horrorcore is sometimes described as being similar to that of death metal, and some have referred to the genre as "death rap". [9] Horrorcore artists often feature dark imagery in their music videos and base musical elements of songs upon horror film scores. [9]



It has been argued[ by whom? ] that Jimmy Spicer's 1980 single "Adventures of Super Rhyme" was perhaps the first example of anything that resembled horrorcore, due to the segment of the song in which Spicer recounts his experience of meeting Dracula. Following this were groups like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, and songs like Dana Dane's "Nightmares", which spun more frightening, imaginative narratives. [10]

Since 1983, Ganxsta N.I.P. has performed horror-themed lyrics that he described as "Psycho Rap", but was not commonly considered to be horrorcore until the term came into mainstream prominence. [11] Ganxsta N.I.P. has written lyrics for other groups, including Geto Boys who are also an influence on the early horrorcore sound. [11]

In 1988, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released "A Nightmare on My Street", which described an encounter with Freddy Krueger, [10] and the Fat Boys recorded the similarly-themed "Are You Ready for Freddy" for the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and its soundtrack. 1987 is also the year Insane Poetry (at the time called His Majesti) released "Armed & Dangerous" and then their debut as Insane Poetry with "Twelve Strokes Till Midnight" [1988], one of the first examples of music specifically made to be horrorcore. [10]

While Kool Keith later claimed to have "invented horrorcore", [12] the first use of the term appeared on the group KMC's 1991 album Three Men With the Power of Ten. Nonetheless, Kool Keith brought significant attention to horror-influenced hip hop with his lyrical content from his group the Ultramagnetic MC's and of course the 1996 release of his horror and science-fiction-influenced, absurdist, trippy, experimental album Dr. Octagonecologyst .

Rise in the hip hop genre

Scarface, of the group Geto Boys, whose violent, horror-themed lyrics have been singled out as the first recorded example of horrorcore. Scarface (rapper).jpg
Scarface, of the group Geto Boys, whose violent, horror-themed lyrics have been singled out as the first recorded example of horrorcore.

The Geto Boys' debut album, Making Trouble , contained the dark and violent horror-influenced track "Assassins", which was cited by Joseph Bruce (Violent J of the horrorcore group Insane Clown Posse) in his book Behind The Paint, as the first recorded horrorcore song. He said that the Geto Boys continued to pioneer the style with its second release, Grip It! On That Other Level , with songs such as "Mind of a Lunatic" and "Trigga-Happy Nigga". [13] The Geto Boys' 1991 album, We Can't Be Stopped , was also influential on the horrorcore genre and contained themes of paranoia, depression, and psychological horror, especially in the track "Chuckie", and "Mind Playing Tricks on Me". [14] [15]

While rappers in the underground scene continued to release horrorcore music, including Big L, [16] Insane Poetry, [17] and Insane Clown Posse, [10] the mid-1990s brought an attempted mainstream crossover of the genre. [10]

In 1994, according to Icons of Hip Hop, horrorcore gained prominence in 1994 with the release of Flatlinerz' U.S.A. (Under Satan's Authority) and Gravediggaz' 6 Feet Deep (released overseas as Niggamortis). [18] [19] [20] [21] The Flatlinerz and Gravediggerz, along with the Geto Boys and Kool Keith, remain the most important artists in the development of horrorcore as a specific genre.

In 1995, an independent horror film called The Fear was released, which included a soundtrack that consisted entirely of horrorcore songs, including Insane Clown Posse's biggest radio hit, "Dead Body Man". [10] 1995 also saw the release of Three 6 Mafia's debut album Mystic Stylez which touched on heavy drug use, ritualistic sex, mass murder, torture and Luciferianism. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's E. 1999 Eternal LP furthered tales of the occult throughout, specifically on songs such as "Mr. Ouija 2", "Mo' Murda", "East 1999", and "Da Introduction". Tension would soon rise between Bone Thugs and Three 6 over their presumed similarities in style and use of dark imagery.

In 2009, dark music themed website Fangoria named Tech N9ne's 2001 album Anghellic as an iconic and influential album to the genre, to the artist, and to hip-hop as a whole.

The genre is not popular with mainstream audiences as a whole, though in some cities like Detroit it is the dominant style of hip-hop and performers such as Esham, Insane Clown Posse, [22] Eminem, [23] and Twiztid, as well as artists like Necro, from Brooklyn, have sold well commercially throughout the US. [18] Horrorcore has thrived in Internet culture. Every Halloween since 2003, horrorcore artists worldwide get together online and release a free compilation titled Devilz Nite. [24] According to the January 2004 BBC documentary Underground USA, the subgenre "has a massive following across the US" and "is spreading to Europe". [25] Rolling Stone in 2007 referred to it as a short-lived trend that generated more shlock than shock. [20]

Present-day horrorcore

In the 2010s, several young, up-and-coming artists on the internet platform SoundCloud started pulling from horrorcore acts of the 1990s as a source of inspiration.yyyoungcut is not just lyrically, but aesthetically. Though Tyler, The Creator and his loose collective, Odd Future, denied the label in many interviews and songs, the early releases from their camp (such as Tyler's Bastard and Goblin, and Earl Sweatshirt's eponymous debut Earl) lyrically fit the mold of the genre. Other acts at the time who were more accepting of the label include SpaceGhostPurrp's Raider Klan, which featured solo artist such as a young Denzel Curry and Xavier Wulf. Brooklyn's Flatbush Zombies shook up the scene with their first two official mixtapes, thus launching a successful career independently and sizeable cult following, while fellow New York natives City Morgue and Florida's Ghostemane gave rise to trap metal, with lyrical influences rooted in horrorcore innovators Three 6 Mafia, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. In 2015, Seed of 6ix, consisting of DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia's nephew Locodunit, and the late Lord Infamous's son Lil Infamous, released their debut self-titled mixtape, to much acclaim in the underground. XXXTentacion, though not categorically a horrorcore artist, was known for dark, moody, lyrics from the start of his career on songs like "I spoke to the devil in Miami, he said everything would be fine" and "ILOVEITWHENTHEYRUN".

In 2019, experimental trio clipping. released There Existed an Addiction to Blood , described as a "transmutation of horrorcore". [26]

In 2020, horrorcore found a small revival around the UK drill scene with acts such as Block 6, No Remorse, Official TS and TeeZandos. [27]


Some members of the law enforcement community have asserted that the horrorcore genre is dangerous and incites crime, and the genre's artists and followers have been linked to a wide variety of crime, ranging from mass murder to gang activity and drug trafficking.

In 1999, horrorcore group Insane Clown Posse was considered a potential influence on school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. ICP responded that if the shooters had been Juggalos, they would have "gotten the whole damn school". [3] However, Brooks Brown, the best friend of Dylan Klebold and a friend of both of the shooters, was, in fact, a Juggalo and had introduced Klebold to Insane Clown Posse's music. [4] Horrorcore-influenced rapper Eminem also received negative publicity in the wake of the massacre and has referenced it throughout his discography.

In 2005, horrorcore fan Jeff Weise committed the Red Lake Senior High School massacre. Weise was a fan of horrorcore rappers such as Mars and Prozak. [5]

In 2009, aspiring horrorcore rapper Syko Sam committed the Farmville murders; bludgeoning his internet girlfriend, her friend, and her parents to death. Like Weise, he was a fan of horrorcore rapper Mars.

Juggalo gangs have caused law enforcement concern throughout the United States due to their tendency for extreme violence and have been linked to diverse crimes. Arizona Department of Public Safety Detective Michelle Vasey has expressed concern at the Juggalos high potential for violence, stating "The weapons, they prefer, obviously, hatchets ... We've got battle-axes, we've got machetes, anything that can make the most violent, gruesome wound," and "Some of the homicides we're seeing with these guys are pretty nasty, gruesome, disgusting homicides, where they don't care who's around, what's around, they're just out to kill anybody." [28] A 2017 Denver Police Department guide warned that even Juggalos who are not affiliated with a gang are prone to commit "murder, shootings, kidnapping, rape, necrophilia, cannibalism, assault, and arson" and that "such acts give a Juggalo a sense of pride and street credit amongst peers". [29] Allegedly horrorcore-related criminal activity has, in rare cases, even branched out into ad-hoc domestic terrorism, with a Juggalo-led terrorist cell calling itself the "Black Snake Militia" attempting to raid a National Guard armory in 2012. [30]

Related Research Articles

Juggalo A fan of the group Insane Clown Posse or any other Psychopathic Records hip hop group

A juggalo is a fan of the group Insane Clown Posse or any other Psychopathic Records hip hop group. Juggalos have developed their own idioms, slang, and characteristics. The Gathering of the Juggalos, alternatively known as just "The Gathering", is a notable annual festival held by juggalos and the artists that they support, which have included rap stars such as Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube, and MC Hammer; over its first eleven events (2000–2010), the festival drew a total attendance of about 107,500 fans, averaging nearly 9,800 per year, with a peak of 20,000 in 2010.

The Geto Boys was an American hip hop group originally formed in Houston, Texas. The Geto Boys enjoyed success in the 1990s with the group's classic lineup consisting of Bushwick Bill, Scarface and Willie D, earning several certified albums and hit singles, including "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" which reached No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs and #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group was formed in 1986, and was active until the 2019 death of Bushwick Bill.

<i>The Great Milenko</i> 1997 studio album by Insane Clown Posse

The Great Milenko is the fourth studio album by American hip hop group Insane Clown Posse, released on June 24, 1997 by Hollywood Records in association with Psychopathic Records. As the fourth Joker's Card in the group's Dark Carnival mythology, the album's lyrics focus on the titular Great Milenko, who is a necromancer.

<i>Carnival of Carnage</i> 1992 studio album by Insane Clown Posse

Carnival of Carnage is the debut studio album by American hip hop group Insane Clown Posse, released on October 18, 1992, by Psychopathic Records.

Dark Lotus was an American hip hop group based in Detroit, Michigan, United States. Formed in 1998 as a side project of Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid, Dark Lotus was best known as a representative of the horrorcore subgenre. From 1998 to 2017, Dark Lotus' lineup changed multiple times, with the most consistent members of the group being Violent J, Shaggy 2 Dope, Jamie Madrox, Monoxide and Blaze Ya Dead Homie.

Psychopathic Records, also known as The Hatchet, is an American independent record label headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The label is most associated with the hip hop music subgenres horrorcore and rap rock. The label was founded in 1991 by Alex Abbiss and hip hop group Insane Clown Posse. The iconography of a man with a meat cleaver has been used for years as a symbol of the group, its fanbase, and its associates.

Esham Attica Smith, known mononymously as Esham, is an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan. Emerging as one of the first ever hip hop artists from Detroit, Esham released his debut studio album, Boomin' Words from Hell, in 1989 at the age of 16. Since then, he has gone on to release 15 studio albums in total and is best known as a representative of the hip hop subgenres horrorcore and rap rock. In 1992, he co-founded the horrorcore group Natas. He and his brother James Smith founded and ran the Detroit hip hop label Reel Life Productions.

Twiztid American hip hop duo

Twiztid is an American hip hop duo from Detroit, Michigan, known for both their horror-themed lyrics and rock influenced sound. Formed in 1997, Twiztid is composed of rappers Jamie "Madrox" Spaniolo and Paul "Monoxide" Methric. Spaniolo and Methric are also members of the group House of Krazees with R.O.C., which formed in 1992.

Violent J American rapper

Joseph Francis Bruce, known by his stage name Violent J, is an American rapper, record producer, professional wrestler, and part of the hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse. He is a co-founder of the record label Psychopathic Records, with fellow ICP rapper Shaggy 2 Dope and their former manager, Alex Abbiss. Also along with Utsler, Bruce is the co-founder of the professional wrestling promotion Juggalo Championship Wrestling.

Shaggy 2 Dope American rapper

Joseph William Utsler, known by his stage name Shaggy 2 Dope, is an American rapper, record producer, DJ, podcast host of Shaggy and The Creep Show, and professional wrestler. He is part of the hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse. He is the co-founder of the record label Psychopathic Records, with fellow Insane Clown Posse rapper Violent J and their former manager, Alex Abbiss. Along with Bruce, Utsler is the co-founder of the professional wrestling promotion Juggalo Championship Wrestling, where he currently acts as color commentator.

<i>The Tempest</i> (album) 2007 studio album by Insane Clown Posse

The Tempest is the tenth studio album by American hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse. Released in 2007, the album marks the return of producer Mike E. Clark, who had a falling-out with the duo in 2000. However, he did not collaborate directly with ICP, and would not do so until their 2009 album Bang! Pow! Boom!

Michael Earl Clark is an American record producer and DJ from Michigan, best known for working with Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, Prozak and Mickey Avalon. Clark has also worked with George Clinton, Patti Smith, Primal Scream, R.L. Burnside and other noteworthy artists.

<i>Mostasteless</i> 1998 studio album by Twiztid

Mostasteless is the debut album by American hip hop duo Twiztid, released on August 4, 1998 by Psychopathic Records. The album was reissued in 1999 with distribution by Island Records and a drastically altered track listing, with tracks added and removed.

Boondox American rapper

David Hutto is an American rapper from Covington, Georgia. A representative of the hip hop subgenres rap rock, horrorcore and country rap, Hutto is most commonly known as Boondox, whose stage persona is a killer scarecrow, and Turncoat Dirty.

<i>Making Trouble</i> 1988 studio album by Ghetto Boys

Making Trouble is the debut album by the American hip-hop group the Ghetto Boys. The group originally consisted of Bushwick Bill, DJ Ready Red, Sire Jukebox and Prince Johnny C. Following the release of Making Trouble, Rap-A-Lot Records dropped Sire Jukebox and Johnny C from the group, and added Scarface and Willie D.

Flatlinerz is a horrorcore group from New York City. They are responsible for introducing the term "horrorcore" with their 1994 release U.S.A. .

Insane Clown Posse American hip hop duo from Michigan

Insane Clown Posse, often abbreviated as ICP, is an American rap rock duo. Formed in Detroit in 1989 as a gangsta rap group, ICP's best known lineup consists of rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. Insane Clown Posse is known for its elaborate live performances and theatrical horror-inspired lyrics. The duo has earned two platinum and five gold albums. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the entire catalog of the group has sold 6.5 million units in the United States and Canada as of April 2007. The group has established a dedicated following called Juggalos numbering in the "tens of thousands".

<i>The Only Solution</i> 2012 studio album by Cold 187um

The Only Solution is the fifth album by Cold 187um and his first and only album for Psychopathic Records. Released on October 22, 2012, it is a concept album, focusing on the story of a hired killer, the "Psychopathic Assassin", as he performs his job and pursues revenge against his uncle, Black Swan, who had murdered the Assassin's father.


Faygoluvers is a website originally dedicated to horrorcore music, and eventually included underground music as a whole. It was founded in 1999 initially to cover news relating to Insane Clown Posse and other similar artists. Over time, the website evolved to include the underground music community as a whole. They provide news articles, album reviews, music videos, free songs, filmed concerts, new interviews, upcoming events, and more. There is also featured content, such as the annual FLH Music Awards, the Unreleased Underground music archive, an Underground Spotlight section, a weekly podcast, and various other editorials.

<i>Fearless Fred Fury</i> Album by Insane Clown Posse

Fearless Fred Fury is the fifteenth studio album by American hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse, and their fourth Joker Card in the second Deck of the Dark Carnival Saga. Originally planned for release simultaneously with their twelve-track extended play titled Flip the Rat on October 26, 2018 via Psychopathic Records, it was delayed until February 15, 2019.


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