Stare into the depths of depravity.
It’s been two years since the release of our “Top 15 Most Disturbing Hip-Hop Songs.” But like a serial killer eager to spill first blood, we might have been too premature in our assessment. It’s not always easy to explore hip-hop’s darkest corners. And yet several key contributions were left forgotten. With Halloween upon us, it seems only fitting to pick up where we left off, bringing even more depravity, violence, and deviance into the fold. This time around, the list is even more disturbing than its predecessor, with thirteen horrific tracks that will have you clamoring for both an old priest and a young priest.
The consumption of horror is a fascinating practice. Authors like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker were among the pioneers of horror fiction, through literary classics Frankenstein and Dracula respectively. Their words, and later those of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, shattered the comfort zone of an otherwise sheltered population. With the advent and emergence of cinema came a new medium for horror, one that had the advantage of visual stimulation. As the limits of genre expanded through the work of Alfred Hitchcock and fellow auteurs, the seventies horror-wave ushered in a more visceral approach to violence. Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween left viewers haunted long after the fact, largely due to the iconic presence of villains like Leatherface and Michael Myers. It's no coincidence that both parties remain mentioned in rap music to this day.
For rappers, who don’t necessarily have the advantage of relying on visual assistance, their approach rings closer to that of the horror writer. Drawing from a listener’s imagination, each selection has masterfully used their words to conjure imagery rivaling the most chilling film. With additional tools like cadence and a tone-setting instrumental, leaving a lasting impression can be as simple as uttering a particularly gruesome threat. It could be as elaborate as weaving a tale of disparity, woe, and mutilation. Whatever it may be, the following songs should be avoided in dark rooms, on witching-hour drives, or in the immediate vicinity of churches.
George DeSota/Newsmaker/Getty Images
CAGE - BALLAD OF WORMS
Cage has earned his place as an underground legend through albums like Movies For The Blind. Yet some of his earliest work is among his most disturbing, particularly the sickly “Ballad Of Worms.” A homage to Stephen King’s Pet Semetary--specifically the character Zelda--the feverish tale depicts the deteriorating health of Cage’s girlfriend and the baggage that arises alongside such a descent. While it might have been romantic in less ghoulish hands, Cage’s attention to detail leaves no stone unturned, culminating in a hazy and sickening reflection lined with disturbing, urine-soaked imagery. A feast for the senses in the best and worst way.
LISTEN: Cage - Ballad Of Worms
KING GORDY & BIZARRE - TIME TO DIE
It’s likely you’ve come across a Bizarre verse or two, but Detroit mainstay King Gordy has largely remained beneath the radar. Despite never quite cracking the mainstream, his reputation as one of the game’s most twisted horrorcore rappers has cemented itself. No place was that more evident than his debut album The Entity, a cult favorite lined with Eminem production and grotesque bars. “Time To Die” is the culmination of his insanity, as Gordy weaves grotesque fantasies of “being hanged and tortured by midgets” and murdering fourteen-year-olds. All the while, his baritone cadence ripples with stifled anxiety. Throw in an on-brand verse from Peter S. Bizarre, and “Time To Die” remains one that will linger long after the fact.
DANNY BROWN - TORTURE
Sometimes, a single line is all it takes. We’ve seen it before with DMX’s “Bring Your Whole Crew,” a track that finds him expressing his love for necrophilia. On Danny Brown’s “Torture,” it’s another maniacal vice that cements its horrific status: Bestiality. For the most part, the Old highlight is peak storytelling, driven by a ridiculously hard sampled instrumental. And yet the opening lines set such a striking tone, it’s impossible to shake. “Remember one time dawg, this fiend owed the boss, put peanut butter on her pussy, let his pits lick it off,” spits Danny, creating an image so disturbing it leaps from the page. No doubt PETA was left shook to its very core after this one.
LISTEN: Danny Brown - Torture
DMX - X IS COMING
Last time around, I opted for “Bring Your Whole Crew” as the DMX selection, largely over the aforementioned necrophilia bar. I realize now that X’s most disturbing selection is the Nightmare On Elm Street-inspired“X Is Coming.” Kicking off with an archetypical horror staple, spooky children, DMX launches into a gothic assertion of his own dominance, one that will be enforced by any means necessary. His limits are nonexistent. “Cause I ain't knockin' on the door, I'm comin' in the house, and I'm gunnin' for your spouse, tryin' to send the bitch back to her maker,” he threatens. “And if you got a daughter older than 15, I'ma rape her / Take her on the livin' room floor, right there in front of you, then ask you seriously, whatchu wanna do?” The very limitation of the human psyche shall be tested should the wrath of DMX fall upon you.
LISTEN: DMX - X Is Coming
Arnaldo Magnani/Liaison/Getty Images
BROTHA LYNCH HUNG & TECH N9NE - ICU
Brotha Lynch Hung may very well epitomize the horrorcore movement. Few lyricists can paint such disturbing pictures as he, spitting the most gruesome depictions of murder you’ll hear on wax. Though any number of his tracks stand in contention, the Tech N9ne assisted “ICU” serves as a masterclass in Hung’s depravity. Within the opening verse, he’s already broken into a home, indulged in necrophiliac urges, amputated said cadaver, consumed human flesh, sodomized a corpse, and all matter of sinner’s delights. By comparison, Tech N9ne actually appears restrained, though his presence certainly imbued “ICU” with an additional dose of Strange seasoning. Seasoning that pairs effectively with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
EMINEM - BUFFALO BILL
During the creation of his conceptual cult classic Relapse, Eminem drew influence from several notorious serial killers. Though his alter-ego seemed drawn from the likes Ted Bundy and Ed Gein, one of his biggest muses emerged from a fictitious place. Those familiar with Silence Of The Lambs will never forget Buffalo Bill, the man who speaks like Dr. Seuss while skinning women alive. As it happens, the Ted Levine-portrayed character left a lasting impression on Em, who went so far as to pen an entire track in his honor. Enter “Buffalo Bill,” a harpsichord-fueled Dr. Dre banger lined with elaborate fantasies of a world in which Bill succeeded in his transformative goal. And for whatever reason, in this surreal parallel universe, Bill has bars.
LISTEN: Eminem - Buffalo Bill
MR. HYDE, NECRO, ILL BILL & GORETEX - THEM
Like Brother Lynch Hung, it’s safe to say that Necro’s catalog could fill this list in its entirety. And yet there’s something appropriate about including the Circle Of Tyrants in their formative stages, the underground supergroup consisting of Necro, Ill Bill, Mr. Hyde, and Goretex. “Them” stands out as the closer of Hyde’s Barn Of The Naked Dead, itself an integral piece of the horrorcore canon. With a haunting piano-driven instrumental straight off a John Carpenter soundtrack, each member delivers menacing and horror-driven battle bars. Though it’s difficult to discern who lays down the sickest verse, a dexterous Ill Bill certainly makes a compelling case. “Look how your tongue hangs it's bloodbath pornography,” he raps, in the second verse. “Splatter fest, sadomasochist.” If the term “bloodbath pornography” doesn’t fill you in on the cultish crew’s raison d’etre, nothing will.
Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty Images
TECH N9NE - TRAPPED IN A PSYCHO’S BODY
Tech N9ne and horror have become synonymous, so it’s no surprise the King Of Darkness has explored some unsettling thematic territory. While K.O.D. features some of his most overtly gratuitous lyricism, one of his most chilling cuts emerged on 2002’s Absolute Power. “Trapped In A Psycho’s Body” remains a fascinating character study, a tug of war between shoulder-based angels and demons. Tech paints himself as his own worst enemy, voicing his morality through a distorted filter; amidst the sorrowful instrumental, Tech’s better half seems adrift beyond control, a concept he drives home through cadence and studio processing. A definitive Tech track on one of his most beloved albums, “Trapped In A Psycho's” body shines as the most cerebral selection thus far.
LOUIS LOGIC - FREAK SHOW
Underground Brooklyn rapper Louis Logic’s 2003 album Sin-A-Matic featured plenty of eyebrow-raising material, as the lyricist took no qualms with laying down severe gallows humor. Over a circus-esque beat from punchline-aficionado Celph Titled, Logic found himself compelled to paint a picture that might have been idyllic, were he not so utterly depraved. Louis Logic’s twisted odyssey kicks off with a jaunt through the suburbs, in which resides a rogue’s gallery of the “insanely disturbed.” We’re talking arm-severing Nazi, pedophiles, more bestiality, more necrophilia, cannibalism, the list goes on. Juxtaposed against the playful instrumental and Logic’s gleeful cadence, the otherwise dark lyrical content may very well elicit some reluctant laughs.
LISTEN: Louis Logic - Freak Show
GRAVEDIGGAZ - DIARY OF A MADMAN
Since the days of Poe, the “madman” has become a fascinating and layered archetype. It’s no wonder rappers gravitated toward the concept, eager to plant their own unique spin. In that regard, Gravediggaz’ classic “Diary Of A Madman” does not disappoint, setting a haunting tone through the pained wails of a mourning mother. As the courtroom proceedings play out, Shabazz the Disciple sets it off with some demonic and violent imagery, before passing the mic to an uncharacteristically perverse performance; only Bobby Digital could credibly reflect on a battle of wits with a Djinn. Backed by a spooky golden-era beat from RZA, Prince Paul, and RNS, Gravediggaz’ breakout single featured disturbingly violent bars and imagery, laying a foundation for underground horrorcore arts to study and dissect.
LISTEN: Gravediggaz - Diary Of A Madman
David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
GETO BOYS - MIND OF A LUNATIC
Another integral piece of the horrorcore movement, the Geto Boyz stood proudly among the forebears of the subgenre. On their 1990’s eponymous debut, Scarface, Willie D, and the late Bushwick Bill came forth with one of the most heinous and controversial songs the game had ever seen. The bars were so egregious that Geffen Records refused to distribute the project, prompting a young Rick Rubin to save the day. And we’re glad he did - who knows what might have changed had The Geto Boys not been given space to peddle their sickest fantasies? Like three horror villains vying to one-up the other, each emcee embodies the titular lunatic with full commitment; though Scarface’s penchant for ritualistic dismemberment stands out, Bushwick’s horrifying second verse cements him as the sickest maniac of the bunch.
LISTEN: Geto Boys - Mind Of A Lunatic
DR. DRE & ICE CUBE - NATURAL BORN KILLAZ
Throughout their time in the “World’s Most Dangerous Group,” Ice Cube and Dr. Dre brought inner-city violence to mainstream America. Yet never once did either party succumb to their devilish urges like they did on 1994 classic “Natural Born Killaz.” Emboldened by a queasy G-Funk banger, Dre gets sinister as hell, foreshadowing the sick mind that would one day conjure a slew of haunting classics. After sneering threats of violence courtesy of his trusty problem solver, Cube picks up where his former group-mate left off. “It feels like I'm busting a nut when I open you up,” he spits, before threatening to go upside Charles Manson’s head with a brick.
THREE 6 MAFIA - FUCKIN WIT DIS CLIQUE
This time around, the forefathers must be respected accordingly. What might horrorcore sound like without the Oscar-Award winning Three 6 Mafia? Case in point, many believe their 1995 debut album Mystic Stylez to be among the most sonically influential albums of our time; consider the contemporary production trends, recurring variations on the Dark Southern bangers. On the project’s tenth track “Fuckin Wit Dis Clique,” Juicy J, DJ Paul, Koopsta Knicca, and Lord Infamous spit murderous bars, alluding to all matters of devilish practices: sorcery, crucifixion, devil worship, mutilation, robbery, and rape. Though a song like this would likely find itself dragged through the modern-day ringer, remember that Three 6, Geto Boyz, and Dr. Dre’s brutal gangsta rap were once the dominating mainstream sound. What might hip-hop sound like, were the disturbing not embraced with open arms?