We get a ghoulish playlist for Halloween from Thegirlwhowas…
It’s Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, day of the dead, and although one wouldn’t immediately couple Halloween and Hip Hop I thought I’d put together a few songs that evoke all that is spooky, sinister and frightening in the world, setting the atmosphere. These four tracks combine eeriness, death, guts and gore, psychotic MCing and a fair bit of weirdness… enjoy!
Cold World – GZA
I first thought of this song primarily for the recurring eerie instrumental that frames the track. Reminiscent of police sirens and ghoulish wailing, it reminds me of creeping stealthy footsteps in a dark and silent city. It’s the film noir of rap tracks.
‘Cold World’ is taken off GZA’s Liquid Swords album which in itself has a dark and foreboding atmosphere, littered with references to crime, chess and philosophy. The album’s use of dialogue samples from jidaigeki film Shogun Assassin also lend it an otherworldly feel, but it is the track ‘Cold World’ that sticks out personally as the most creeping, most spooky and Halloween-esque track of the lot.
Interestingly enough, the main samples used in this song; Stevie Wonder’s Rocket Love and The Dramatic’s ‘In The Rain’ both evoke a sense of disturbance and unease despite being standard romantic songs. Producer RZA manages to extract all that is uncomfortable from these tracks and place it within the song’s kind of urban nightmare.
The beat itself is relentless and the riff conjures up an image of a deranged piano player endlessly repeating a minor key riff. The deadening repetition is in stark contrast to the chorus, where Life’s slightly wailing(!) vocals and high pitched instrumentals create a sense of fear and urgency. The vibe is perfect for Halloween. GZA stated in an interview with Wax Poetics on the making of the album that ‘As soon as I heard the beat to “Cold World,” I knew it would be another inner-city story. And the beginning is obviously taken from “The Night Before Christmas.”
In that sense, Cold World is like a twisted fairy tale: ‘It was the night before New Year’s and all through the fuckin’ projects/Not a handgun was silent, not even a tec’.
Da Graveyard – Big L & Lord finesse And Jay-Z & Y.U.
‘It’s the number one crew in the area / Known for sending garbage MCs to the graveyard’. Big L was a ferocious rapper, and this song conveys perfectly that psychotic unhinged quality his lyricism possesses, ideal for Halloween night.
Track 8 on Lifestyle ov da poor and dangerous, an album that is at once dark, gangsta and deranged as well as questioning and conscious. Although ‘Da Graveyard’ probably isn’t the most interesting beat on the album it does manage to incorporate evocative wolf like noises in the background, in keeping with the grimy mood.
Perhaps the relatively uninteresting beat is well suited to let the brutal and deranged rapping style shine, most notably from Big L and a young Jay Z. Both MCs convey a relentless hedonism in their respective verses. It’s expected from Big L, ‘I don’t have it all upstairs but who the fuck cares’, but is more surprising from Jay Z, who kills the track with the ferocity of his flow. Seems like he was a little less of a slick rick back then, and his verse conveys a psychotic dynamism: ‘Creep through your block fuck a Glock I step / Through your neighbourhood armed with nothing but a rep’.
Garbage MCs better look out…
Locc 2 Da Brain – Brotha Lynch Hung
This track is on an altogether other level of creepiness – Brotha Lynch Hung – the godfather of horrorcore – is not on most people’s radars. An affiliate of the infamous rapper X-Raided, a similarly dark MC (and also an incarcerated Crip gang member), Brotha Lynch’s sound is a little too sinister and violent for most. I found this song by accident, but I was immediately drawn in by the ominous bass-line and female guest MC Zigg Zagg’s apathetic drawl.
Taken from his debut album, Season of da Siccness, the song features a host of guest MCs – Big Dan, Baby Reg, Mr Doc as well as Zigg Zagg. Only Brotha Lynch’s and Zigg Zagg’s are worth much consideration. Zigg Zagg is a bit like a psychotic Jean Grae, and her flow is relentless on this track, one of her best lines is the ‘Ain’t no stoppin cuz the devil said I’m halfway dead’. As opposed to the standard ego-centric violent subject matter of most gangsta rap, this song explores the insane, apathetic acceptance of evil and violence, something that is a ‘locc to da brain’.
If you really want to give yourself a fright on Halloween night check out some of Brotha Lynch Hung’s recent videos on YouTube, namely ‘Mannibalector’ which features the Brotha in his crazed-eyed glory gleefully rapping with a roaring fire in the background…
Bloody Chain – Viktor Vaughn
I couldn’t complete a Halloween play-list without a track from everybody’s favourite masked super villain! Perhaps not the most obvious choice, I feel this track has a kind of subdued sinister undertone, as well as the tragic element. The beat has a melancholic feel to it, creating an elegiac feel, a lament for the dead. There is an overwhelming sense of death in the song, which is why I thought it appropriate for All Hallow’s Eve. The bloody chain image is also reminiscent of a whole host of Halloween related imagery such as cursed objects, blood and religious artifacts. The song leaves you with a foreboding message: ‘Sooner or later it always catches up with you…’