If it haunts, chills, or creeps you out, you’ll find it at Forever Halloween, where it’s Friday the 13th, Devil’s Night, and All Hallow’s Eve 365 days a year. Yeah, we’re pretty much sick bastards.
It’s a little under a week until Halloween. Already, we’re exhausted from scary movie overdoses, bowls of bite-size treats, and telling unfortunate souls that their Joker costume is still a major cliché. That “Monster Mash” song at the grocery store isn’t helping either, especially the cycle of spooky sounds — y’know, the guttural screams, manic laughter, or howling wolves.
That’s why we decided to shake things up and really try and scare ourselves by turning to one thing we know: music. Rather than throwing all of the creepiest songs in one cauldron and hoping for magic, we opted to focus on individual genres. Given that we already collected our scariest pop, rock, and love songs, it made sense to chill our spines with a new beat.
Assembled before you is a nightmarish list of hip-hop songs that could make Michael Myers choke on candy corn and even give Freddy Krueger nightmares. Not for the faint of heart, give this compilation a listen at your own behest and transport yourself to the troubled mind of Christopher Wallace or feel the full-frontal assault of Death Grips’ otherworldly instrumentals.
If you survive, comment below…
13. Wu-Tang Clan – “Method Man”
One of the hardest tracks on the debut album from the Wu-Tang Clan, “Method Man” starts off in a dark place, with the titular rapper and Clan mate Raekwon the Chef trading torture tales, upping the ante with every rebuttal. Raekwon is capable of holding his own in the threat throwdown, but Method Man secures a spot in our nightmares with lines like “I’ll fucking sew your asshole closed, and keep feeding you, and feeding you, and feeding you.” These are the kind of things that cement the versatile rapper as a master of intimidation, which is quite an impressive feat for someone who name-checks three different peanut butter brands just a few bars later.
Scarier than? The Human Centipede’s inevitable five new chapters. Meth’s twisted mind produces some genuinely terrifying imagery that could easily earn him a job writing low-rent torture porn for straight-to-Netflix horror films.
12. Necro – “Circle of Tyrants”
In the world of death rap, few come close to the psychotic sorcerer known only as Necro. For years, Necro has been preaching the benefits of sex, drugs, and violence. Always quick to tell you who your daddy is, there is certainly no shortage of dismemberment, destruction, or disses to your mama in “Circle of Tyrants”. Necro compares himself to a zombie feasting on bloody guts, adding cannibalism to his extensive history of brutality. Along with his horrorcore cronies, Mr. Hyde, Goretex, Ill Bill, and Captain Carnage, the band of degenerates spin a yarn of suicide, homicide, and what can only be described as a total disregard for personal hygiene.
Scarier than? Being a kid and losing your mom in the store and thinking you found her only to have some strange lady turn around and look at you like you’re some kind of bucktoothed freak.
11. Geto Boys – “My Mind Playing Tricks on Me”
Arguably one of the best hip-hop songs of all time, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” is a different kind of frightening. It’s not monsters-under-the-bed scary; it’s more psychological, focusing on lingering mental illness and paranoia. Using an Isaac Hayes sample, the Geto Boys — Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill — trade verses documenting each state of mental decline. It’s a deeply personal yet incredibly disturbing track, especially on Scarface’s opening verse: “See, every time my eyes close I start sweatin, and blood starts comin out my nose.” Later in the track, Bushwick Bill even mentions Halloween: “This year Halloween fell on a weekend/ Me and Geto Boys are trick-or-treatin/ Robbin little kids for bags.”
Scarier than? A four-day Netflix bender, all too easy to lose your grasp on reality.
10. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Suicidal Thoughts”
“Suicidal Thoughts” is one of the most dour songs in a catalog cut short by an untimely murder. The song captures a late-night phone call with Puffy Daddy, as Biggie recalls his past malfeasances and debates suicide. Over barren production, with little more than a basic drumbeat behind him, the late rapper starts the track with one of the most killer, no pun intended, opening rhymes: “When I die, fuck it I wanna go to hell/ ‘Cause I’m a piece of shit, it ain’t hard to fucking tell.” The exploration of the mind of a man on the edge of his demise is chilling and opens the audience to a side of Biggie they didn’t see before, a side that could scare them with his real feelings.
Scarier than? That scene in Groundhog Day when Bill Murray keeps trying to kill himself to escape the loop he’s trapped in, only to find himself back in the same bed and breakfast.
09. Death Grips – “Guillotine”
Exmilitary, Death Grips’ 2011 debut album, was chock-full of raw, potent aggression. The album’s second song, “Guillotine”, packs so much of a punch it’s fucking terrifying. MC Ride’s guttural, visceral delivery is scarily in your face, especially with Zach Hill’s otherworldly production pounding in the background. It gets into darker territory when MC Ride raps about decapitated corpses: “Head of a trick in a bucket, body of a trick in a bag/ And thrown in the fire like fuck it, gotta burn it before it goes bad.” With the recent influx of Death Grips news stories, the group is no stranger to shock.
Scarier than? Having your favorite band not show up to a concert.
08. Lil Herb – “4 Minutes of Hell”
Unlike other songs here, spooky doesn’t work as a descriptor; the alpha “4 Minutes of Hell” is unsettling, rather, because it’s home to the most believable murder tale we’ve heard from Chicago’s present street-rap reign. In fact, it must be one of its only nuanced murder tales — Keef, Reese, Durk et al. never seem to shade their anecdotes more than “Hit him with the Cobra, now that boy slumped ova,” things like that. Rapped over a minimalist beat, Lil Herb is dismaying to say the least in his ability to tell such a dire story with such a natural flow. It hardly sounds like shots fired, but lyrically this track can gun down anyone.
Scarier than? Most things. Hopefully you’re all aware of how truly brutal the situation in Chicago is and that not much of what’s said in this song is out of the realm of possibility for things to happen. Gang violence isn’t a laughing matter, unless you’re Chief Keef, in which case you’re an idiot/poster boy for the movement.
07. TLC featuring Andre 3000 – “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes”
The closing track off of TLC’s stone-cold classic 1995’s CrazySexyCool covers a lot of ground — civil rights, gang violence, jealousy, and more — and yet it’s not the lyrics, but the production that earns the Ray Bradbury/Macbeth homage of the title. Organized Noize has always had a way of adding an extra shroud of darkness to meditations on socioeconomic travail, most notably on Outkast’s “Toilet Tisha”.
There’s something about the gnarled guitar, the P-funk bass, and the dragon-belly drums that sound downright foreboding, all while still managing to groove. On “Wicked”, the worried tone of T-Boz, Chili, and a baby-faced Andre 3000 makes one wonder if things are really going to be as fun and okay as they are on the rest of the album, even as Left Eye stays defiant in her closing rap. Remember, she’s the one who suffered the worst fate of all.
Scarier than? Anything Bradbury ever put to paper.
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.