Halloween is always a fun time of year, when kids and adults get to dress up as their favorite characters, ghosts and goblins either to seek out strangers for candy or just to take cool pics for Instagram and hit up theme parties.
Hip-hop has always had a dark side—whether it was dubbed horrorcore or shock rap or anything else—but the music of The Geto Boys, DMX, Eminem and countless others has often dwelled on rap’s most macabre scenarios.
So in the spirit of Halloween, we decided to pick our favorite dark and doom-filled rap songs. This stuff is full of murder and madness. You might wanna turn on a light.
The 25 Most Horrific Hip-Hop Songs.
“Real Niggaz Don’t Die”
N.W.A.’s second album is borderline horrorcore. With Ice Cube’s departure, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Eazy-E decided to go full-on rape and murder for the majority of their second studio album. One of the most ominous tracks is this one, as the group indulges in violent fantasies over one of Dre’s most sinister beats.
Before Eminem became a superstar at the tail-end of the 1990s, Esham was the most notorious shock rapper coming out of the Motor City. Here he indulges in hellish fantasies about murder and insanity. Sounding like it was recorded in a sewer littered with corpses, this dark and doom-filled track features Esham voicing that he doesn’t want to die “closed casket,” but he doesn’t seem to be afraid of violent death. He seems to relish it, actually.
With his faux accent and trademark Kangols, Dana Dane never reached the heights of his longtime associate Slick Rick, and his storytelling raps always seemed to dwell in the shadow of his more famous friend. But one of Dana Dane’s standouts was this goofy ode to bad dreams and “scary” women.
Over slow-rolling Bay Area beats, C-Bo became one of the most notorious figures in hip-hop after he was famously jailed for his lyrics in 1998; the rapper was under the suspicion that his violent rap lyrics constituted a violation of his parole. This ominous track is indicative of how dark his lyrics can get–but if it wasn’t a crime when Wes Craven created murderous art, it shouldn’t be treated like a crime when C-Bo does it.
Dark Man X let you know from Day One that his persona wasn’t going to be very sunny. But maybe the world didn’t expect just how “Dark” the man could get. One of his most famous tracks, “Damien” features Earl Simmons chatting it up with the devil. As X strikes a deal with the Devil, you get to see how his life deteriorates. It’s classic DMX, so good it sparked two inferior sequels.
“Diary of a Madman”
You can’t talk about horrorcore without mentioning Gravediggaz. RZA, Prince Paul, Frukwan and Poetic decided to let their darker impulses guide this side project that featured the four exploring their most murderous and nihilistic fantasies. This was their first single and most successful; with the rappers (including Killah Priest and Scientific Shabazz) rapping about hallucinations, madness and torture.
Three Six Mafia always had dark themes and imagery, and Gangsta Boo may have had her crossover aspirations, but she could get as dark as anyone on her solo music. And in 2014, she teamed up with fellow Memphis representer Lil Chat for this murderously dark ode to violence and revenge. With an assist from Fefe Dobson, it’s one of the more ominous tracks from either in recent years.
Tyler the Creator has always had a way of presenting disturbing ideas in a light that made it seem as though he was just kidding. Taking a page from Eminem’s playbook and then pushing things to bizarro new heights, Tyler’s look at an obsessed stalker drew controversy for what some saw as glamorizing dangerous behaviors; Tyler plays with the premise in a way that’s both self-aware and sincere. It makes for a disturbing listen–and an even more disturbing video.
The Brooklyn rhymer is one of the foremost proponents of horrorcore, and Necro has always been adept with a shocking verse or two. Heavily influenced by death metal, Necro also has the Kool G Rap-esque gift for polysyllabic rhyming, and its expertly showcased on the disturbed “Creepy Crawl.” The lyrics reference the Manson murders as Necro delivers some of his most twisted–and tongue-twisting–bars.
“Natural Born Killaz”
Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were supposed to pair up for the collab album Helter Skelter, but that never materialized (The D.O.C. would use the title for his comeback album in 1996). But the former N.W.A. cohorts did pair up for this horror movie of a track, on which they indulge in their most psychotic fantasies. Who can forget the manic video? Spot the 2Pac cameo.
The Kansas City rapper is the godfather of indie rap and one of horrorcore’s most famous and versatile ambassadors. On this booming track, Tech makes sex sound like the most disturbing idea; uncomfortably paralleling oral sex with cannibalism. Referencing the classic children’s puppet character, the hook croons about “wanting to be a normal boy” if “I can just keep the women off my tongue.”
“Spill My Blood”
Three 6 Mafia loved to lean on the most nihilistic elements of the streets; beat downs, raunchy sex and dark lyrics that dabbled in horrorcore. The group’s name should’ve been the first clue, and if you somehow missed their early albums, this track from their breakthrough reminded listeners that Three 6 Mafia was as dark as they come. They may have gotten a little less creepy in subsequent years, but here, they were still as sinister as ever.
The entirety of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s epic E. 1999: Eternal album has a sinister vibe. And one of the most foreboding tracks is this infectious song that’s about exactly what it sounds like. DJ U-Neek had the most melodic dark tracks in 90s hip-hop and he shines here, with the crew delivering some of their most violent and nihilistic rhymes.
“Murder Was the Case”
The pinnacle of Dre’s Sam Sneed-driven mid-90s “spooky” style, with its epic church bells and screaming synths; this was one of Snoop’s finest early moments. With it’s dark narrative and horror-themed music video, it became a funereal hip-hop classic.
Pastor Troy flips morality on its ear with this dark look at a world where Lucifer is who we pray to and God is malicious. It’s a controversial idea, to be sure, but it shows Troy’s creative gift and gives him a chance to explore the darker reaches of his own psyche and of society at large. It may have put off some fans who felt it was borderline-blasphemy, but it remains a southern hip-hop classic.
“I Seen A Man Die”
Nobody does sinister southern hip-hop better than Brad Jordan, and his most definitive moment is one of the game’s best story raps–and one of the darkest. Following the story of a young man fresh out of jail after doing a 7 year bid, but he falls back into bad habits. Tracking his downfall with a cold sense of the inevitable, Face takes you down with his protagonist. It’s still a harrowing listen.
One of the most gripping rap songs of all time, Eminem’s ode to a deranged fan became one of his defining musical moments. Em raps from the perspective of obsessed fan Stan, who slowly comes unhinged at every perceived slight from his favorite artist, Eminem. The story gets sadder and more disturbing with every verse, culminating in Stan committing an unspeakable act in retaliation.
The fact that this was one of the first songs the world heard after 2Pac was murdered only amplified the sense of ghostly menace that loomed in the wake of his death. Pac sounds like the Ghost of Thug Niggas Past on the track, beckoning the listener to “come with me” like the great poltergeist of Death Row Records. It only added to his heightened mythology and endures as a spooky rap classic.
Biggie could go to a deeply unsettled place in his music, and nowhere is it more evident than on the final track from his debut album. Ready to Die is full of self-loathing and hateful moments, but it all comes to a head at the end, with a suicidal Chris Wallace on the phone with Puff explaining why he’s ready to end it all. As his friend pleads with him to calm down, you hear the gunshot and a phone drop.
“Mind of a Lunatic”
The Geto Boys early, controversial reputation was cemented with murder rap tracks like “Assassins” and this bit of psychotic romanticized violence. Over the always-reliable “Funky Drummer” sample, the group gleefully raps about rape, murder, and psychopathic behavior. It’s ridiculously over-the-top, with Bushwick Bill shouting out Jason Voorhies, Willie D screaming about how he should have been killed at birth and Scarface hallucinating about murder victims.
“X Is Coming”
DMX was one of the darkest rappers to hit the late 90s mainstream. “Dark” is in his name, and “Dark” was in the title of his first album–and this might be the darkest moment on that album. With X rapping about bloody payback against his enemies that includes murder and rape, it’s one of the rapper’s most uncomfortably intense and hate-filled revenge fantasies.
Rapping about disemboweling people is gonna creep out of plenty of listeners, and Brotha Lynch Hung’s “Meat Cleaver” is one of his most definitive shock rap tracks. Rhyming about cutting out guts and eating them, he also indulges in necrophiliac fantasies and a ton of other disgustingly psychopathic behaviors. It’s horrorcore at it’s finest(?).
With Kanye and Mike Dean on the beat, this classic posse cut took the scary metaphor to epic heights, with everybody bringing their A game lyrically. But of course, it’s Nicki Minaj’s manic verse that slays this track. And who can forget the macabre music video?
“Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
The Geto Boys could go darker than virtually any other group in hip-hop in the late 1980s/early 1990s. But where the Houston legends had a tendency to get bloody and murderous; on this 1991 classic, Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill explore the darkness of one’s own thoughts. An unsettling look at psychosis, it made mainstream stars of the group.
One of Eminem’s most genuinely disturbing songs from his most acclaimed album, the track features lumbering drums and Em slowly unraveling on record as he plots the death of his real-life then-fiancee. As she pleads for the narrator to stop, this version of Marshall Mathers comes apart psychologically; ultimately he kills her in a rage at the end of the song.
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