On Halloween it is said that the membrane between this world and the ol’ skool is especially thin and permeable. This allows rap fans to revisit tracks that sound at least a little creepy,1 such as the Gravediggaz’ dark treatise on racial animus “Diary Of A Madman,” the Cella Dwellas’ occultish rant “Mystic Freestyle,” and The Geto Boys’ ode to paranoia “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks On Me.”2 Today we shall revisit two unsettling songs whose creepiness hearkens back to the macabre unexpurgated fairy tales of centuries past.
Download: Boogiemonsters “Old Man Jacob’s Well”
“Old Man Jacob’s Well” is so expertly produced that the instrumental alone could qualify as one of the most uncanny songs I’ve ever heard; guitars have rarely sounded so ominous on a hip hop track. The subject matter and vocal performances add yet another dimension of terror; the voice of Â murderous pedophile Old Man Jacob is husky and inuman; his young victim sounds convincingly terrified as the horror transpires. The lyrics include a level of detail that makes the skin crawl; the young victim recounts his parent’s advice to not talk to strangers and makes reference to his “protection stick” talisman; Old Man Jacob chillingly describes his descent into paranoid madness; the refrain that enumerates the pile of victims sounds very much like the chants found in or associated with macabre fairy tales or urban legends.
“When The Sun Took A Day Off” sees Aceyalone and Self-Jupiter spin a Twilight Zone-esque story of a cursed town and the supernatural chaos concentrated within. The song’s narrative is more self-consciously outlandish than “Old Man Jacob’s Well” and thus less disconcerting, but it wisely eschews the gory excess that mar songs that have been damned with the hollow catch-all “horrorcore” label. The production is beautiful and eerie and shifts along with the series of loosely connected vignettes narrated from different perspectives. There doesn’t appear to be a unifying theme or plot direction tying these ghoulish episodes together; the song plays like an extended campfire storytelling session, perhaps fitting for a crew known for its improvised, digressive approach.
- Those inclined towards kitschier songs have plenty to choose from, but friends don’t let friends dance up a storm to “Nightmare On My Street.” At least go with something good, e.g. “The Freaks Come Out At Night.” [↩]
- Yeah, I know, not even close to Halloween. Songs have a bizarre life of their own. [↩]