There’s an obvious difference between horror rap and general hip hop, otherwise we wouldn’t find it puzzling for Snoop Dogg to where face paint and rap about morbid topics nor ICP to where basketball jerseys and drive escalades. But who among us can clearly articulate the difference between normal hip hop songs and horror rap songs?
For beginners, it’s all in the lyrical content. The #1 difference between horror rap songs like the ones populating the ICP discography and those populating mainstream radio is the subject matter. Not surprisingly, horror rap tends to focus on topics like murder and suicide, and in some cases more complex subjects like Satanism.
I know you’re saying to yourself that every rapper has at least one song that talks about murder, but there’s a difference. Whereas more mainstream hip hop songs may feature a rhymes about killing a rival or offing a gang member in a turf war, horror rap songs, especially those in the ICP discography, talk more about hell’s imagery and the punishment that evil people deserve.
The protagonist-antagonist mono e mono scenario present in mainstream hip hop songs is very rarely present in horror rap songs, except for in fictional circumstances like those found in the ICP discography.
But what about instrumentally? How do mainstream hip hop song beats compare to the beats of horror rap songs like those in the ICP discography?
This difference might be a little subtle to untrained ears, but once you’ve heard it once, it’s easy to find again. While hip hop songs were born and bred as talking over synthesized drum beats, horror rap songs and most songs on the ICP discography feature more rock oriented sounds.
Instead of being purely synthesized, horror rap often times brings in rock guitar to each horror rap beat, and to be more specific, that guitar is often in the form of a loud, low metal sounding power chord. Listen to almost any song from the ICP discography and you’ll see what I mean.
Length-wise, the beats are pretty similar when it comes to hip hop songs and horror rap songs. Both feature 2 or 4 bar loops, and rarely change throughout. The actual rapping itself is the same in these two formats as well, nothing really different occurs throughout the entire ICP discography.
The sound and content differences between hip hop songs and horror rap songs gets more interesting when you take the history of each into consideration. Most hip hop songs we hear on the radio now sound the way they do because they were influenced by hip hop’s creators in coastal urban markets. ICP discography type stuff, however, was raised in Detroit, MI, where metal music is much more prevalent.
To take it a step further, let’s bring the race card into play. Rappers of all ethnicities have proven to be successful in all genres of rap, but horror rap is less diverse than many other micro genres, which again could have an influence on the sound of the genre found throughout the ICP discography.