• Gravediggaz
  • 6 Feet Deep (Gee Street) 1994 
  • The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel (Gee Street) 1997 
  • Prince Paul
  • A Prince Among Thieves (Tommy Boy) 1999 

Although a provocative and promising concept in principle, horror rap — an extension and institutionalization of Geto Boys’ sickest fantasies — fizzled in 1994. None of its leading practitioners (the most hyped of which were the Flatlinerz and Gravediggaz, but the Insane Clown Posse and others joined in the fun) had the concentration or vision to follow either likely course to its grisly conclusion: totally cinematic cartoons or social commentary using living death, casual mayhem and demonic possession as resonant metaphors for urban desperation. This was, of course, before Eminem.

A supergroup composed of RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, Fruitkwan and Prince Paul (serving as lead producer) of the late, great Stetsasonic and (Too) Poetic (aka the Grym Reaper) of the Brothers Grimm, the Gravediggaz set off down both alleys on 6 Feet Deep, following neither through to a full-blown concept. Before digging into the programmed gruesomeness of melodramas like “2 Cups of Blood,” “Diary of a Madman” (which employs the splatter-film convention of a boy witnessing his father’s murder) and “Graveyard Chamber,” the group offers this couplet: “Critics say go to hell, I go yeah?/Stupid motherfucker I’m already there.” Despite a hefty amount of ketchup and great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts (not to mention numerous hip-hop guests), 6 Feet Deep ultimately sinks, a well-produced shaggy dog campfire story in which too much chronic gets smoked and the batteries on the chin-level flashlight run out too soon. Not scary, not enlightening and only sporadically clever (quoting Martha and the Vandellas and Jim Croce should count for something), 6 Feet Deep is a good idea that lacks the inspiration or nerve to come to death. Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid guests, as do MC Serch, Biz Markie and Masta Ace.

Poetic (Anthony Berkeley) died of colon cancer in July 2001, after contributing to the group’s (at the time unreleased) third album, Nightmare in A Minor. He was 35.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan