A couple of things: This album was actually called Niggamortis
before it was released. It originally had another track, "Pass the Shovel". The UK edition had this title and track listing, but when it got to the U.S., the album title was changed for obvious reasons. As for the omission of "Pass the Shovel", I can't explain that. It's as good as the rest of the material, so I'm not sure why it's not on the regular version of the album.
The Gatekeeper (Frukwan, of Stetsasonic
The Grym Reaper (Poetic)
The Rzarector (RZA
, of Wu-Tang Clan
The Undertaker (Prince Paul
, producer for De La Soul
As we later learned from interviews with both groups, the actual impetus for forming the Gravediggaz was as a result of a feud between Prince Paul and Russel Simmons, whose Def Jam label had recently signed a horrorcore group called the Flatlinerz
(to add another layer to this story, Simmons didn't take the Flatlinerz seriously at all and it was actually Run DMC
's Jam Master Jay that signed the group). But out of the two albums released in the same time period, the Gravediggaz album is the better of the two.
Although RZA's participation might lead to some comparisons between this album and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
, the music here is largely created by De La Soul's producer, Prince Paul. The combined influence of all associated groups, combined with ghouls, devils and witches-based Halloween-type rap makes for a distinctive and original, lyrical and sound-wise, result. Pay close attention and you'll hear one of the famous kung-fu movie samples from Enter the Wu-Tang
, and the ending line of De La Soul's single, "Plug Tuning". Live over sampled instrumentation also adds to the Gravediggaz' distinctive sound.
In addition to the use of live instruments, there is a distinctive heavy metal influence on this album in the songs "Diary of a Madman" (which shares its name with a Ozzy Osbourne
song and album), and "Bang Your Head" (it's usually the metalheads that are the headbangers, not the hip hoppers). The group's most successful single, "Diary of a Madman" has an audio courtroom scene in which RZA and Frukwan provide testimonies, along with guests Scientific Shabazz
and Killah Priest
, as to what turned them into raving madmen; demonic possession and torture are mentioned. This has the most in common, sound-wise, with Wu-Tang, being that the track was created primarily by RZA, while the rest of the album's music was solely created by Prince Paul.
Lyrically, fantasy takes main stage over realism, and when we think the album is closing in on something that could tie in with more realistic hardcore rap, it suddenly jumps into a strange line like "stalking New York with a black pitchfork" or a reference to being bit by a vampire. The message song is "1-800 Suicide", and the message here is KILL YOURSELF! (The music video actually has different, anti-suicide lyrics and lists the actual suicide hotline number at the end.) Easy to find are references to other horror media, like "Here's a Tale from the Crypt".
Not so easy to find are hidden references to the group members' Muslim religious views, and guest appearances by 3rd Bass
's MC Serch, Biz Markie
and Living Colour
's guitarist, Vernon Reid. You'll probably have to dig further than six feet to find the religious references, but the reason why you can't identify some of the guests on this album is because they are not rapping or playing guitar on this album, but saying incidental lines like "Gravediggaz" and "only when you're tripping" for the intros and sketches, and so they're mixed in with the 300 other voices that are on these tracks.
There are, as noted, guests who do contribute verses to the album, but you might miss them, especially if they have names like Dreddy Krueger, which sounds enough like a Gravediggaz name to result in some level of mix-up. Dreddy, incidentally, provides one of the lyrical highlights of the album: "I love black women and I hate ***in' crackers".
Also worth noting is that a lot of the album's horror concepts are really good. On "Death Trap", for example, Poetic's verse is about a young woman being raped by her father that eventually culminates in a Lizzy Borden-type confrontation. And, of course, "Diary of a Madman" consists entirely of verses that are in themselves great horror stories. The previously mentioned idea of a gang member's life being snuffed by a homie who turns out to be a vampire is also a great horror idea.
6 Feet Deep
is an excellent mix of menacing, spooky, scary, and down-and-out gallows humor funny. It's a great horrorcore album. Honestly, though, Niggamortis
was a better title. And "Pass the Shovel" should be on here.