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After setting up the Wu-Tang Clan and getting that group up and running, The RZA had the capabilities to do a lot. Suddenly he was able to do all the sorts of things that he'd hoped to do when he first got signed to Tommy Boy in 1991 (and they turned him into a Pop rapper). So when Stetsasonic's Prince Paul recruited a number of MCs together to bring a much darker sound to the Hip Hop world, it's no surprise that RZA would be one of the first he'd get on-board for the project. With Prince Paul (The Undertaker) as the chief beat maker, fellow Stet MC Frukwan (The Gatekeeper), The Rzarector and Poetic (Grym Reaper) make up the rest of the super-group which would spread the Horrorcore sound out to audiences who were yet to experience it.
Although the likes of ESham, the Insance Clown Posse and Three 6 Mafia (then the Triple 6 Mafia) had been doing such dark Hip Hop prior to them, The Gravediggaz would be the first with the capabilities (with well-known artists) to spread it across the nation and worldwide. The New Yorkers released "N***amortis" as their début and put it out as "6 Feet Deep" in their homeland. The album failed to see much commercial attention, for obvious reasons, but in the years that would follow it gained a reputation as a classic of its sort.
Although RZA is known for his work as the beatmaker behind the Wu-Tang Clan (producing each and every track on "Enter the Wu-Tang" (36 Chambers)) he's given a break on that side of things so that he's able to concentrate on the rapping. He shows that he's just as agile on this side of the music as with the production. The Undertaker, the name that Prince Paul goes by when in this crew, shows that he's still able to hang with all the new production talent with the way in which he puts together tracks here. He combines good old-fashioned in-your-face percussion (on a track like "Constant Elevation") with obscure sampling (as with "1-800-Suicide). Much of this takes on a Boom-Bap format and although it may not quite have the innovation that The RZA's did on "36 Chambers", it's still competitive and creates a great atmosphere for the MCs to go off on. The Rzarector does get his own beats brought in for a couple of tracks though. He commands "Graveyard Chamber" and does well to incorporate Horror movie-like sounds into the music and with the titular track to the album the hypnotic, winding tune grabs attention in an infectious way that ensures that all take notice of the music they create.
When speaking more on Prince Paul's incredible skills on the beats, he does a lot to show off how he can twist the jovial Old School style and make it much darker. For "Death Trap" he takes on the classic "7 Minutes of Funk" break and lets it run under as the rappers go off with a hardcore tale. This seems to be reflected with "Defective Trip" as Doug E. Fresh and Run-D.M.C. classics are brought in to set things off before things get intense. The contrasts are meaningfully sharp and offer a far degree of variety to the release. When he isn't concentrating on such an approach, he still produces incredible compositions. The best of these is "Bang Your Head" as he offers House-style synth, but manipulates it in a style that makes it suit the underground scene of the time. It would seem as though it inspired dead prez' "Hip Hop" at the end of the decade.
To those who were into the 'first Hip Hop band', Stetsasonic, they're likely to be surprised by how far things changed since the act came to an end (due to the pressure of changing tastes in the genre). This record is as dark as it gets. Although the record may have a real underground feel to it, they still ensure to offer some humour to offset the intensity of the themes which they present to the listeners. "Mommy, What's A Gravedigga?" reminds listeners of Funkadelic's début with an album that featured a song of a name which directly inspired this. The track introduces the subtle funny undercurrent that comes with the release and ensures that they don't come across as real devil-worshippers in the way that all other Horrorcore acts seemed to.
In every element of this album it seems as though they know exactly what they're doing. Each of the MCs has their own distinctive styles and together they combine to make for a truly haunting album. Poetic goes in with a simply mad and unpredictable delivery, whereas RZA shouts the lines and then Frukwan has a Rakim-like approach to unleashing his thoughts. The combination is unlike any others and displays a great awareness of how they're conducting themselves in order to make for material that would warrant such a cult following as the years went by. Even the mastering sounds as though it's been neglected slightly in order to make it sound extra gritty and off-putting to those who've only experienced polished and well-funding musical projects.
This is a classic album from the Gravediggaz. It would be hard to tell anyone not to listen to this. The way that the group conduct themselves with this record shows that they've able to pull off a themed album without going as far to make it seem like they really act out the things which they speak about (which was what prevented the likes of ESham to ever get any mainstream attention at any point). It acts as a great alternative to more conventional Hip Hop of the time, but somehow fits in with what else was going on throughout the East Coast in the mid-nineties as the beats seem to reflect what was popular and so holds things together effectively.
1. "Just When You Thought It Was Over" (Intro)
2. "Constant Elevation" **Five Stars**
3. "Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide" **Five Stars**
4. "Defective Trip" (Trippin') **Five Stars**
5. "2 Cups of Blood" **Four Stars**
6. "Blood Brothers" **Five Stars**
7. "360 Questions" (Interlude)
8. "1-800-Suicide" **Five Stars**
9. "Pass the Shovel" **Five Stars**
10. "Diary of a Madman" (feat. Scientific Shabazz and Killa Priest) **Five Stars**
11. "Mommy, What's a Gravedigga?" **Five Stars**
12. "Bang Your Head" **Five Stars**
13. "Here Comes the Gravdiggaz" **Five Stars**
14. "Graveyard Chamber" (feat. Dreddy Krueger) **Five Stars**
15. "Death Trap" (feat. Masta Ace) **Five Stars**
16. "6 Feet Deep" **Five Stars**
17. "Rest in Peace" (Outro)
Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep...................
August 1994 saw the release of 6 Feet Deep which was the first album from the Gravediggaz and was originally called Niggamortis though re-named to give it more appeal to a European listener although still released under the original name in some places.
The album is East Coast Hip Hop but not for the faint hearted as it is indeed hardcore and actually under the category of "Horrorcore". It really has to be taken as lyrical theatre as some of the content is very far out, exceptionally deep and rather disturbing. There is a parental advisory on the album and if you here it you could completely understand why. Here we see RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan collaborating with other hip hop artists
Personally I think it is a brilliant album and although far deeper and darker than anything I had heard before I was strangely drawn to the evilness of the music which surprised even myself. I think you have to look at it as watching a really sick and scary horror movie but instead of watching a film you are hearing different songs all following the same theme throughout the album.
From the name of the group you can pretty much gage what the lyrical content would be about as it concentrates on death and the different ways to die. To most this would seem pretty messed up to listen to music of this sort but surely so is watching most of the horror movies that are out these days. With strong raps and heavy beats this is one album that is sure to keep you awake at night!
1.Just When You thought It was Over - 0.10
This introduction the the album certainly sets a pace for the rest of the tracks to follow. It has a pretty scary man's voice with a spooky back beat that slowly flows into the following track seamlessly.
2.Constant Elevation - 2.30
Prince Paul, one of the main members of the Gravediggaz lays this rap down brilliantly against a simple repetitive beat with a slightly mad vibe to it. It really would seem that he is a bit insane in this track which makes me smile slightly even though the lyrics are hard it still has a funny side to it. There is a part where he makes a few strange crazy person noises and this works to uplifting the track and taking it away from the scariness of the track as a whole. I think it is well placed at the beginning of the album and a really good tune and one that I wish was slightly longer as it does leave you wanting more.
3.Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide - 3.55
This track has a real bouncy and rhythmical beat which is wound up all the way through the song and complements the raps well. "From the mist of the darkness I come with this". The lyrical content of this varies as with a lot of the other tracks from the album giving one moment dark and horror filled lines and then next moment laying down a made funny line which just shows that the group don't really take themselves too seriously with this album. The track is a good one but perhaps does have a slightly monotonous beat to it that makes listening to the full track difficult at times and doesn't hold my interest as much as others on the CD.
4.Defective Trip (Trippin') - 5.04
The introduction to this track starts with you hearing them smoking some mind altering drug and them coughing and this skit gives way to a light and tranquil beat. The first verse is laid down nice gentle and the pace doesn't pick up till the second verse which is again the rather crazed voice of Prince Paul. I love the chorus to this one as it keeps with the slightly synthesised feel of the beginning and the track constantly moves in different direction with the raps and keeps you listening all the way through. I really like this and it is one of my favourites from the album.
5.2 Cups of Blood - 1.24
"Resurrect the mental dead". With this lyric you can get a feel for what sort of content this small track contains and it is pretty heavy although with a few horror movie references including Freddie Cruger it again reminds you that it is just a show. The beats are heavy and the raps seamless and although not one of my favourites from the album still one worth listening to especially as it is so short anyway. Plus it does lead smoothly into the following track.
6.Blood Brothers - 4.47
This track has heavy drums as a baseline that have an overlying messy beat which is offset with some top class scratching. Put this music together with the raps however the track feels slightly messy and more difficult to listen to. I do still like the song though and there are sections of it that are lively and slightly jazzy and this gives a whole other dimension to the album but is still very much in keeping with the theme of crazy horror.
7.360 Questions - 0.33
A small skit with various people asking the Gravediggaz all sorts of different questions from "How many bites does it take to chew your F***ing arm off?" to "Do maggots get drunk when they bury alcoholics". This small section of the album keeps it light as it can be and adds to bringing in the next track well
8.1-800 Suicide - 4.18
My second favourite song from the whole album. With slow and lyrically sublime raps laid over a guitar rift and an organ it all just works so well. The whole song has a really easy to follow story to it which as you could probably guess from the name of the song is about suicide. It goes through various methods of taking your own life which have a slightly comical feel to it. "You don't wanna live no more, I guess your really ready for the grave yard tour. When you get home just seal up your windows and your doors, turn the oven on high for about 4 hours. Light you a blunt, kiss your a** goodbye. Its a suicide." Although to most people this might seem like a really wired choice of music to listen to, you really have to hear it to appreciate it for what it is. I think the small sample from the film Ferris Buller's Day Off makes for a good section where he says "Yep, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to take a look around once in a whole you might just miss it!" Great track!
9.Diary of a Madman - 4.34 ( Feat; Killah Priest)
This has got to be the darkest track on the album and personally my favourite as again it has a really easy to follow story. It starts with a woman screaming and you then hear a judge calling for order in the court. A barrister then talks "Okay I understand you guys are pleading insanity claiming demonic spirits possess you to do these hideous murders. Can you please explain to the court how these so called spirits made you into these raving mad men?" We then have a very hypnotic and eerie beat which accompanies the dark raps perfectly. I think the lyrics of the song have been really well though out and basically just like a film script making you see your own music video in your head. A really good track where of course they are found GUILTY!
10.Mommy, What's a Gravedigga? - 1.44
This track is really spacey at first with light and funky beats that change the mood of the CD from the last song that was played. It has yet again Prince Paul laying down his crazy raps which are really easy to listen to. This one has an even more comical feel to it than previous tracks and this would have to be the constant changing tones of the raps which again follows the insanity of the CD.
11.Bang Your Head - 3.24
This has got to be my least favourite track of the album as it really seems to be a lot of shouting and noise as music. Now this seems like how my mum would describe most of this sort of music but with this song it is really apt. The base is way to heavy and hard for my liking and the simple raps are literally screamed into the mic making it a track that I will always skip through and on to the next.
12.Here Comes the Gravediggaz - 3.44
Love this one as it is a bit fun and funky. "Gravy, UhHu." "You don't pull on Superman's cape, You don't spit into the wind, You don't pull the mask of the old Lone Ranger and you can't F**k with me with and my men" A great sample taken from Jim Croce's 1972 album "Don't mess with Big Jim". The rest of the track again has some deep and heavy raps which all come across well and this is a good tune to listen to.
13.Graveyard Chamber - 4.57
A darker track than the few before with a definite horror movie feel to it. The repetitive beat and winding feel to the music makes for a good anticipating feel when listening to it. The raps and heavy and laid down well against the backing music which really takes a step back so that you are able to really appreciate the lyric content of the track. Good tune.
14.Deathtrap - 4.36 (Featuring Masta Ace)
"You can't come back. No matter what you do when you fall in the death trap". The beat of this one is really funky but personally I don't feel that the lyrics are as strong as many others from the album therefore it is not really one of my favourites and I find it somewhat forgettable. It feels a bit like a space filler to me but still not overly bad.
15.6 Feet Deep - 4.36
The start of this one has the group doing a bit of freestyle and this is cool to listen to with them all larking about and sounding like they were having fun making the album. The track itself however it really strange but in a good way. The raps are really up and down in tone and the beat is really slow and plonky but this seems to work in a weird way. This track is where RZA really takes the lead in his wacked out way. I like it but not one of the best and I feel well placed near the end of the CD.
16.Rest In Peace (Outro) - 2.01
Using a sample of Ice Cubes "No Vaseline" this outro works really well in bringing the album to a close. It keeps the style of the whole album in the crazy horror way with Prince Paul shouting out every member of the Gravediggaz and fits perfectly for the final track.
Overall I think this album is brilliant and different from a lot of albums there were released around this time and indeed today. It is very dark and horrific and I certainly would say it would not be to everyone's taste. However the lyrical content and the way the whole album has been put together really works and makes for very good CD.
I think I will award a five out of five star rating and give it a recommendation but also give a bit of a warning with it too as I can't say it's something I would want my son listening to when he grows up. It would really have to be taken for a complete dramatisation and not at all taken as real life or seriously in the least!
A true classic
Gee Street Records
I do hope that this has been of some help/interest to you.
Many thanks for taking the time to read.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Just When You Thought It Was Over (Intro) - Leroy & The Drivers
2 Constant Elevation - Gravediggaz, Allen Toussaint
3 Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide
4 Defective Trip (Trippin') - Gravediggaz, John Ussery
5 2 Cups of Blood
6 Blood Brothers
7 360 Questions
8 1-800-Suicide - Booker T. & the MG's, Gravediggaz, Just-Ice, KRS-One
9 Diary of a Madman
10 Mommy, What's a Gravedigga? - Gravediggaz,
11 Bang Your Head
12 Here Comes the Gravediggaz
13 Graveyard Chamber
14 Death Trap - Gravediggaz, The Whole Darn Family
15 6 Feet Deep
16 Rest in Peace (Outro)