Hip-hop may not be the first genre one thinks of when curating a Halloween playlist, but just because there may not be as many allusions to the supernatural as a genre as say, goth, doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of scary rap songs out there. Because trust us, there are a lot.
Whether its in experimental production or alarming lyrical content, hip-hop is littered with tracks that go to some extremely dark, nightmarish places. And to get in the spirit of Halloween, we’ve rounded up a few rap songs that continually manage to send a shiver up our spine.
From a jarring work from punk-rap provocateurs Death Grips to tracks from icons like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar to obscure deep cuts (some of which are literal deep cuts), here are 10 scary rap songs guaranteed to put you on edge.
Death Grips – “Birds”
Thanks to the potent combination of MC Ride’s tortured screaming-style of delivery, experimental instrumentation and production that sounds more at home in a warzone than a club, Death Grips have nailed the art of creating nightmarish soundscapes more than any other band in recent memory. Picking just one scary song from their catalogue is a challenge; pretty much any track they’ve ever released could claim a spot on this list.
Nevertheless, there is something particularly unsettling about “Birds,” a track from their 2014 album Government Plates. Ride delivers a pared-down, slurred vocal turn here, meshing perfectly with the lurching beat and sickeningly abrasive lines of synth. Fun fact – that’s Robert Pattinson you hear on guitar, adding another healthy layer of WTF to this bizarro track.
Eminem – “Kim”
Eminem’s career is rife with songs that depict an uncomfortable amount of violent content towards women. All of them are disturbing, but none come close to the sheer, relentless psychopathy that is “Kim.”
The most controversial track he’s put to tape by a long shot, “Kim” is a journey into the darkest recesses of Eminem’s mind. His vocal delivery, already infamously jarring, is here unhinged; his voice cracking and breaking with each shriek. What his daughter thinks of a song describing the brutal murder of her mother is beyond comprehension, but to our ears, it is a document of domestic abuse almost too horrifying to listen to.
Immortal Technique – “Dance With the Devil”
Love Story is by no means a horror film – unless you’re discussing the scarring effects of Ryan O’Neal’s acting abilities – but the theme song to the 1970 melodrama becomes warped into something Michael Myers would use to soundtrack his latest killing spree to in the hands of Immortal Technique. Seriously, that is one terrifying piano line.
But if only that were the scariest element of “Dance With the Devil,” an engrossing bit of storytelling that contains some nauseating details of rape and murder. It is a cautionary tale at heart, but one that is a journey through absolute hell every second of the way.
Kanye West – “I Am a God”
Yes, the lyrics here have become far more memeable than manic (there is literally nothing frightening about a line like “hurry up with my damn croissants”), but production-wise this is the most unpredictable, eerie song on Yeezus, Kanye West’s most unpredictable, eerie album.
Kanye’s iconic lyrics lose any quality of humor they have on their own when paired with air-raid siren production and the caterwaul of industrial sounds that insert themselves at random, without any rhythm or cue to anticipate them. And then of course there are the guttural screams and ragged breathing that appear in a section of silence halfway through, the musical equivalent of a jump-scare.
Kendrick Lamar – “u”
From the maniacal screams to the semi-creepy jazz music in the intro, you know this one’s gonna be a spooker from the start. K Dot battles his inner demons on “u,” tackling his feelings of inadequacy and being honest about his struggles with depression and alcoholism. As Lamar himself put it, “That shit is depressing as a motherfucker.”
Kid Cudi – “MANIAC”
Though it may not reach the heights of the pitch-black short film created to accompany it, “MANIAC” is pretty creepy stuff. Hearing Kid Cudi, an artist who had previously made a name for himself as a generation’s hipster-stoner goof, veer sharply into the mania of drug addiction and its after-effects was a startling listen when it arrived in 2010.
Even now, the track has a swirling, ethereal quality that serves to set one on edge. This is thanks largely to an ingenious sample of St. Vincent, looping the chorus of her song “The Strangers” into a haunting, sing-song beat. Paint the blackhole blacker indeed.
Lil Wop – “Walking Dead”
We probably could have chosen any Lil Wop song for this list, with his now-signature undead vocals, but this one is literally called “Walking Dead.” Gucci Mane’s protégé is also the closest we’ll ever get to a rapping zombie, which also definitely warrants his inclusion.
With intonation best described as creaky and downright creepy production by Kenny Beats, this cut off his latest mixtape Wopaveli 3 will haunt you well beyond Halloween.
Necro – “Circle of Tyrants”
“I’m like a dead corpse crawling out the dirt, on some zombie shit” is one of the most fittingly spooky opening lines you can get, but that barely scratches the surface of Necro’s “Circle of Tyrants.” By song’s end, we’re also treated to such mental images as beetles crawling out of eyes, a surplus of maggots and just about every bodily fluid there is getting name-checked in the most gruesome way imaginable.
Necro began his career in a death metal band, which goes a long way in explaining the almost-comically dark lyrics. We say almost, as such foul viscera becomes less funny when it’s paired with production straight out of a vintage horror movie.
The Notorious B.I.G. – “Suicidal Thoughts”
The emotional arc of this track can be best described as ‘bleak, bleak and bleaker.’ And that’s even before you consider the uncomfortable prescience of Biggie saying lines like “I feel like death is calling me” a short time before his callous murder.
Over muted, hazy production that inserts gunshots and a slowly fading heartbeat, The Notorious B.I.G. delivers a brutally honest telling of his longing for the embrace of the grave. “I swear to God I want to just slit my wrists and end this bullshit” is about as unsubtle as it gets, but it does little to deter the incredibly human, even vulnerable, admissions made across its brief runtime.
Tyler, The Creator – “Bastard”
As the opening track to his first-ever mixtape, “Bastard” served as an incendiary introduction to the world of Tyler, The Creator. Which is to say, not many were prepared for an internet-savvy, 18-year old emcee to enter the world with bars such as “I cut my wrist and play piano cause I’m so depressed / Somebody call the pastor, this bastard is so possessed.”
Now that we’re a bit more adjusted to the manic world of Tyler and the Odd Future crew, it’s clear to see that the seeds of his life’s work are all here in this title track, from the Daddy issues to the gleefully crass wordplay to the horrifying depictions of violence. But “Bastard” displays a razor-sharp edge that became softened in his later work; as the saying goes, the first cut is the deepest.
For more of our guides, take a look at every André 3000 verse you should know right here.
- Cover Image: Emma McIntyre / Stringer / Getty Images