Hip-hop has always been hyperbole. But what happens when the hyperbole is pushed to extremes? What happens when lyrics become slasher flick gruesome, when fantasies becomes acts of violence, when getting high and drunk at a party becomes addiction, paranoia and psychosis? You get horrorcore, an often maligned sub-genre that has existed for nearly as long as hip-hop itself and that specializes in the macabre, the sinister, and the shocking. What has kept hip-hop fresh for over 40 years are the constant innovations from various sub-genres. But for some reason there’s always been a challenge with properly tracking the dark corner of the music known as horrorcore. Like gangsta rap, horrorcore cannot be contained to a specific geographic area. Now that the internet has made music fans more connected than ever, one suspects horrorcore is always going to be there lurking in the shadows.
Though not exclusively, pure horrorcore, Illicit S is a rapper based in the United Kingdom. His debut single and music video “KILL KILL” are both available now. The track depicts the experience of psychosis, as Illicit S weaves a horrorcore vibe into the lyrics and instrumentation, creating a mood of impending doom.
A dark, slow but throbbing beat runs this track. Illicit S macabre, yet deeply resonant flow, is tight and sinister: “These voices are telling me kill kill, and I’m not trying to harbor any ill will, so I’ll hold em down until still and give em a forever chill pill.”
Moving forward Illicit S’ lyrics become even more explicit: “As in dead from an overdose and when I saw the dead body a boner rose. As I like a grim sight, so I’ll cut the stomach open and look inside for insight.”
The delivery not only revels in this heinous way of thinking, but almost sounds stuck in it, with no hope to cure this psychosis. This very subtle sadness just goes to add to the inky darkness of this record. The beat here is even more hellishly distressing, which helps to add to the menacing character displayed here.
The hi-hats are sharp and hit hard, while the strings are piercing and foreboding in their execution. The bass, which is one of the most frightening parts of the music, is dark and low, demanding your attention despite how subtle it is.
All of these elements are mixed in a way that puts the focus on the drum beat, but with the bass and the aching strings building a demanding sense of dark atmosphere., It all paints a horrifying image of what Illicit S’ protagonist has in mind: “I’m a mad man and messing with me is a bad plan, so if you had plans of messing with me you’re a mad man.”
Although “KILL KILL” may be too explicit for some with a weaker sense of being, something about how gloomy and evil it sounds is alluring, in a twisted way. It follows a conflicted man through tales of inner struggle and twisted existential thoughts, before a somewhat unexpected ending.
Hip-hop has always been about expression, and how one expresses themselves. Illicit S has certainly mastered the art, despite whether you like his brand of horrorcore or not.