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South Park Psycho

The indomitable Ganksta NIP updates his résumé with new ­album Psych Swag.

Ganksta NIP is a scary person. That's really the best way to describe him.

He's not some great, physically awe-inspiring specimen. At about 5'10", 180 lbs., he'd probably rank a little above average. But there's just something about him that's hostile.

Even his smile feels sinister, although, fundamentally, it looks just like any other smile.

Ganksta NIP (right) and Candyman work the grind outside Studio 360 barbershop.
Shea Serrano
Ganksta NIP (right) and Candyman work the grind outside Studio 360 barbershop.

But NIP's entire smiling process, which takes maybe half a second, feels exceedingly dynamic. There's something behind it. He smiles the way the bad guy in a movie smiles right before he throws a hostage off a roof just to make a point.

And when he aims it at you? Remember the way the clown from It smiled at Jonathan Brandis? That's what it feels like — except this shit is real, which makes it way worse.

And then there's that laugh, a slow cackle that bubbles up out of nowhere. It sounds like something you should hear right before you die.

To hear NIP's music, you'd almost certainly conclude that somebody has. Officially Rowdy Williams, he's a longtime practitioner of horrorcore, a not-for-the-squeamish rap subgenre dominated by aggressive beats and themes of cannibalism, murder, rape and general schizophrenia.

Authentic hard copies of NIP's out-of-print albums regularly sell online at upwards of $80. An unopened copy of his sophomore LP, Psychic Thoughts — the same one found in the tape deck of a youth's car who killed a police officer in 1993 — will run you a clean $140.

Within horrorcore culture, NIP is an unquestioned legend. In a 70-second span on "Horror Movie Rap," the first song of his 1991 groundbreaking debut South Park Psycho, he makes the following claims:

"Woke up this morning with a dead dog on me, so I thought, huh, bologna."

"Cut off your head, mmmm, Thanksgiving."

"Some say I'm insane 'cause I married a dead horse."

"Dead men walking 'round cuttin' throats with a violin."

"I ain't gon' lie, I feel like killing my niece."

"Tied a needle to my dick, then my grandmother rode me."

The creative trajectory of NIP's lyrics, and his career, have never deviated from that path in 18 years. It is precisely the reason why we're feeling a little uneasy.

At the moment, we're sitting inside his SUV in a parking lot off of West Bellfort, listening to NIP's personal copy of forthcoming LP Psych Swag. It's 11:30 a.m. on a sunny Thursday; he's holding exactly three knives.

"Make sure you write that down," he says, picking up each one for effect. "For all them haters out there, let 'em know that I stay carrying."

Twenty years in the game has done little to dull his enthusiasm for music. Psych Swag will be NIP's eighth official studio album, the second on his independent label Psych Ward Entertainment. As it plays, he raps along with each track, alternating between pantomiming scenarios from each song calmly and excitedly banging on the center console.

NIP switches from stealth mode to explosive action instantaneously. Watching him rap up close is akin to seeing a bull shark hunt. We are fully prepared to be murdered.

It makes sense that the interview has meandered into his SUV; this is where NIP now spends most of his workday. It's typically full of designer jeans and boxes of Jordans and wallets and purses. He was born in the hustle, and as his rap career has slowed, he's embraced it.

"That's what's wrong with these young guys," he says, speaking over "Hustleman," a booming track that paints NIP's day-to-day life selling the aforementioned accessories in superhero reds and blues.

"They don't know how to do anything else," he offers. "When rap dries up and it's time to be a man, they don't know what to do. You gotta understand, I've been hustling since I was a kid. I used to go to the grocery store and push baskets for a $2 tip. This is what I know."

Each day, the onetime Rap-A-Lot standout makes his rounds through a circuit of barbershops across Houston, 56 in all. He is perpetual motion — "You ever see a hustler standing still," he says, "then he's an idiot" — peddling whatever is in his possession.

NIP claims to make $500 to $1,000 a day, a figure that feels genuine. Everything he says feels genuine, even when it's absurd.

"Do you live in this area?"

"I'm a psychopath, I live in the sky."

Fuck a silver tongue, NIP speaks — and raps — with platinum. He's menacing and exceptionally sociable at the same time, an ideal combination of character traits for hustlers and serial killers alike.

And for all of the psycho talk, he is a hell of a nice person. Scary nice, but nice nonetheless. Nearly every answer he gives is accompanied by that smile. He leverages his own ability into successes for those around him.

NIP would only consent to an interview if it took place outside of Studio 360, a barbershop where he's begun each and every one of his days for the past four years.

"This was the first spot that allowed me to come and hustle in," says NIP. "Me and Steph [360 owner Stephanie Kidsy] just became real good friends. I protected her a couple times and...we really just built a monster friendship."

He knows everyone's names and introduces them by showering praises on each, particularly Candyman, whom NIP utilized as a music producer on Swag. He insists on being photographed at each barber's respective station, then that they all be photographed together outside the front of the shop.

Even in the middle of the workday, nobody thinks this is strange. For two hours, NIP stands outside the shop, juggling his attention between interview questions, the shop's regulars and his constantly ringing cell phone.

Eventually, the inevitable question comes up: Why are you like this?

"Man, it's like this," he begins. "I was born with 12 fingers. Do you know what that means? A lot of people take that to mean that there was another person in [the womb] with me. And I absorbed 'em into me. I'm special. I was just talking to my mother the other day, and she was telling me how when I was first born and they let her hold me, I kept shocking her. My body was creating so much electricity.

"This psych shit is natural. I was put here to do this. There wasn't anything that happened to me when I was little — maybe something ­happened to my mom that she didn't tell me."

Then he laughs that laugh.

Ganksta NIP is a scary person. That may be the only way to describe him.

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