ICP's "Echo Side": The Only Truly Spooky Rap Song Ever?
Frequent visitors here will note that Rocks Off is not much of a rap guy... and Halloween is one of the reasons why. See, we grew up as rap and hip-hop did, and consequently we got to watch the genre go through an adolescent phase just as awkward and embarrassing as anybody else's. One of those embarrassments is whenever rap tries to be spooky.
One of the things you saw a lot was the use of rap songs to try and sell horror movies. Who can ever forget The Fat Boys being chased by Freddy Krueger in the ill-fated marketing abortion they called "Are You Ready for Freddy?" for A Nightmare on Elm Street Part IV: The Dream Master?
No one knows why the hell it was necessary to get the Fat Boys to try and push the film anyway. We were already up to three sequels, and the damn film opens with a dog pissing fire. If you can't catch an audience with a fire-pissing dog, then it's time to hang up your ascot and quit filmmaking.
No mention of awful horror-movie tie-in rap songs would ever be complete without mentioning LL Cool J's "Deepest Bluest." The song's one lovable attribute was the fact that hearing it meant that Deep Blue Sea was over. And you really wanted that film to be over because only people with incredibly out-of-control shark phobias - like us - were even remotely frightened by it.
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Mr. Cool J himself starred in the film, and broke all the usual rules by being an African-American protagonist in a horror film who lives. Apparently test audiences booed the first screenings until they re-shot the ending with the final shark eating the skinny British chick who started the whole mess instead of Mr. Cool J. So, though we give him his props for breaking the mold, we must also give him his whacks for thinking for one minute that anyone anywhere wanted to hear him bust rhymes about mutant Makos.
Our hope for a legitimately spooky rap song fell to an all-time low when we heard The Undertaker give it a shot. Yes, that Undertaker. The Dead Man of wrestling was definitely one of our heroes growing up, and we were completely convinced that he really did carry the cremated remains of his parents to the ring in an urn. Imagine our surprise when we were making a WWE mix tape and ran across "The Man in Black," a hip-hop piece from early in the Phenom's career.
Maybe calling it rap is not the most legitimate label. One could, we guess, say it's an incredible bit of avant-garde spoken-word that you can dance to. One could also say that it makes a man taller and meaner than an armored Hummer look like a complete tool. If The Undertaker can't spooky up rap, then all hope is lost, right?
Confession time. Rocks Off used to be a fairly big ICP fan. We were not a Juggalo. We were merely very intrigued by the whole mythology the band had built up throughout the run of the Joker Cards until the series ended with a lame "Thanks God" at the end of The Wraith. As crappy endings go, it was pretty crappy, and we probably haven't listened to one of the clowns' albums since then.
But hidden near the end of the group's fifth album, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, is a track that Rocks Off truly feels is one of, if not the only, truly spooky rap songs in existence. It's called, "Echo Side."
The song is one of those select few that hardcore ICP fans seem to largely dislike, which is a pretty good indication of either extreme fail, or extreme win. The song details the plight of a sinner who manages to escape through the back door of Hell before being imprisoned in his appointed lake of fire.
The land surrounding hell is a sterile tomb under a blood-red sky full of headless children. As the man tries harder and harder to run away, his arms and leg decay, leaving him only able to roll away from the screams wile the headless urinate in his path. Eventually, he rolls towards some fortress gates, only to find that he'd traveled in a wide circle to the front doors of Satan's lair.
We can only assume the Juggalos avoid it because the words "titties" and "nuts" are never said once. Instead, we are treated to a very monotone and sedate Violent J reciting the mini-fable in an extremely matter-of-fact way that is almost Lovecraftian in both its horror and simplicity. It's a wonderful little mindfuck that we believe you could play in any goth club and leave an audience wanting more.
Unfortunately, there is no more.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.
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