When picturing Houston hip-hop, most fans are apt to conjure images of hedonistic success: candy paint, gold grills and a cup full of purple stuff. And why not? The good times roll on a set of wire-spoke rims down here. But from its very earliest days, the city's sound of the streets has contained its fair share of darker themes as well: Drugs. Misogyny. Murder. In the '80s and early '90s, especially, it wasn't all good in the 'hood.
Nowadays, most local MCs are content to rap around the edges of this heart of hip-hop darkness, careful not to stare into it too deeply. But in that same darkness there still dwells a man known as Ganxsta NIP.
His 1992 Rap-A-Lot debut, The South Park Psycho, pushed past the violent and gritty lyricism of MCs like Ice-T into a whole new territory of fucked up. Rhymes about chainsaws, cannibalism, dismemberment and necrophilia cast Ganxsta NIP as the villain in an auditory slasher movie. This wasn't hardcore rap; this was horrorcore. And like any good horror-movie villain, Ganxsta NIP always returns for another taste of blood.
After more than two decades in the hip-hop underground, Ganxsta NIP is back with a new album, proclaiming himself the God of Horrorcore Rap. Drenched in anxiety-inducing production work, NIP's thoughtfully gruesome lyrics on the new record are punctuated by the cackling laughter of a gleeful psychopath.
Distributed through his own label, Psych Ward Entertainment, there's a certain sinister, homemade quality to the record, like strange footage found on an unmarked VHS tape left behind in a creepy-ass cabin in the woods.
What possesses a rapper to write love songs to a knife, with couplets like "Cut that nigga's ass up, homie, limb to limb/ His family members came running, so I stuck it in them?"
"God just gave me the talent to do it," NIP says simply.
On the phone, he's soft-spoken and humble but seems tense, like someone who's constantly on the verge of cracking up into something you can't begin to handle.
"It's easy for me to write a horrorcore song, when it's harder for me to write something that's for the radio or something just positive," he adds. "It's harder. But I can write a horrorcore song in 10-15 minutes and be done. That's what made me the god of horrorcore, because God gave me the talent to do it."
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That talent first manifested itself at Jesse H. Jones High School in South Park, where a young Ganxsta NIP first fell in love with the streetwise rhymes of the burgeoning hip-hop movement in the early '80s. There, NIP befriended other young cats from the neighborhood who would form the nucleus of Houston's first rap clique, the highly influential South Park Coalition.
"I was hanging out with certain guys from the S.P.C. that went to the same high school as me, like Murder One and Klondike Kat," NIP says. "I'm a big Ice-T fan, so I always liked the hardcore rap. Once I picked it up, I just took it my own way. I didn't want to be like everyone else. I wanted to create something that I could call my own."
NIP's "own way" was as influenced by '80s slasher flicks as it was by early gangsta rap. The lyricist says his favorite horror movies feature seemingly harmless or charming villains, like Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates, who are secretly capable of ghastly acts of murder and cannibalism.
The world was first introduced to his perverse take on hip-hop by the Geto Boys' 1992 hit "Chuckie,"which was penned by NIP and went worldwide. In the coming years, his gonzo style would influence artists from Three 6 Mafia to the Insane Clown Posse.
But Ganxsta NIP has always taken pains to tell the world that horrorcore rap was pioneered in South Park neighborhood of Houston, Texas. That's what the new record is all about. Every line was composed out on the streets of the city, where Ganxsta NIP plies his trade as a hustler in barbershops and parking lots around town.
NIP promises that there will be more to come from him soon, from music videos to a greatest hits package to a new album in January. Just when the world manages to forget for a moment that he's out there, the South Park Psycho will be ready to pop out of the shadows once more.
"I've been checking the game out and checking out these other horrorcore rappers," NIP says. "I took my time with this album. I think that I just needed to remind everyone that these other cats are not the creator. It took me about a good 10 months to do, because I wanted it right.
"I think I've really mastered the style and it's even better now, for me," he adds. "It's like fine wine: it never gets old, it just gets better."
God of Horrorcore Rap is available now from iTunes or from Ganxsta NIP himself at PayPal address email@example.com.
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