I always wondered why "scary music" wasn't a genre. We have scary movies, scary TV shows, but as far as I know, no scary songs. Sure, there's "The Monster Mash" and "Thriller." And there's a band called Slayer that I assume is as moderately scary as an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But so far I haven't ever heard a song that was so scary I had to turn it off, unless you count those creepy cassette tapes with haunted house noises that they sell around Halloween time. But that's not really music as much as someone dragging a chain across a concrete floor and moaning.*
But then I discovered the 90s hip hop station on Pandora and spent the day listening to sick jams that made my skin crawl. I just may have nightmares tonight about bitches, hoes, mo' money, and DMX's voice. (Have you heard that guy's voice? If he's looking for work, I'm sure he could get a job with the people who sell those haunted house cassettes.) The guy has an album called It's Dark and Hell is Hot. And on the cover of his next album, he Carrie-s us.
There's also a rap group called Terror Squad, fronted by the terrifyingly fat Fat Joe (full name Fat Joe da Gangsta). Would I want to run into Fat Joe in a dark alley? No, I would not.
Another scary-ass rapper I wouldn't want to meet in an alley? 50 Cent. Besides having a face that could turn you to stone, the guy also started selling drugs at the age of 12 and somehow managed to survive being shot nine times. NINE TIMES.
Snoop Dogg/Lion has been arrested for murder and possession of cocaine. Jay-Z allegedly stabbed a guy in the stomach with a five-inch blade at a nightclub. Ice Cube released a song called "Fuck tha Police," which, aside from the unforgivable misspelling of "the," isn't that scary on its own; but the song allegedly caught the attention of the FBI, who told him he better check himself. That's kind of scary.
So what happened to all these legit gangsta rappers? For one, they're all in their 40s now. It's nearly impossible to be scary once you hit the big 4-0, unless you're in the mafia or something. Plus, none of them even tried to retain their gangsta appeal: DMX filed for bankruptcy and found Jesus. Fat Joe went on a low-carb diet. (I'm serious--I can't make this stuff up. Actually I was going to make that up and then I found out it was true.) 50 Cent apparently lives in Connecticut and tweets stock tips now.
Snoop Dogg had his own reality show called Snoop Dogg's Father Hood, which showcased his family man inclinations. Jay-Z had a child in wedlock, which means he probably changes diapers and wipes baby puke off his clothes. He also released a song detailing his and Beyonce's difficulties getting pregnant, which is about the least hood thing I've ever heard. Ice Cube decided Are We There Yet? was a good idea to participate in. Then he decided to reprise his role in Are We Done Yet? If you're asking about your role as a hip hop BAMF, then yes, Ice Cube, we're done.
So why aren't today's rappers scary either? They're not 40. But is anyone afraid of Drake, even after his broken bottle fight with Chris Brown? (Hell, I'm not even scared of Chris Brown.) Kanye West is on the cover of Vogue and was photographed with his baby peeing on him. He's also joining the Kardashian family. Scary, but in a different way.
Macklemore shops at Goodwill and supports gay people, which is awesome, but not scary. Big Sean was an honor student and chose "Oh God" as his rap slogan. Jason Derulo is actually someone I would like to meet in a dark alley so I could punish him for his autotune offenses. B.o.B. apparently performs in blazers and newsboy hats.
What has HAPPENED to hip hop?
I have three hypotheses:
1) Autotune: I'm sure Jason Derulo would be friggin TERRIFYING if he didn't have autotune. Can you imagine Tupac with autotune? No, you can't, because if Tupac were alive today he'd personally murder the person who invented autotune. With a gun.
2) Celebrity overexposure: If it weren't for reality TV, Snoop Dogg couldn't have put his "fatherhood" on display and Kanye West wouldn't even have a baby mama. Now that we can see that stars are "just like us," we realize that the same goes for rappers. They aren't still dodging nine (NINE?) bullets on the streets every night; they are cooking risotto and watching Game of Thrones like the rest of us.
3) Age: Like I said, all good things must come to an end. You can't be a middle-aged dad and expect to have the same effect on people as you did when you used to kill people for fun. Dr. Dre is literally old enough to be someone's grandpa. Snoop Dogg looks like someone's great grandpa. Grandpa's aren't scary, unless they're really Johnny Knoxville.
*Apparently there was also a genre called "horrorcore," featuring the musical stylings of Gravediggaz (their first album was called Niggamortis, I mean come on), but sadly, it too no longer exists, unless you count Insane Clown Posse, which I don't.