Origin – New York City, U.S.
Genres – East Coast hip hop, horrorcore, gangsta rap
Years active – 1992–2002; 2011-present
Labels – Gee Street/Island/PolyGram
Associated acts – True Master, Tricky, Killah Priest, Scientific Shabazz, Dreddy Kruger
Members – The Gatekeeper
Past members – The Grym Reaper (deceased)
The Rzarector (RZA)
Gravediggaz is an American hip hop group from New York City, well known for its dark sense of humor and abrasive, menacing soundscapes. The group was formed in 1994 and was effectively a supergroup, bringing together Prince Paul (The Undertaker), Frukwan (The Gatekeeper), Too Poetic (The Grym Reaper) and RZA (The Rzarector). Its inception was largely due to the efforts of Prince Paul. The group is widely credited as being one of the most influential and pioneering groups in the small hip-hop subgenre of horrorcore.
The group’s first album was originally titled Niggamortis; however, the potentially risqué title was changed to 6 Feet Deep for the American market (European versions of the album retained the original title, and also included the bonus track “Pass the Shovel”). Released on August 9, 1994, 6 Feet Deep was a mix of black humor, cartoonish violence reminiscent of the Geto Boys, esoteric references to the Nation of Gods and Earths, and some of Paul’s darkest production. The four members adopted Gravedigga alter egos for their work with the group: The RZA became Rzarector, Poetic became the Grym Reaper, Prince Paul became the Undertaker, and Frukwan became the Gatekeeper. The three rapping members (without Prince Paul) released a collaborative EP titled “The Hell EP” with UK trip hop artist Tricky in 1995.
The second full-length Gravediggaz album, The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel, was less humorous. The album dealt more with social and political issues than 6 Feet Deep; it also used calmer and more conventional production. Prince Paul played a considerably smaller role in the making of this album, with many of the production duties now taken care of by RZA and his Wu-Tang associates (including True Master and 4th Disciple).
A bootleg Gravediggaz album surfaced in 1998, called Scenes From The Graveyard. It featured 7 unreleased tracks plus some remixes from the first two albums.
The Gravediggaz recruited DJ Diamond J around the turn of the millennium. Poetic finally succumbed to colon cancer in July 2001. Frukwan stated in an interview not long after Poetic’s death that a new album using leftover Poetic material would be released.Nightmare in A-Minor, the third official album for Gravediggaz, was released independently in 2001; it featured two of the original members, Poetic and Frukwan. This album was their darkest work yet. It includes many references to Poetic’s struggle with colon cancer, as well as a focus on the more apocalyptic themes of the teachings of the Five Percent Nation. Although RZA did not take part in the making of the album, some Wu-Tang Clan affiliates such as 4th Disciple, True Master and Beretta 9 were involved. The album was mostly produced by Poetic and Frukwan themselves. A different version of the album (minus the song “Better Wake Up”) was released to widespread critical acclaim in 2002. Some of the tracks previously created by Poetic were replaced, or altered.
In 2003 Frukwan released his debut solo album, Life. The fourth Gravediggaz album 6 Feet Under was released in 2004 and featured songs from Nightmare in A-Minor and Life which was mentioned in an interview on wu-International. According to Frukwan, he had nothing to do with the release from Cleopatra Records and noted that the Titles were changed without permission, further showing an unauthorized release. Legal remedies were noted as being addressed.
In 2010, Gravediggaz recorded a new song, “2 More Cups of Blood”. As of 2011, it was revealed that the group has been recording a reunion album, minus the late Poetic. RZA has said he only needs about 3 more songs and Prince Paul agreed to be part of the project. Shabazz The Disciple & Killah Priest are said to be heavily involved in the new recording sessions.
Style and influence
According to Frukwan, the group’s name means “digging graves of the mentally dead, and it stood for resurrecting the mentally dead from their state of unawareness and ignorance.” Gravediggaz is widely known as a pioneer in the genre of horrorcore, focusing primarily on issues presented as macabre black humor (such as suicide, death, killing, psychopathy, hell, etc..), as a way of presenting social criticism towards the music industry.
Main article: Gravediggaz discography
6 Feet Deep (1994)
The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel (1997)
Nightmare in A-Minor (2002)
Red Everything Movement