Today, “Diary of a Madman” by Gravediggaz is my favorite song.
When I went off to college in the fall of 1993, I was a metalhead. I mostly listened to metal in its numerous forms. There were some deviations such as Cypress Hill, Black Sheep, Dr. Dre, NWA, Beastie Boys, but rap wasn’t my main focus.
Unbeknownst to me, in 1991, the supergroup Gravediggaz, consisting of Prince Paul, The RZA, Frukwan, and Poetic, was formed. As Gravediggaz, they performed under the monikers of The Undertaker, The RZArector, The Gatekeeper, and The Grym Reaper, respectively. Two years later in August of 1993, and also unbeknownst to me, they released an album called, “6 Feet Deep”. This album changed my life.
I spent a lot of my freshman year getting into punk and hardcore music, so expanding my knowledge of rap music was on the back burner. I also missed “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” I was living in a bit of a music bubble.
But in the spring of 1994, I was home on a break and hanging out with some metalhead friends. I don’t remember exactly who played the song for me, whether it was Shane, Shawn, Dave, or who knows. But they were basically like, you need to check this shit out. It’s called Gravediggaz and they rap about horror shit. They played the song, “Diary of a Madman,” which I can only assume was purposely named after the 1981 Ozzy Osbourne Album of the same name.
The song begins with a woman screaming “They killed my baby! Oh god, they killed my baby!” After which an angry judge yells, “Order in the court!”
At this moment, I’m thinking, you sure this isn’t the new Deicide album? But it wasn’t.
The intro moves on and the judge asks the four defendants to rise and approach the bench, at which point the song begins and each of the Gravediggas tells a horror story about their lives. This song even has guest appearances from Killah Priest and Shabazz the Disciple, who opens up the track with the lyrics:
Bear witness as I exercise my exorcism
The evil that lurks within the sin, the terrorism
Possessed by evil spirits, voices from the dead
I come forth with Gravediggaz in a head full of dread
I’ve been examined ever since I was semen
They took a sonogram and seen the image of a demon
Evil spirits? Voices from the dead? Image of a demon? As a metalhead kid who listened to bands with names like Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Dismember, I was was pretty sold on what was happening in “Diary of a Madman.” And so were all my friends.
Let’s also get to the music in this song. It’s pretty minimalistic. The kick drum hits hard in the spirit of boom bap. The eerie high pitched ghostly voice that soars under the beat is so creepy. Again: sold.
Let’s get to some more lyrics. I could quote every line of this song as over the top crazy, but one of my favorite section is the end of The RZA’s verse:
Ahh!! I cry
As the blood drips inside of my eye refusing to die
Visions of Hell tormented my faith
So I chewed my fucking arm off and made an escape
Now even from the first listening I had a feeling that the Gravediggaz were tongue in cheek. When I heard “So I chewed my fucking arm off and made an escape.” I basically was like, that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard. I was laughing, but at the same time it’s a visceral image. Turned out that this RZA guy would become kind of a big deal.
I’m going to paraphrase my friend Shane, and add a bit of my own thoughts: Metal and rap are great to listen to because musically, they’re complete opposites. When you get sick of one genre, listen to the other. They compliment each other.
Unfortunately, however true that is, the fusion of rap and metal has produced countless aural atrocities over the past twenty years, from Limp Bizkit to Kid Rock. While I might like the occasional RATM song or Faith No More, for the most part the it’s sort of an unholy union. Need I remind you that if rap metal had never existed we could have avoided Nu Metal, which truly emerged from Satan’s butthole.
As much as I love “6 Feet Deep” it is responsible for another abomination: Insane Clown Posse. There’s dispute over who invented the term ‘Horrorcore’ but it’s often attributed to Gravediggaz. Basically rap music with horror themed lyrics. Guess who cites Gravediggaz as a huge influence? Insane Clown Posse. Yes, the Gravediggaz are responsible for possible one of the worst things that ever happened in human history. But we can’t blame them. I can’t, and I won’t.
To wrap up here, I snatched up “36 Chambers’ and anything RZA related. Also, “Tical,” “Return to the 36 Chambers,” and “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” became regular staples amongst me and my heavy metal friends. So while we can sadly link ICP to Gravediggaz, they’re also responsible for expanding the musical frontiers of a group of white stoners in the mid 90s.
It’s impossible to have one single favorite song, but there are some songs that move me above and beyond most others. This Is My Favorite Song is a series where I explore the songs that, at least for that moment when I listen to them make me think “THIS IS MY FAVORITE SONG!”.