Black artists have used horror imagery in their music videos for decades. Horror references are also weaved into genres like ‘Horror-Core’ explicitly through the lyrics and the imagery, but they can be found across multiple genres. This time we will explore imagery in music videos from Janet Jackson to Gravediggaz. We will see glimpses of the undead, vengeful ghosts, and spider vomit. This is the second entry in an ongoing list, so be on the lookout for the third installment. In the meantime, check out the videos below.
Janet Jackson Ft. Missy Elliott, “Son of a Gun”
Don’t play with Ms. Jackson! “Son of a Gun” follows a man who has cheated and spent up his lover’s cash. His lover (Janet Jackson) spends the video getting her revenge with beautiful ghouls, lipstick, and spiders! The ghouls are creeping from the furniture and following the man around the large building. Janet makes him throw up a gaggle of spiders and uses an invisible force to drag him around the building.
Tyler, The Creator, “Yonkers”
If you are not familiar with Odd Future, now would be a great time to check out all of the artists under that umbrella. Tyler, The Creator’s music has shifted quite a bit from his first release “Yonkers”, which was released in 2010. Most of the video is watching Tyler, The Creator sitting in a chair, rapping his lyrics in black and white. Then the video begins to take a dark turn when we see the cockroaches. More specifically, he eats a cockroach and vomits. As the song progresses, his eyes turn black, similar to the endless demons we have seen throughout horror. He ends the video by putting his head through a noose and hanging himself. We see his feet dangle until the camera cuts.
Tupac, “Hail Mary”
We love a story about revenge. “Hail Mary” starts with an inmate claiming he was set up. His cellmate tells him that revenge will settle the score. We watch this play out, as the forces of lightning and the afterlife come together to make things even. In the setting of a big empty house on a rainy night, each foe is taken out one by one. This video feels like a hip-hop gothic horror short. Someone is hit by a driverless car. One guy is taken out by a fallen chandelier. The last dude gets a dramatic electrocution. The song is a classic and the video is definitely worth the watch.
The Weeknd, “Gasoline’
While “Gasoline” sounds fun and upbeat, the video has nightmarish imagery. First, we are introduced to an ear covered in live ants (which unlocked some personal trauma), and then we are flung into a car crash. We go from the crash to the dancefloor from hell. All these people are dancing around The Weeknd while hands grab at him through the dancefloor. There are unhuman party-goers, serpents, and ghouls all in attendance at the party from hell. To be fair, the content of the song is a bit dark, so it fits the party. Check out this video, especially if you want to see cool SFX.
Jhené Aiko, “Maniac”
Jhené Aiko’s “Maniac” is a song that touches on her bedroom expertise. While the topic may seem sensual, the video reminds me of Session 9 or Grave Encounters. There are flashes of Jhené Aiko strapped down to a hospital bed with a silent doctor standing over her. The editing is similar to the early 2000s quick scene edits and sped-up movements. The scenes switch from her trying to escape and her being confined to a chair on a bed. There even seems to be a Silence of the Lambs reference with one of the masks she wears. It’s worth checking out.
Gravediggaz, “Diary of a Mad Man”
Gravediggaz are widely considered Horrorcore artists, so it was only a matter of time before they graced this list. “Diary of a Mad Man” paints the picture of a killer explicitly detailing his crimes. Not only is the killer suggesting that he would stomp on bones at gravesites, but he is also claiming to be demonic. There are imagines of fire, serpents, pentagrams, and candles. Outside of the content, it’s just a good rap song with a hypnotic and haunting beat.
Lil Uzi, “Sanguine Paradise”
If you love Blade (1998), then this video will be a treat. It was inspired by the iconic club scene. Lil Uzi is playing multiple characters including Blade. He is also the poor soul dragged into the vampire den. There are plenty of outfits, fangs, and blood throughout this video. You can even catch a few fight scenes. This video is worth checking out as well as the song.
We knew Rihanna was going to give us cinematic greatness when she started the video sitting in a trunk full of money; covered in blood and glistening in the sunlight. Rihanna has a trunk full of surprises in BBHMM. She kidnaps the significant other of her account as insurance. The viewer follows Rihanna and her crew as they move the hostage around in attempt to collect her money. The video escalates from kidnapping to murder when the account can’t come up with the funds fast enough. We highly recommend this video.