This month’s edition of Underrated isn’t for a group, but for an album. 6 Feet Deep (or Niggamortis for the European crowd) was the brainchild of several Hip-Hop artists that were already well-established before it’s release. The group compromised of artists that were annoyed with Tommy Boy Records – The RZA, Too Poetic, Frukwan, and Prince Paul.
What did Tommy Boy do?
• RZA – RZA had a single deal with Tommy Boy under the name Prince Rakeem in the early 90’s. Instead of his trademark sound, they forced him to make a love-rap entitled “Ooh I Love You Rakeem”
• Poetic – Poetic also released a solo single on Tommy Boy. Unsatisfied with the reaction to the single, Tommy Boy dropped him before his LP debut.
• Frukwan – Frukwan was a member of the legendary, pioneering hip-hop group Stetsasonic, who was signed to Tommy Boy. He left the group after their second album. Not sure what the actual conflict with Tommy Boy was, but we can assume it had to do with creative control.
• Prince Paul – Prince Paul had the most dealings with Tommy Boy, as he produced for both Stetsasonic and De La Soul – both singed to the label. Once again, I can only assume creative control was an issue.
Even though 6 Feet Deep was released in 1994, the group was formed earlier around 1992/93. RZA recorded the Gravediggaz demo while actively trying to get Wu-Tang Clan signed. It seemed as though he didn’t know which group was going to pop off and was trying to have a back-up plan. Either way, Gee Street heard the demo and signed the group.
The group released 3 singles, all with limited success. The Gravediggaz didn’t know quite where to fit in. They were competing for airplay with hardcore groups like Onyx and Das Efx, positive Hip-Hop like A Tribe Called Quest and Fugees, and the lingering West Coast invasion. They ended up being labeled “horrorcore“.
Despite being categorized in their own hip-hop sub-genre, their album wasn’t really a trip through a horror-movie. Prince Paul handled the majority of production, which was chock-full samples and loops, in the same techniques used on his De La Soul albums. However, the sound was totally different and much more energetic/hardcore. RZA’s style was much different than his Wu-Tang verses, as well a Frukwan and Poetic.
Overall, the album is a complete banger and can be listened to from start to finish. Unfortunately, due to it’s “horrorcore” labeling and so many other classic albums released at the time, it often gets overlooked.
Unfortunately, the future Gravediggaz work never lived up to their debut. Their sophomore effort had almost no production from Prince Paul and relied heavily on RZA and his in-house Wu producers (4th Disciple, True Master, etc). They abandoned the rowdy, energetic style that fans loved and sounded more like one of the many Wu-Tang side projects released at the time.
As time went on, both RZA and Prince Paul stopped working on Gravediggaz projects. The end to the group came with the unfortunate death of Poetic after falling victim to colon cancer.
The group may have never re-captured the energy of their debut, but 6 Feet Deep still lives on as classic. If you consider yourself a 90’s hip-hop fan, you MUST have this in your collection. Notable tracks include:
If you’re thirsty for more Gravediggaz music from their early stages, there are a lot of other tracks to go around. The Gravediggaz demo contains unreleased cuts and alternate versions from their album. The European version of the LP also has additional tracks. There are a few 12 inches with remixes, as well as the Double Suicide Pack. A few unreleased tracks have also surfaced throughout the years.