ft. Kryptik, 5:AM, Lewn, Fat Mike, iNFiNiTTi, Hostile Figures, Jack Beazly (with Krazlin McGee of DRK & Kilo Forgotten), Illuminatix, Brash, Mortal Conquest, ADP & Benny Ghost and Binx
7 p.m., April 30, $8-10, 31 Webster St., The Webster Underground, Hartford, (860) 525-5553, webstertheater.com
Horrorcore, the freaky style of rap popularized by groups like Insane Clown Posse, is alive in Connecticut.
Bristol-based artist Kryptik is part of a wave of MCs who have taken up the torch of horrorcore's over-the-top sex and violence. More Hitchcock than Scarface, horrorcore rappers take up themes of mental illness and derangement, using psychological imagery in their lyrics. Serial killers replaced gang members and Mafiosos as the major characters. Some such rappers are rabid fans of Insane Clown Posse (“Juggalos”) and some are insulted by the association.
“I love Juggalos, I am a Juggalo,” says Kryptik. “I don't really listen to ICP much anymore, but I love the fans, the shows, the support. But I feel the music we make” — he's referring to the artists on his label, FTI Records — “would exist if there was no ICP. Me and a lot of people I know, I started rapping before I ever heard an ICP song. Growing up, I listened to Slick Rick, Naughty by Nature, Wu Tang.” Kryptik also notes that Connecticut's hip-hop sound “is very influenced by the NY scene,” which has a hard, rugged edge.
But performing horrorcore alone can be limiting, career-wise. “When I started my career, I did make a lot more horror music. I would do my shows covered in fake blood, and I opened for a lot of Psychopathic Records shows, and we had a very large Juggalo crowd. I enjoyed doing the Juggalo stuff, and the ICP shows were some of the biggest ones I did in my career. But I said, Hey, I wanna be able to go to Hartford and New Haven and perform, and I can't do that with the horror stuff and theatrics.”
In addition to branching out stylistically, Kryptik's success is largely due to his ferocious business sense. “Everyone has the dream of being a famous musician. And I'm never gonna give that up, but I always want to be involved with music for my entire life, and the way I found to do that is to make a business out of it.” For many musicians, making a budget spreadsheet or getting a dedicated bank account is a big step into professionalism. Kryptik aimed a little higher. “We got our LLC license and everything. It's grown in the past five years from something I put on my flyers and CDs, to promotion, management, live sound engineering, and a recording studio. We record artists of all different kinds of genres, not just hip-hop.”
Between the hardcore imagery and the mercilessly D.I.Y. work ethic, Kryptik's corner of the rap underworld seems to share a strong kinship with punk, hardcore and metal. “A lot of things that I picked up over the years because I couldn't afford to hire somebody else. Now I offer those services to other broke artists,” he laughs. Kryptik notes that the ethos, which was once limited to the rock world, is becoming more common in hip-hop. “I can't speak for the entire scene, but everyone I work with around Connecticut, Massachusetts, other places, are do-it-yourself artists. I respect artists like that. We're in the same struggle. And when you find other people that do the same thing as you, and you work together, that's how you build without having to rely on paying other people.”
Another way Kryptik has been building the underground scene is by throwing regular shows. The Saturday Night Grind series (spoofing “Saturday Night Live”) is FTI Records's latest theme-based run of shows. Unlike a residency at a single venue, the Grind series takes place at “small bars and venues, each show at a different place in the state. We always have our core [FTI Records] artists, but we also try to get artists that haven't done shows yet.” This Saturday's show will feature 2010 Grand Band Slam Best Hip-Hop winner 5:AM, as well as the winner for Best DJ, DJ Cubed.