Originally titled Niggamortis (I hate it when censorship impedes brilliance), 6 Feet Deep was the first release by New York hip hop supergroup Gravediggaz, comprised of heavyweight producers Prince Paul (De La Soul) and RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), along with rappers Frukwan (Stetsasonic) and the late Trinidad and Tobago-born Too Poetic, assuming the monikers of The Undertaker, The Rzarector, The Gatekeeper and The Grym Reaper respectively.
Fusing themes of violence, aggression and torture with immersive, banging, old-school hip hop soundscapes, 6 Feet Deep is one of those rare instances where a supergroup exceeds the sum of its parts, an album that stands well apart from anything else released by any of its members. Even though Prince Paul received a majority of the album’s production credits, 6 Feet Deep plays as more of a Wu-Tang release than, say, a De La Soul release, but the style of the former is far better suited for this type of concept.
The horror-based themes are cleverly woven through inventive compositions in the album, for instance “Diary of a Madman” imagines all four members pleading insanity before a court judge, who demands they give evidence of their actions. Cue four verses of vividly descriptive, absurd horror. Likewise, “1-800 Suicide” has the Gravediggaz promoting a fictional service that presents various methods of suicide, albeit in a very sarcastic manner, much like the rest of the album. The jazz-funkish vibe to the track, along with its inexplicably catchy sample-based hook of KRS-One almost chortling “Suicide, it’s a suicide / Suicide, it’s a suicide” make it one of the album’s standouts.
The beats throughout the album are remarkably fresh, with Prince Paul and RZA both drawing from sounds in previous releases, notably the chilled, jazzy grooves of Buhloone Mind State and the hard-hitting boom bap sounds of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). As a result the album is littered with sharp piano loops, breakbeat-style drum samples (plenty of hi-hats), dominant bass and well-placed audio samples from a few previous releases. But as enthralling as the production may be, the real strength of this album is the way every one of the three frontline rappers (Prince Paul just has a few cameo spots throughout) melds and adapts to the different beats, particularly in regards to their flow. You may not be struck with endless quotable lines in 6 Feet Deep, but you’ll almost certainly remember the way each one was delivered.
6 Feet Deep, at its core, is a true representation of four men near (if not at) the height of their powers, all sharing the spotlight with some of the best work in their careers. And for an album spanning 17 tracks (18 in the European release) and 50 minutes, it manages to continually throw accessible beats, superb verses and ghoulish yet compelling subject matter without becoming stale or running of out steam, a remarkable feat for any release by any group, yet alone a concept album by a supergroup. Despite being released in the midst of hip hop’s “golden age”, 6 Feet Deep is an exceptional record, even distinguishing itself from other renowned releases of 1994 such as Illmatic, Ready to Die, The Main Ingredient and Stress: The Extinction Agenda, and today is regarded as one of the finest efforts in the “horrorcore” subgenre – whatever the tag, it’s an essential listen for any 90s hip hop fan that will have you crawling back into the grave for more.