August 09, 2020

Gravediggaz "Six Feet Deep" (August 9, 1994)

"At first there was no concept at all," Paul recalls. "I was just in it for the beats and rhymes. But once we sat down and talked, we realized that the name would be most important. So we came up with Gravediggaz and built the concept around it. The guys' personas had to come right after the group name, of course. Rakeem said, 'Yo, I'm gonna call myself the RZArector,' and then that became RZA for short. So that's the first time he used that name.... Then Poetic said he'd be the Grym Reaper because he had the The Brothers Grimm group," Paul continues. "And at first I was like, I'll be the Pall Bearer (laughs), but then I chose The Undertaker, because I was the dude who prepped everything. [Author's note: Frukwan was The Gatekeeper.] After all that, we knew we'd be coming from a dark place. And my tracks at the time were already there." Importantly, and potentially unwittingly, Paul and the crew were creating a sub-genre within hip-hop at the time, which would come to be known as "Horrorcore." Paul explains the marketing, "Gangsta rap had already been so exploited at the time, so we went with horror. And then the guys would drop some non-horror hip-hop jewels in there from time to time. Basically, all three guys were in full character at recording sessions, starting from the earliest days. I didn't have to keep reminding them." Speaking on the recording process, Paul says, "Every verse we did and liked was always accepted, there was never any argument about whether we should re-do anything. We just knew." A death-defying demo was done by late 1992, with approximately six tracks on it. "I thought that what we had come up with was amazing, and I shopped that demo for a year," Paul explains. "But nobody would bite. Jive was interested at one point but someone there said, 'Why would you want to sign them? They're old and played out.' That was pretty depressing." Despite the industry's apathy to the Gravediggaz album, all was not lost. He remembers, "It was literally a week before the time we agreed that we were going to give up, in late '93, that Jon Baker at Gee Street came through." Click play, cont'd below...

Paul says that songs from the demo that Gee Street signed were the same as they appeared on the final album. "We didn't redo any of the demo songs," he explains. "They were on the album the same way. Tascam 8-Track cassette and [Akai] S900 samplers, straight up." ... Paul explains a producer technique he used, to get the most out of his motley crew of MCs: "I used to play those guys against each other, to push them. Poetic would rhyme in a normal way, and I'd be like, 'C'mon, man, you can't let RZA outdo you!' Or I'd tell RZA, 'Yo, Poetic ate you up on his verse.' Then they'd come back with something closer to what I wanted. I'd tell each of them that the other one was better - especially with RZA and Poetic - and they'd battle right there on the spot." ... Although the group was two years old by the time their album came out in late summer of '94, a bit of serendipity - or was it karma? - helped these misfits attract more ears to their sound. Paul says, "A lot of Wu-Tang fans were checking the Gravediggaz out because we were kind of an affiliate, so that wasn't a bad thing." RZA also brought in guest MCs from his orbit who contributed to Gravediggaz songs with which they were involved, including Scientific Shabazz (Shabazz The Disciple) and Killah Priest.... The album had two different titles, depending on where it was purchased. For most of the world, including Gee Street's birthplace in the UK, it was Niggamortis. In the US, it was changed to 6 Feet Deep. Paul says, "I think they figured the title Niggamortis wouldn't fly at places like Target or Wal-Mart. But it was always Niggamortis to us." Released in 8/94, the album reached #36 on the Billboard "Top 200" album charts and sold quite respectably, driven almost exclusively through its push at retail by the single and Hype Williams-directed video for "Diary Of A Madman." 

Paul concludes, "That's probably the most fulfilling record I have ever made in my career. It stands right next to 3 Feet High And Rising and Psychoanalysis. For me, Gravediggaz was done to show the world that I wasn't wack. And to prove the same thing about the rest of the guys, too. People weren't looking out for me, Poetic, Frukwan or RZA in late '92.... It was all about achieving something collectively and gaining common ground. It was creative and it was harmonious." - Check The Technique Vol. 2 by Brian Coleman. If you don't own his books, please pick up a copy because there's some amazing content in there about 6 Feet Deep and many other classic albums. "Yo, I got one last question / Who killed Tommy's Boy?" Revisit the LP above, and some promo below... art by Cros2.