The J. Hexx Project, J. Hexx for short, is a proud MC in the horrorcore genre who takes his craft seriously. Horrorcore is a subgenre of hip-hop that mixes rapping with themes that are mostly featured in horror films or heard in rock music. While that genre might sound perfect for fans of hip-hop music and horror films, it is sadly a genre that haven’t really lived up to its potential for quite some time. The biggest artists in the genre like Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid has been active for 15+ years and most newer artists who is trying to make an impact ends up trying to hard to copy them and forget that they need to find their own musical identity and most important of all, take their time to develop their craftmanship.The state of horrorcore as of today could be compared to the horror genre if the only alternatives we had from it were shitty shot on video gore films with no artistic craftmanship behind the camera.
Here’s where The J. Hexx Project came in for me. He proved with his debut collection, a combination of The Seven Doorz of Death EP and Twitch of the Deadz Nervez LP that he is a true MC of the classic 90’s New York school. This school had the attitude that if you are not bringing any lyrical skills to the mic, then you will be slapped. It didn’t matter if you had a catchy hook or a beat that would make young people dance, if you had no skills you would get booted off the stage quick. Combine this background with a fascination for the golden age of brutal exploitation films of the late 70’s, then you get The J. Hexx Project. A unique artist, not only in the horrorcore genre, but in music as a whole. Who else would create a subgenre of horrorcore called giallocore? Who else would sample a movie like The New York Ripper or create an album called Mountain of the Cannibal God?
And that’s his follow up album to his impressive debut. Mountain of the Cannibal God was appropriately called a giallocore album by the artist himself. It’s an homage to both the creators of the horrorcore sound and also the grindhouse era of cinema. Delivering a coherent story based concept album is almost unheard of in hiphop, although several have tried and mostly failed. It is a genre that celebrate single tracks instead of albums, but thanks to the focus he had when he was creating that album, the storyline works and you can also pick out single tracks for your enjoyment when you don’t want to listen to a whole album.
After trying something new by releasing an instrumental album called Music To Die For in 2011, he is now back with his new album Broken Mirrors, Shattered Minds which was made available on its release date of April 24th. This time around he is not only performing, but also producing all eleven tracks on the album.
This album is brutal! J. Hexx is letting frustrations and aggression flow through this album, not wasting a single line on filler lyrics while he is hacking and slashing himself through it all. It almost sounds like he feels he has something to prove and I think that lyrically, this album is his best to date. By producing the entire album himself, he is able to give it a coherent sound while still making each track sound different. Horror film enthusiasts will have fun spotting the samples that are spread out on the album and it is not just your regular Halloween theme or stuff like that. There’s some stuff on this that I know I have heard before myself, but are unable to figure out. Fans of hardcore hip-hop should enjoy the overall sound of this, it’s gritty and I can only describe it as the sound that New York is missing and searching for today.
There are, as always with him, some interesting concepts behind some of the songs. I’m used to not spoiling anything when I review films, so I’m gonna keep it the same here, especially since songs are more up for interpretations than movies are. There is however no doubt that he is spending some time speaking directly towards the horrorcore crowd and he seems quite frustrated with the state of the subgenre, which comes to no surprise since it is not exactly in its prime in 2013. The awesome “Opera of Fear” is a good example of a track that deals with this topic.
The album starts off with a bang with the aptly titled “Horror”, which is built on a sample I can’t seem to figure out, although I’m sure it’s some Italian late 70’s / early 80’s film. It is a track that represent this artist very well – hard lyrics, fascination with dirty and grimy horror films and a desire to go a little further and more detailed in describing the brutality than what other mc’s would want to do.
“25 to Life” is another favorite of mine, probably because it represent so much that I miss from hip-hop of today. Tracks like this and “Viking Funeral” is just too ruthless for most newer hip-hop fans. Even if J. Hexx is known in the underground as one of the most humble artists around, there is no fucking around when he gets on the mic. Because of the intensity of the album, the total runtime of 42:17 minutes is perfect. If there were more tracks on this with the same intensity, then it could have become tiresome and I don’t think the addition of one or two slower track would fit very well with the rest of the songs or the purpose of this album.
Even though J. Hexx is an artist that can easily carry an entire album by himself without becoming boring and doesn’t really have to rely on doing collaborations to keep things fresh, but what rapper doesn’t enjoy sharing the mic with other artists that they respect. While this album is hardly a heavily featured album, there are still some collaborations to check out. “Pathogen” with Big Rela and Squire Zama has an interesting idea and the two guests do a worthy job with their verses. “Crazed Maniacs” has Kannibalistik and Crossworm on it. While I couldn’t get into the rapping style of Kannibalistik, Crossworm however comes off as a good partner with J. Hexx and they balanced each other out very well. I would not mind hearing more collaborations between those two guys in the future. Razakel and Sicktanik might be two of the more known names in this underground genre, but they are not able to hang with J. Hexx on “Nightmares” when it comes to lyrics or flow and the track does suffer from it.
Broken Mirrors, Shattered Minds is an album that will continue to please those who have already been exposed to the great demented mind of J. Hexx and hopefully it will also attract new listeners. It is a solid product that has been created with the greatest care and attention to any small detail. This is a must have album for all fans of horrorcore and frankly also for those who miss the honest, raw and hardcore lyrical side of hip-hop. You do not need to have a fascination for the macabre to appreciate the lyrical skills that he brings, although it certainly makes the ride more entertaining. I don’t normally review albums, but I’m making an exception because I believe in this artist 100% and I would not rate any underground artist of 2013 above him. Get this album and support real hip-hop today.