September 8, 2015

For The Max-Approved Mixtape: Gravediggaz - "Diary Of A Madman"

Artist: Gravediggaz featuring Killah Priest and Scientific Shabazz
Title: "Diary Of A Madman"
Producer: RNS, The RZA, and Prince Paul
Album: 6 Feet Deep (1994) / N---amortis (European release only) (1994)

Today's playlist entry is a no-brainer, since my holiday weekend flew by and I just now realized that I had nothing ready to run on the blog's publication schedule.  I'm pretty sure I won't really need to convince any of you two of this song's credentials, but for the odd reader or two who doesn't actually know what today's post is about, I'll still give you the story, since I need to fill up space.

Anyway, the Gravediggaz were a quartet who bonded in the early 1990s over the terrible experiences they all had while signed to Tommy Boy Records, but instead of merely bitching about it like most of your coworkers, they went and actually did something with their anger.  The result was 6 Feet Deep (or, if you're reading this overseas, N---amortis, a title the group was pretty sure wouldn't fly in the States), a record industry satire wearing the guise of a horrorcore album, chock-full of banging beats, hardcore (and oftentimes disturbing) lyrics, and just the hint of a cheesy smile plastered onto the face of the group's ringleader, the Undertaker, better known as producer extraordinaire Prince Paul.  The project, released by the label Gee Street, came with so many unanswered questions that many hip hop heads took to making shit up just to appease their curiosity: for example, most people still feel to this day that the group are horrorcore pioneers, when in fact they were just four dudes fucking around, but people always feel the need to affix classifications to simplify shit.  Most people are also convinced that the Gravediggaz were a Wu-Tang Clan side project, but the fact of the matter is that The RZA, who plays The RZArector in the group dynamic (with Poetic as The Grym Reaper and Frukwan as The Gatekeeper), was a no-name artist when the quartet banded together: he was still working on the Wu-Tang Clan's debut album when this shit was recorded, even though 6 Feet Deep was released a year after that crew's breakthrough.  

It's easy to understand the confusion, though.  "Diary Of A Madman" is one of only three songs off of the project that The RZA produces or co-produces, and its sound is obviously Wu-esque in its nature.  It also features two future Wu-affiliates, Killah Priest and Scientific Shabazz, who RZA would later sign to the offshoot group Sunz Of Man, but 6 Feet Deep contains the first recorded appearances from both men.  (Scientific Shabazz would later change his moniker to Shabazz The Disciple, in case you couldn't connect the dots yourself.)  As for the lyrics themselves, "Diary Of A Madman" is a full-on assault of the senses, disturbing imagery layered upon twisted tales, bleak themes, and adult situations, but the unbearable tension throughout is cut frequently by the intrusion of the wraparound device, a courtroom skit in which the group is standing trial for multiple murders (including that of a baby, apparently, according to the very first line you hear on the track), which is the most clear Prince Paul-ish aspect of the track.  The man himself names this shit as one of his favorite skits he's ever recorded, and he's the master of the hip hop skit.  Just the fact that there's also a song here is just a bonus.

And what a song it is. Shabazz wastes no time trying to grab the listener's ear with a hard, energetic verse on which he threatens to "evaporate" a man's ashes, dig up the body of another former opponent, and "stomp all [his] fuckin' bones".  His violent threats are mixed together with rational (for someone who is supposed to be playing a madman, anyway) thoughts: had it not been for the horror-movie vibe, this could have been mixed up for some by-the-by gangsta shit.  But The RZA has to fuck that all up, as his higher-pitched persona (I miss his voice when he rapped like this, but you can't have everything) finds himself nailed to a cross and "chew[s his] fucking arm off" to free himself.  It's bleak, folks: the Wu wouldn't rap about shit like this.  Maybe the late Ol' Dirty Bastard.  But I digress.

Killah Priest more than earns his spot in the Sunz Of Man collective, mostly avoiding the pseudo-religious hyperbabble that bogs down the majority of his catalog in favor of a straightforward performance that is as dope as it is deep, even if his verse ends with someone being literally dragged down into Hell.  Frukwan finishes off for the defense, doing his team no favors with an at-times disgusting trip into his process.  He sounds great, no question, even as he's cut off mid-sentence at the end for the judge to give his final ruling, one made without the need for a jury, apparently.

The music adds to the eerie atmosphere, thanks to RZA, Paul, and RNS, a dude who would later help jump-start the career of a young child rapper named Shyheim, yet another Wu-affiliate.  Hilariously, the spooky-ass "Diary Of A Madman" instrumental is constructed from samples of not one, but two separate songs by Johnny Mathis: "No Love (But Your Love)" and "Warm and Tender".  You will certainly never look at your grandparents' record collection the same way again.

"Diary Of A Madman" is a masterpiece from start to finish, and is the finest Gravediggaz song ever recorded.  It isn't my favorite Wu-influenced track from the quartet (that would be "Graveyard Chamber", also from 6 Feet Deep), but it's the quintessential Gravediggaz track: it mixes together dark humor with the musical genius of everyone in the crew (except maybe the late Poetic, who doesn't contribute for some reason), and is so over-the-top with its ridiculous examples of violence that there's no way anyone should ever take it seriously.  But it's entertaining as fuck.  Just maybe don't play it when your parents are around.

Seeing as "Diary Of A Madman" is one of the most cinematic songs Paul has ever had his hands on, it makes sense that an official video was shot, although, in my opinion, it's lacking in the creepy imagery that the track itself begs for.  Still effective, though.  Gee Street also released it as a single, although it never picked up much traction, possibly because radio deejays kept confusing it for an Ozzy Osbourne song.

As an aside, I've always wondered just how much input RNS had on the production side of "Diary Of A Madman", since the primary beat was lifted from "Enter The Wu-Tang", one of the songs off of the early Wu-Tang Clan demo tape that can easily be found (in extremely low quality, but still) floating around on the Interweb.  Or maybe RNS did all the work and it's the artist formerly known as Prince Rakeem I should be questioning.  I don't know, and I don't care.  But here's that song for comparison's sake.

And, for no good reason, here's a clip I found of an unreleased commercial Nintendo filmed for their then-new Super Game Boy accessory, with vocals from The RZA and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, along with backing music from Prince Paul.  Because why the fuck not, right?

Do you agree or disagree with this selection?  Discuss below.


Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep (review)


  1. Prince Paul produced the song, RNS only got credited because they got the sample (or something like that) from him! Prince Paul spoke about this in a breakdown of all the tracks from 6 Feet Deep / Niggamortis.

  2. Personally I would've had mommy what's a gravedigga, as that's my favourite gravediggaz track and perhaps as a short mixtape inclusion but dece choice all the same. Props

  3. Great choice!
    Love the eery instrumental and the RZArector´s voice on this cut.

    But my favourite Gravediggaz track remains the RZA mix of "Mommy what´s a Gravedigga?" - I think the first time I saw it was on this blog *thumbs up*

  4. Couple of years back hip-hop site did a great interview with Prince Paul where he broke down every track on 6 Feet Deep. The website no longer exists, unfortunately, but I was able to track down the interview (luckily someone copied the whole interview and pasted it into the comments section of another site.)
    Here's the part about DOAM

    P82: Diary Of A Madman is probably one of your best known songs. Can you tell me how the situation with the production credits happened? Because you actually produced the track right? PAUL: Yeah I mean what got it twisted Ill explain how it happened RZA came in with this sample and we were like yo thats crazy lets use that. RZA was like I dont know, its not mine, I didnt loop this up my man RNS who lives around my way did it. I was like yo, ask him if we can use it. RZA said man we gonna have to give him credit, we gonna have to break him off a little bit and give him some credit. I said yo whatever it takes to get the loop. So when we looped it, we didnt even get the real loop, we just took it off the cassette. I said yo ask him what the sample is. He was like he got it from a car commercial. I said what?! Get outta here! RNS wouldnt disclose what the sample was at the time. So I looped it up and added a beat and stuff to it. I took it, programmed the beat, recorded all the vocals, arranged all the vocals and thats when I met Shabazz The Disciple and Killah Priest, they came down to the studio. Shabazz heard the beat, just the beat and the loop and he wanted to rhyme on it and he killed it! He was the first one rhyming on that song and the guys didnt know how to follow it because it was too crazy. There was no concept to the song, just his rhyme. So I had to sit down and figure out how I could make this cohesive because theres no hook, theres no concept. So I came up with the courtroom thing and then I wrote out that part. When all the rhymes were on I put the courtroom part on and I never told them what I was going to do. I played it for all of them and they were like yo, how did you come up with that idea, thats crazy! How did you link all that together! It was just an idea I came up with. I took it, recorded the vocals, mixed it and at the end of the day I didnt care about credit, I just worried about the record getting out. Technically RNS was never there, we used his sample and it was through RZA because it was RZAs connect so then RZA got credit but the person who actually put the whole song together was me, haha. So I never got the proper credit but I didnt care. If its gonna take RNS to get credit for this so we can use the sample, because it was dope and I had no idea what it was, RZA had no idea what it was, so RNS was the only person that had a link to that sample. Now I know what it is but back then I didnt know what it was. It all worked out. So when I see people like oh RNS and RZA killed the track... Im like what?! Even the production sounds like me, you can tell. RZA and RNS aint gonna come up with the whole courtroom scene, its not their style. But it all worked out in the end, haha.

    1. I love information like this. However, I still question "Enter The Wu-Tang", but I suppose it's a good thing they never rerecorded that song, since RZA wasn't about to let anyone else get any production credit on the Wu's debut album.

    2. I guess you mean outside of the clan, because Meth has co-producer credits on "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit" and ODB has co-producer credit on "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'". I do have to wonder what such a vague term as "co-prducer" means in each case.
      The interview is great, I can send it to you or whoever wants it.
      The story behind the song "6 Feet Deep" is very cool.

  5. RIP Poetic
    One of the greatest MCs to ever touch the mic. One who never gets mentioned. I mean NEVER.


    If u like gravediggerz then u like this music

    1. That's highly presumptive of you to think that.


    How have I never noticed that?

  8. For a song as brilliant as this, you really shouldn't ask "Do you agree or disagree with this selection?". Quite frankly, anyone who disagrees with this one is on the wrong website.

    I always loved the last verse (Frukwan's), particularly because of the extended "Warm and Tender" sample during the first 8 bars. The whole song is epic, but I wish would straight spit over that part of the beat for a couple of minutes. Poetic probably would have been brilliant over that. R.I.P.

  9. Great choice, this one ranks high on my favourite hip hop tracks list. And I loved the Nintendo commercial, not living in America I had never seen it!