From Big L, to Eminem and Jedi Mind Tricks, plenty of emcees have used different variations of jarring lyrics and shocking imagery to express themselves. Often, the graphic approach and vividly detailed content that are most pertinent to Horrorcore help communicate an emcee’s motives more clearly. The tactic has been employed by the aforementioned artists, as well as many others successfully. When it works, the imagery is truly captivating.
For Jarren Benton, such an approach is one of the themes of his newest release, My Grandma’s Basement. A member of the Funk Volume record label (Hopsin, Dizzy Wright), the album is Benton’s third digital release as a rostermate. His aggressive, in-your-face style is well suited for Horrorcore fans, but he also displays true Southern roots with a handful of tracks trending towards Trap Rap. Benton can alternately be found threatening sodomy and other assorted acts of violence on “Razor Blades & Steak Knives.” He rhymes, “Hit a girl with a bowl of grits / Then shove her fuckin’ face in a bowl of shit / So inappropriate / I’m that creepy custodian / I’ll stick a mop up your ass without no petroleum…”
On the track “Cadillacs & Chevys” Benton strikes a nice balance between the two over a synth-heavy track powered by staccato snares. Benton emplys one-liners, like, “Fuck a fat bitch for her Honey Bun,” while also acknowledging, “They say I sound like Eminem.” The Marshall Mathers comparisons are unavoidable. And when Benton mimics Eminem’s verbal scratch sound effect, they’re somewhat justified. Ultimately, the combination of party-oriented beats with explicit lyrics helps Benton capture a unique style and sound.
For casual listeners, the success of this combination, is likely not frequent enough. Benton has an extraordinarily nimble flow and sense of rhythm. My Grandma’s Basement is evenly split between what the late Pimp C referre to as “Country Rap Tunes” and more contemporary Trap-styled fare, peppered with the horrorcore lyrics. While he’s skilled at both, at times, it’s as if Benton is undecided about which style he ultimately prefers. “Life In The Jungle,” “Dreams,” and “Go Off” stray from the Trap beats, and comprise a portion of the album that displays Benton speaking directly to the listener. These tracks are refreshing, especially when considering that they are antithetical to others like “Don’t Act” and “PBR & Reefer,” which are synthesizer-heavy and sing-songy at times. The Trap-ish endeavors are not a collective failure as, “My Adidas” and “My Grandma’s Basement” succeed both lyrically and musically, and should suffice for Hip Hop fans of all subgenres.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to My Grandma’s Basement is the utter vulgarity. As previously stated, Benton is a smart emcee, and his lyrics suggest this. When you hear Big Rube’s Interlude, listeners will likely wish similar content was incorporated into more of the actual songs. Benton’s liberal use of the word “faggot” and violent language are bound to upset some listeners. His track “Heart Attack” is quite dark and eerily similar to Eminem’s “Kim,” where the protagonist ends up murdering an ex-lover. Originality notwithstanding, content like this is often risky, though it is relevant to the Horrorcore inclinations.
Without question, Benton’s array of flows is very impressive, but his rhymes are oftentimes more for shock value than true creativity. For some, this will likely limit the album’s replay value. It is as if his darker motives are justified by these flashes of artistic ingenuity, and his occasional touches of humor keep the listener interested. Unfortunately, a lack of stylistic cohesion, both lyrically and musically, take away from My Grandma’s Basement as a whole.