It’s Halloween! Soon. So we’re talking about the scariest songs we know.
Who: Patrick Rapa, music editor here at City Paper
What: “Crossroads” by LL Cool J
Why: In 1993, it was hard to reconcile the hard gangsta vibe of 14 Shots to the Dome with the rest of LL Cool J’s tamer, friendlier stuff. Looking at back it now, the album still doesn’t seem to sit comfortably in his catalogue. Weirdest of all was the relentlessly grim "Crossroads." It sorta fits the sound of the time; lots of rappers were taking scary little side trips, but they were posing as street toughs to begin with. (See Ice T’s “Midnight” and Cypress Hill’s “I Ain't Going Out Like That” — both of which sample Black Sabbath.) But from LL Cool J, "Crossroads" is pretty jarring. It starts with thunder, strings and a spooky choir of wraiths then comes crushing with just the bleakest, most intense opening lines:
The wind is howlin' / the rain pours down
Eyes are blood-shot / heartbeat pounds.
Lights go out / the whole world's in darkness
The ground is tremblin' / dogs are barkless.
After that, things go full-on Book of Revelations, with scenes of burning flesh, armies marching, lightning striking every home. And lots of wrath-of-god talk. And then, well, the chorus comes up a little weak:
People living in a shack at the crossroads
Little kids selling crack at the crossroads
Stab you in the back at the crossroads
Everybody's getting jacked at the crossroads
This is kind of a narrative curveball. Once you’ve unleashed the apocalypse, you can’t really go back to regular hood problems, can you? And who’s selling crack and/or jacking people at the end of the world? You can't take it with you, guy.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter because LL’s about to drop his sickest, most disturbing line:
Terrified men run down the street.
So many dead bodies
It's hard to eat.
WTF, LL? Later, tornados are spinning a thousand people at a time, the Earth cracks in half, the sea turns red and the Devil gets dragged the fuck down to Hell. Still none of those Judgement Day anecdotes can top the sheer horror of LL Cool J almost losing his appetite because of all the corpses.
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