To call Gasp’s latest album ‘horrorcore’ doesn’t really do it justice. A sprawling double feature with two extended, multi-part tracks, the album is a work of fearsome ambition - ambition thrown into sharp relief by the severe and disappointing lack of critical attention given to the album, and to Gasp, and to Scottish hip-hop in general. Gasp addresses this eloquently and vehemently on his media-baiting song You’re Welcome, not included on the album, but very much relevant to its concerns.
While Cunt. revels in a kind of neo-noir, gore-drenched gothic aesthetic, first and foremost, Gasp has always been a storyteller. On Cunt., those skills are leveraged to create a dark and twisted series of psychotic and deranged narratives which position him as the most singularly eloquent and conceptually experimental writer in the Scottish rap pantheon.
That this is too strong medicine for the mainstream media outlets he calls out in You’re Welcome is evidence of their conservative tastes, and their lack of ability to engage with grassroots culture, especially when it is working class in origin. Put simply, the writing, production and accompanying media for Cunt. are so good, the dearth of coverage of the album is a severe dereliction of duty.
Where the traditional horrorcore touchstones of extreme violence, gothic imagery and gallows humour are ever-present, it’s Gasp’s skills with character and voice that allow him to transcend cartoonish horror, and strike at something darker and more meaningful.
Throughout, dusted trap beats and washed out cloud-rap melodies create a palpable sense of menace. Gasp’s characters nearly always speak in the first person, but the cracked-glass aggression of I’m A Raver, Baby and the unhinged, supernatural presence who narrates I’ll Pick You Up At Ate could not be more different. It is this plurality, this sense of a myriad of fucked-up characters all fighting to be heard, that gives the album its raw power.
The incredibly creative videos for the project, shot by Tommy Slack, provide a rich visual language to underline the schizophrenic parade of personalities Gasp channels — the latest single, Room 237, has completed his metamorphosis from man to monster, with a wheelchair-bound Gasp morphing into a vampiric creature trapped in a haunted hallway straight out of Kubrick’s The Shining.
No other rapper in Scotland is as transformative, as inspired or as creative as Gasp — over the years, he has evolved from a fearsome battle rapper into a chronicler of extreme psychosis, addiction, deprivation and suicidal ideation, able to flip on a razor’s edge from the satirical, crunked-up fuck-you’s of Bucky Gang, which takes a well-aimed shot at modern commercial rap, to hard-edged confessionals like Dead or Little White Lies.
Like Physiks and Shogun, who both feature heavily on the album, Gasp’s brilliance also lies in being able to straddle different stylistic trends in rap music, from the intense assault of trap beats with dizzying multis, to head-nodding boom-bap and back again. His origins in the seminal crew The Being mirror the creative energy which saturates this impressive, dynamic album.
In years to come, should Gasp’s masterful storytelling find an audience beyond Scotland, it is Cunt. which will be looked back on as his key release — the moment he transitioned from the hyper-narratives of early classics like Three Strangers into an altogether darker, more twisted narrative experiment. That it was missed by the mainstream media completely will no doubt be a sore point.
Want to see a man become a monster, and a monster become a man? Gasp can show you how it’s done.