Recently we witnessed the bloody conclusion of horror hip-hop artist Brotha Lynch Hung's epic “Coathanga” album trilogy, when we released with the world premiere of his extreme video “Meat Cleaver” from the final record Mannibalector. It was the climax of a project that took three years to complete, and since I've been following the trilogy from the beginning, I wanted to learn more about Lynch's creative process and the origin of this unforgettable killer. Thankfully I got some chat-time with Lynch this week, where we talked about the evolution of the concept and the ambitious music video series.
FEARnet: Hey, Lynch! It's great to finally talk to you.
LYNCH: Thanks man, I was looking forward to it!
It looks like the “Meat Cleaver” video really got a lot of attention. I was really glad we could debut it here.
Thanks, that's great to hear! It's the perfect site to release it.
Now that Mannibalector has been out for a week, what kind of feedback are you getting from the fans?
Nothing but good. They're saying it's the best of the trilogy, and they really love the lyrics. I'm really happy, because I spent a long time working on this ending to the trilogy, and we had three weeks in the studio to record it.
This three-album concept is unusual in any genre of music, not just hip-hop... did you know going in that this idea was bigger than a single record?
Yeah, I actually had the whole story planned out before I signed with Strange Music, but I didn't have the money and manpower to release this trilogy. Once I signed with them in 2009, I knew they'd be able to make it happen, so I really dove in.
Your writing is very album-oriented on this series, which comes along at a time when a lot of artists and labels are getting away from the whole album structure. It's cool that Strange was receptive to that for the long haul.
They were definitely on board from the beginning, which I loved. As a matter of fact, they came up with the idea for the series of eight videos that I did, and setting up a website where you can watch all of them in a row.
It would be interesting to see them presented in sequence, like a miniseries.
Yeah, and soon you'll be able to go to the site and see the whole story play out that way. I'm glad, because a lot of the feedback I'm getting from fans is that they don't want this story to end. They're sending me these emails with sad faces... it really motivates me to something really creative for me on the next project.
Have you been picking up many new fans who got into your work because of the horror angle?
Yeah, it's crazy, they've been popping up from everywhere! It's been doing better than I ever expected. This series might not shock those fans who have been listening to me for ten or fifteen years, but these new fans are really into the horror angle.
You've built a reputation for tight lyric writing, but this series also has more of a storytelling style, and it spans three years. How did you keep that story thread together?
It was a big challenge, and way different. There were times when I couldn't keep it as lyrical as I usually would, because I had to stay aware of the storyline. What inspired me most was to think of it as an audition for a movie. As long as I told myself that, I'd stay motivated... and I always love a challenge.
The series actually comes across like a movie trilogy itself, with scenes and acts within each album and the same kind of ups and downs. Did movies inspire you in other ways on this project?
A little bit, but you know, it's really more about the ID [Investigation Discovery] Channel. I love the idea of these horror stories that could happen in the real world. I took a little bit of inspiration from movies like Saw and Hostel, but not as much. I do love the gory stuff, so some of that does make it in there from the movies.
How closely did you work with the directors of this video series, as far as the way each one looks and how the stories connect?
What's amazing about that is how everything was really set in stone when I had those first meetings with Strange. When it came time to shoot, all I had to do was the raps and the acting, because we had already worked it all out. We'd shoot it, and then I'd go back to writing in California, and they'd put everything together in Kansas City, and just knock it out.
The videos tie in to the music by setting up the character's history, and showing the frustration that drives him over the edge. Is some of that based on your own experience?
I'd say about 30 percent of my life was mixed into that character. I've been in the game over 25 years, and I was once a frustrated rapper. I was the guy watching MTV and wishing that that was me up there, wishing I had that success. In the first album, I wanted to be more sensitive to the character that would become the Coathanga Strangla, aka Mannibalector. I ended up writing songs like “Spit it Out,” which is a sad song, and I wanted that song and the video to grab people's emotions and really feel him. On the second album, I wanted people to see him getting tired of it all, and then on this one they can see him go over the edge. At least you know the reason why he's there.
In the third album and those final videos, it looks like he's completely lost touch with reality and become this faceless killer... he's almost larger than life.
Yes, definitely. He's lost and friendless at that point, and like I said a lot of that comes from my own life, when I've let a lot of people go and went my way alone. The only difference is I don't go around killing people... not in my real life, anyway, but through that character.
Now that he's gone, do you feel like you can let that part of your life go too?
Yeah, I can... I guess I kind of used Manniblector to get out some of those feelings.
The amazing thing I learned about Seven since we met in 2010 was how well we could work out ideas from anywhere we happened to be. We did a lot of work together just over the phone, and in texts. If I let him know where I was going with the style of a specific song, like a day or two later he'd send me an email with a couple of tracks, and one of them always hit. I never had to tell Seven “No, I don't want this beat,” because everything just matched. That's the amazing thing about Strange, is that they have these people onboard that allow you to spend more time creating – and that was great for me, because I was working so hard on this one character and the whole storyline.
How long did you plan out Mannibalector before you spent those three weeks in the studio?
I released the first two albums about a year apart, but you'll notice Mannibalector took about half a year longer. Strange knew I really wanted to come up with a great ending to the trilogy, so they gave me that extra time, and I spent that half year planning and jotting down ideas that I would end up using on the final album.
Now that you've closed this story and kind of set that character free, do you think you'll return to a dark place like that in a future project?
A lot of long-time fans know that when I release an album – and in this case, these three albums are really a single album to me – they know that the next time they hear me, I'll be on a whole different subject. There may be some horror or gore in it, but it won't be anything like what they've heard before. Now I'm not gonna say I wouldn't like to explore Mannibalector again, maybe look at the events before this trilogy... but I really haven't thought much about it yet. I sometimes revisit some of my ideas in other projects, but at this point it's hard to say. I'm spending most of my time right now getting the fans' reactions to this album, finding out what they like and don't like, and get a feel for what they might want to hear next. You know, I'm always in the dungeon plotting...
A lot of Strange Music artists are really close to horror and supernatural themes; Tech N9ne is working on Devil's Carnival 2, and we've done features with Prozak, who does ghost-hunting documentaries... do you know if they're planning on moving more into the domain of horror movies in the future?
Well, let me push this out there, because I've been pitching this idea to the bosses at Strange... I think they should do a series of Strange Movies. I'd really like to see them do something like that. I've got so many story ideas, I hope they keep me in mind!