Don’t fear the reaper: Gainesville rapper Azazus is releasing a horror-themed music video in time for Halloween.
Azazus will drop his new single “Reaper” Oct. 1. The song will accompany a short horror film featuring Azazus and two vampire characters that follows a spooky storyline reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
The Alabama-born music artist, who is heavily inspired by Jackson, said the “Reaper” video will contain themes taken from the 1983 “Thriller” music video.
“We went out and got a little red jacket to reference Michael Jackson,” Azazus said. “I didn't want to get something exactly like Michael because I wanted my own style, but something that would remind people of the great entertainer himself.”
Azazus said the song’s lyrics derive from the Japanese anime series “Bleach.” The anime features characters called Soul Reapers that protect humans from evil spirits and guide souls to the afterlife. Though the anime isn’t a part of the horror genre, Azazus said the reaper concept inspired him to play with the lyrics that eventually turned into the new single.
“I wanted to make it really Halloween-themed, kind of like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ and ‘Thriller,’” Azazus said. “It’s just basically a bunch of play-on references to ghosts and different spooky stuff.”
In addition to the Halloween references, Azazus dedicates his introduction verse, which asks, “Y’all do know that black people watch anime too though right?" to anime fans of every background.
Azazus said he doesn’t believe in stereotypes regarding the average anime viewer.
“It should be normalized that everyone can enjoy anime, no matter their ethnicity or age,” Azazus said. “Sometimes people get judged because they watch anime. Especially if said person has a ‘tough’ outer appearance.”
“Reaper” will be dropping almost two months after Azazus’s recent single “Onlyfans.” John “The Green Ranger” Eagle of 86 Studios, who filmed and directed the “Onlyfans” video, rejoins Azazus for “Reaper.”
Filming took place in Gainesville, with shots taken next to Westside Park and in Eagle’s backyard.
Eagle, who has never shot a music video with horror elements before, said his primary goal was to capture Azazus’s envisioned theme.
“My goal was to make sure I brought everything we put on the table to life,” Eagle said. “We shot inside of a dark tunnel with a red light. The overall color scheme, that’s what I went into with my overall picture of this video to give it the horror vibe.”
Azazus believes “Reaper” to be one of the first horror music videos shot in Gainesville. He said elements of Gainesville’s history made it an ideal landscape for the video and the horror genre in general.
“A lot of people don’t know the movie ‘Scream’ was based off of Gainesville and the Gainesville Ripper,” Azazus said. “It’s kind of crazy no one thought about doing anything spooky, since we have the whole history here with that.”
In contrast, Eagle said he found the Gainesville landscape to offer challenges in addition to the opportunities Azazus saw.
“It definitely has its own unique tone to it,” Eagle said. “It’s definitely not like other places where there’s more areas to shoot that I’ve seen in bigger cities. We both kind of see a little differently on that.”
Azazus released a teaser trailer for the video Sept. 24 on Facebook. He said fans should watch the trailers along with the music video to capture the full concept of the film.
Aaminah Hussain, a 20-year-old UF information systems junior and fan of Azazus’s music, is excited to see the concept of the video come to life. She appreciates the references to Michael Jackson’s music video.
“I love the idea honestly. It’s one of the few horror-oriented videos I would enjoy watching,” Hussain said. “Making it ‘Thriller’ inspired is actually really cool, because no one has actually attempted to make something inspired by that video in a while, or even ever.”
Azazus plans for “Reaper” to be his last release of 2020. Though he has some unreleased songs in the works, the artist feels the appropriate time to release these projects won’t be until 2021.
“I don’t feel like it’s the right time to put them out with the subject matters and everything that’s going on with the world right now,” Azazus said.
“Reaper” will be released on YouTube Oct. 1.