By 1994, the runaway success of Death Row's bloody, violent brand of gangsta-rap led many in hip-hop to wonder what would be next. Accordingly, a small band of artists emerged with what they felt would be the logical conclusion: "horrorcore" rap, a mixture of underground hip-hop beats, brutally violent lyrics inspired by splatter horror movies, and gothic, sometimes even satanic, imagery. Def Jam's entry into this trend, the Flatlinerz, seemed a shoo-in for success, since lead rapper Redrum was the nephew of label head Russell Simmons. In retrospect, though, it's easy to see why the group never really caught on. For one thing, although the production is similar to that of other east coast groups of the era (most particularly the underground act Black Moon), it's rather sparse and unmelodic compared to the G-Funk favored by fans at the time. What's more, although Redrum is a skilled rapper, he seems content with being derivative. In fact, more often than not, he borrows styles and phrases from other rappers, especially Das Efx and Onyx. Worst of all, though, is that lyrically, Flatlinerz are even more monotonous than the most generic gangsta rapper. Since every song here is about murder, death, and mayhem (without even the occasional lapses into sex, drugs and crude humor that Death Row artists scattered on their records), the ultimate effect isn't so much shocking or terrifying as it is numbing. The net result is of a group that, while not without talent, is little more than the sum of their gimmicks. Only a couple of cuts, like the energetic "Sonic Boom," really stand out here. U.S.A. may serve as a fascinating look at a failed hip-hop trend, but apart from its context, there's really nothing here that hasn't been done before, and better, by other, far more talented artists.
AllMusic Review by Victor W. Valdivia