|Home Town||Detroit, Michigan|
|Occupation(s)|| Rapper |
|Label(s)|| Reel Life Productions |
|Associated acts|| Natas |
Rashaam Smith, better known by his stage name Esham (East Side Hoes and Money), is an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan known for his hallucinogenic style of hip hop, rock-based beats and lyrics involving subjects such as death, drug use, evil, paranoia and sex. Releasing his debut album, Boomin' Words from Hell while still in high school, Smith was one of the pioneers of acid rap and horrorcore. Counting Boomin' Words from Hell, he has released twelve studio albums, five EPs and three compilation albums. Smith co-founded the independent record label Reel Life Productions, and formed the group Natas with local rappers Mastamind and TNT. Smith has been cited as an influence on rapper such as Eminem and Insane Clown Posse
Born in Long Island, New York, Esham grew up in the Seven Mile neighborhood of East Detroit, attending Osborne High School, where he studied piano, guitar, flute and trombone in high school, and listened to Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss. At the age of 13, Smith released his debut album, Boomin' Words from Hell, in 1989. In 1990, Esham founded the independent record label Reel Life Productions with his older brother, James H. Smith, and reissued his debut album with an alternate track listing and artwork. After releasing two EPs, Erotic Poetry and Homey Don't Play, Esham completed the double album Judgement Day, and its two volumes, Day and Night were released separately on April 9, 1992. Allmusic's Jason Birchmeier wrote that Judgement Day, Vol. 1 "may not be his most well-crafted work, but it certainly stands as his most inspired work of the '90s", while Vol. 2 "isn't quite as strong as the first volume, suffering mostly from a number of weak tracks [...] the first volume doesn't rely quite so much on cheap shock, instead focusing on evocative horror motifs, making Judgement Day, Vol. 2 the less important of the two."
Natas and KKKill the FetusEdit
As a student at Osborne High School, Esham met Mastamind, who gave him a three-song demo tape of his music, leading the two to form the group Natas with Esham's longtime friend, TNT. In 1992, Esham appeared on Carnival of Carnage, the debut album of Insane Clown Posse, released on October 18. He produced three tracks and rapping on the album's final track. In November, Natas released their debut album, Life After Death. In 1993, Esham released his third solo album, KKKill the Fetus. Jason Birchmeier wrote that "At this point in his career, his rapping has already reached near-peak levels, and his production shows a continued path towards an inventiveness. [...] Never again would Esham be so gritty."
Closed Casket and Dead FlowerzEdit
On November 22, 1994, Esham released his fourth studio album, Closed Casket. Jason Birchmeier wrote that "most fans taking a chronological approach to his catalog should be fairly numb to Esham's exploitative shock attempts. Yet if this is one of your first experiences with Esham the Unholy, this album should pack a punch with its dark nature." In May 1996, Esham released his fifth studio album, Dead Flowerz. It peaked at #38 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Overcore Records (1999—2001)Edit
In 1999, Reel Life Productions became Overcore Records, and Esham signed a deal with TVT Records to distribute the label's output. In June of 2001, Overcore released Kool Keith's Spankmaster album, which featured several contributions by Esham, as well as Smith's eighth album, Tongues, which peaked at #7 on the Top Independent Albums chart, #46 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #195 on the Billboard 200.
Psychopathic Records (2002—2005)Edit
In 2002, Esham signed to Psychopathic Records, releasing the compilation Acid Rain. It was announced that Esham would be moving away from the horror themes of his previous efforts. On November 18, 2003, Esham released his ninth studio album, Repentance. It peaked at #9 on the Top Heatseekers chart, #10 on the Top Independent Albums chart, and #71 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Jason Birchmeier wrote that "Repentance is a small step forward for Esham. He seems very confident here, comfortable with himself as an artist [...] when he pulls everything together [...] he makes some of the best music of his long, fruitful, yet largely unacknowledged career." After the release of A-1 Yola, Esham left Psychopathic in 2005. The album peaked at #6 on the Top Heatseekers chart, #12 on the Top Independent Albums chart, #48 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #176 on the Billboard 200.
Sacrificial Lambz (2008)Edit
On August 26, 2008, Smith released his eleventh studio album, Sacrificial Lambz. It peaked at #50 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and at #42 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In October, Smith started a petition to run for mayor of Detroit. Smith has stated "The jump to running for mayor is a pretty drastic change, but I just want to take a stance. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."
Style and influenceEdit
Esham refers to his performance style as "acid rap," comparing the lyrics to hallucinations induced by LSD. Esham's style has also been described as horrorcore hip hop, which "utilize[s] shocking (and blatantly over the top) narratives to give an over-exaggerated, almost cartoon-like version of urban deprivation in Detroit.", according to author Sara Cohen. Smith's lyrics have focused on themes such as death, drug use, evil, paranoia and sex, and have included references to Satan. Following accusations of Satanism, Smith decided that Closed Casket would be the last album to feature such themes, and that he would no longer rap about the Devil.
Acid rap been described as a fusion of hip hop beats and death metal lyrics. Esham defined the genre as analogous to "'modern day blues [or] heavy metal'". Insane Clown Posse member Joseph Bruce has credited Esham as an influence on the group's work. In the lyrics of "Still Don't Give a Fuck" from the album The Slim Shady LP, Eminem refers to himself as "a cross between Manson, Esham and Ozzy". According to author Cheryl Lynette Keyes, Esham's "metal sound with a hip-hop feel" formed the musical basis for acts such as Kid Rock, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Everlast, and Kottonmouth Kings.
- Main article: Esham discography
- 1989: Boomin' Words from Hell
- 1992: Judgement Day
- 1993: KKKill the Fetus
- 1994: Closed Casket
- 1996: Dead Flowerz
- 1997: Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987
- 1999: Mail Dominance
- 2001: Tongues
- 2003: Repentance
- 2005: A-1 Yola
- 2008: Sacrificial Lambz
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 All Music Guide to Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap & Hip-hop pages 160—163
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The Wicket World of Natas
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Natas > Biography
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Discography
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 ICP: Behind the Paint pages 174—185
- ↑ Charts & Awards for Dead Flowerz
- ↑ Charts & Awards for Tongues
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Weekly Freekly: 2
- ↑ Charts & Awards for Repentance
- ↑ Review of Repentance
- ↑ Charts & Awards for A.1. Yola
- ↑ Sacrificial Lambz > Overview
- ↑ Charts and awards for Sacrificial Lambz
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
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- ↑ Decline, Renewal and the City in Popular Music Culture: Beyond The Beatles page 52
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 [Rap Music and Street Consciousness page 108
- ↑ Eminem: The Stories Behind Every Song page 89
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