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Music / Esham

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"Sitting down in a crackhouse earning my pay
If some basehead jump crazy, I'll just blow him away."
— From "Esham's Boomin'", the first line on the first song on the first album Esham ever released.

Detroit rapper Esham (born Esham Attica Smith, September 20, 1973) is known for having a cultish following for featuring rock samples and lyrics about Satanism (early on), drug use, paranoia and hardcore sex, similar to the Geto Boys.

Esham self-released his debut album Boomin' Words from Hell at the age of 13, and later went on to form the independent label Reel Life Productions, and the acid rap group NATAS. His early albums were the subject of much rumor and controversy; local listeners were literally scared of the albums. Albums like Judgement Day and KKKill the Fetus led to Esham being perceived as a Satanist; the latter featured paintings of fetuses on its artwork and lyrics which promoted abortion. After Closed Casket, however, Esham decided to no longer rap about Satan and abandon his use of the stage name "The Unholy".


After his brother went to prison, Esham gravitated more towards Gangsta Rap lyrical themes with Dead Flowerz, Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987 and Mail Dominance. In 1999, he signed with Psychopathic Records and joined the Horrorcore supergroup Dark Lotus, with plans to issue his next album, Tongues, on the label. However. he left the label and the group due to a disagreement, and rebranded Reel Life Productions as Gothom Records. Gothom signed Kool Keith, The Dayton Family and former porn star-turned-rapper Heather Hunter.

Esham started beefing with Eminem for no apparent reason (allegedly spurred by Eminem rapping "I think I fucked up my head listening to acid rap" in a freestyle, which Esham took as a diss), and got kicked off of Van's Warped Tour in 2001 after Eminem's group, D12, allegedly beat him up after Esham went on stage and, during his song "Chemical Imbalance", rapped "Hailey's in a coma", referring to Eminem's daughter. After the collapse of Reel Life Productions, Esham found himself homeless and living in his car, and Insane Clown Posse agreed to help him out by again signing him to Psychopathic; Esham also joined the Gangsta Rap supergroup Psychopathic Rydas.


After the solo album A-1 Yola, Esham left Psychopathic to return to RLP. Esham has gravitated back and forth from dissing other rappers for attention and trying to suck up to them, leading to some bad business choices like signing a drug addict "Juggalette" rapper, resulting in him losing the fans that dislike ICP. He's lost even more fans by releasing a series of videos calling ICP's Violent J the devil (Esham called himself "God") and lying about his former business deals with Psychopathic. He later released a video apologizing to Juggalos for his remarks, stating that his perception had been warped by substance abuse, and that he's still a Juggalo and has nothing against ICP or Psychopathic.

Violent J himself has stated that he has no idea why Esham has problems with him and Psychopathic. More recently, Esham and ICP resolved their beef, and Esham has made appearances at the Gathering of the Juggalos and on tour with Violent J.

To be fair, it's hard to find a single rapper from Detroit that Esham hasn't had on-again off-again friendships and feuds with. For example, Esham was friends with Kid Rock early in his career, despite the two being extremely competitive, to the point where Kid Rock asked for more money than Esham when they both recorded guest appearances for ICP's Carnival of Carnage. Esham would later diss Kid Rock a few times (even claiming Kid Rock was a racist despite Rock having a half-black son and Esham having his own issues with race), but most recently Esham has spoken positively on Kid Rock, claiming he taught Kid Rock how to rap.

Partial discography

  • Boomin' Words from Hell (1989)
  • Homey Don't Play (1991)
  • Erotic City (1991)
  • Judgement Day (1992)
  • Helterskkkelter (1993)
  • KKKill the Fetus (1993)
  • Maggot Brain Theory (1994)
  • Closed Casket (1994)
  • Dead Flowerz (1996)
  • Detroit Dogshit (1997)
  • Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987 (1997)
  • Mail Dominance (1999)
  • Bootleg: From the Lost Vault, Vol. 1 (2000)
  • Tongues (2001)
  • Acid Rain (2002)
  • Repentance (2003)
  • A-1 Yola (2005)
  • Martyr City (2006)
  • Lamb Chopz (2007)
  • The Butcher Shop (2008)
  • Sacrificial Lambz (2008)
  • Esham 4 Mayor (2008)
  • I Ain't Cha Homey (2009)
  • Hellaween: Pure Horror (2009)
  • Suspended Animation (2010)
  • DMT Sessions (2011)

ESHAM demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Ax-Crazy: Exhibits this character frequently in his lyrics.
  • Black Comedy: On the song "Chemical Imbalance".
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Stop Selling Me Drugs"
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Averted with "Silicone":
    "I'm the one that put the slugs in my mama's chest"
  • Evil Sounds Deep: This was certainly not true when Esham started rapping (he was 13 when he released his first album), but has begun to embody this on more recent albums, though his lyrical content is much less evil and Satanic than when he started out.
  • For the Evulz
  • Gangsta Rap: Occasionally.
  • Horrorcore: Considered a pioneer of this style.
  • Jerkass: Exhibits this character frequently in his lyrics, taken to extremes with his work with Soopa Villainz, where he raps about murdering people for being white, and even for being gay. Esham took this even further with the Natas release N of tha World, where he calls himself "Black Hitler".
  • Juggalo: He has a love-and-hate relationship with this culture.
    • His guest spot on ICP's Shangri-La album has the line "The Juggalo in me will break the bank and your super necks"
    • In a podcast, he performed a cover of Insane Clown Posse's "Chicken Huntin'", which changes the lyrics to refer to cocaine dealing (the original song was about killing bigots).
    • "Juggalotus" explicitly pays tribute to Juggalos; however the lyrics state that he doesn't like Faygo and the only wrestling he watches is "bitches in Jell-O".
    • Another podcast features the freestyle "Druggalo", in response to the fans who threw stuff at Wu-Tang Clan's Method Man and Tila Tequila. Some Juggalos didn't receive this one very well.
    • Secret Society Circus, his third Homey the Clown release, has Homey saying that "I'm not a Druggalo".
    • Signed a Juggalette rapper named Chupacabra in attempt to gain back some of the fans he lost. It didn't work.
    • He stated that he is a Juggalo in his apology video.
  • Money Song: "Get Doe"
  • Monster Clown: Esham's releases Homey Don't Play and I Ain't Cha Homey. Esham was the first rapper to wear face paint, and inspired Insane Clown Posse to do so.
  • Political Rap: Dips into this from time to time.
  • Psychedelic Hip Hop
  • Sampling: Esham is one of the rap acts that helped make this an art form. He distinguished himself at first by sampling more heavily from Hard Rock and Heavy Metal than others, arguably making him a Trope Codifier of Rap Metal/Rap Rock.
  • Satan: A lot of his early discography refers explicitly to Satan. Esham also called himself "The Black Devil", and recorded a song called "666" with that phrase repeated heavily towards the end.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Most of his early discography refers explicitly to pornographic sex (I.E. Erotic Poetry) and drug use.
  • Shout-Out: On the Davidians track "?????", from the mixtape The Butcher Shop, Esham tells members Bizarre and King Gordy to "tell Eminem to call me".
  • Take That!:
    • D12 and Eminem reportably got really mad over Esham's song "Chemical Imbalance", which not only dissed Eminem, but alluded to putting his daughter Hailey in a coma.
      • "Feminem is her style, She-12 is her age, she lives across 8 Mile but still can get gauged"
    • Has also called Dr. Dre "Dr. Gay".
    • The inverse has happened to Esham with "Kkkill the Fetus", a track by former associate Dice. Esham has dissed Dice in tracks as well.
      • Eminem himself joined in with the lyric "I fucked up my head listening to acid rap" - twice. On the second song this appeared in, "Kill You", Em added "oops, was that a subliminal diss?" Proof of D12 released two disses toward Esham, one titled "Every Sucker Has A Moment", the other called "Uh Huh".
    • "Kid Rock never rode a bike down my block"
    • Esham released a series of videos insulting Psychopathic artists, including ICP, Twiztid, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Anybody Killa. However, he didn't insult Boondox, who was signed after Esham left Psychopathic, but collaborated with Esham on the track "I Murder".