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Music / Esham
aka: Natas

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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.

Esham (born Rashaam Smith in 1974) is an American rapper known for his Horrorcore performance style. The '90s saw him at his most theatrical, as he would often begin his performances by emerging from a coffin before he started rapping, which connected his performances to the Shock Rock theatricality of artists like Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Alice Cooper.

Esham self-released his debut album Boomin' Words from Hell when he was 16, and later went on to form the independent label Reel Life Productions, and the Horrorcore group Natas. His early albums were the subject of much rumor and controversy, which Esham reveled in, believing there was No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, as local listeners were literally scared of the albums. Albums like Judgement Day and KKKill the Fetus led to Esham being perceived as a Devil Worshipper; the latter featured paintings of fetuses on its artwork and lyrics which promoted abortion. Following the release of the Natas album Life After Death, Esham, Natas and Reel Life Productions were the subject of much controversy when a 17-year-old fan killed himself while smoking cannabis and playing Russian roulette while listening to the album.

Because his career was Overshadowed by Controversy, Esham decided to no longer rap about Satan and abandon his use of the stage name "The Unholy", releasing Closed Casket as his final "Satanic Album" in 1994. Another Detroit rapper later usurped Esham's controversy magnet status.


He has too many releases to list here, but here are the primary full length albums of his catalog, excluding extended plays, mixtapes, compilations and collaboration albums.

  • Boomin' Words from Hell (1990)
  • Judgement Day (1992; originally sold separately as Vol. 1: Day and Vol. 2: Night)
  • KKKill the Fetus (1993)
  • Closed Casket (1994)
  • Dead Flowerz (1996)
  • Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987 (1997)
  • Mail Dominance (1999)
  • Tongues (2001)
  • Repentance (2003)
  • A-1 Yola (2005)
  • Sacrificial Lambz (2008)
  • Suspended Animation (2010)
  • DMT Sessions (2011)
  • Venus Flytrap (2012)
  • Dichotomy (2015)
  • Scribble (2017)
  • Dead of Winter (2018)
  • She Loves Me (2020)
  • She Loves Me Not (2020)
  • Psyops (2021)
  • Purgatory (2023)

Music Videos

ESHAM demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Bowdlerise: The 2015 remastered reissue of his debut deleted the line "but what has God done for me?" from "Word After Word". Also, the original cassette cover seems to title the album "Esham's Boomin'" (the title of the first song), with "Words from Hell" as the subtitle.
    • The Homey Don't Play remix of "Some Old Wicketshit!!!" replaces the lyric where Esham declares, "I am Satanic, so fuck y'all bitches" with the more defiant denial, "I'm not Satanic, so fuck y'all bitches"
    • Judgement Day was originally issued as two separate discs, Vol. 1: Day and Vol. 2: Night, and later reissued as a double album. On the double album reissue, "Intro Boogieman" (the "Acid Rap Hotline" skit) was not indexed as its own track, and was instead programmed as the end of "Nine Dead Bodies".
    • On his verse for Insane Clown Posse's "Chop! Chop!", Esham rapped, "I gotta catch these carnival thrills, newborn bloody babies' heads I drill", but the bloody babies' heads part is reversed.
    • The album version of "Hellter Skkkelter"note  is the radio friendly version, while the version on the extended play of the same name, is the explicit version with different lyrics.
  • Concept Album: Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987 is a Gangsta Rap Concept Album that is only loosely inspired by Batman, in that Esham raps about being a rich guy named Bruce Wayne, and refers to Detroit as Gothom, but it has nothing else to do with Batman. A-1 Yola is another Gangsta Rap Concept Album, only this time inspired by Scarface (1983), with the lyrics being about Esham being a wealthy drug kingpin. The outer sleeve of the album was packaged to look like the A.1. Sauce bottle, while the front cover of the booklet just showed a pile of cocaine against a black background.
  • Concept Video: The DVD packaged with the original physical release of A-1 Yola contained music videos for nearly every song on the album, forming a sort of zero budget mini-movie with a lot of bad green screen effects and footage and images used with zero attempt to attain permission from the copyright holders for said video/images, which marked a turning point in the way Esham would produce Music Videos, as while he'd previously made professionally produced Music Videos,note  starting with A-1 Yola, Esham stopped making professionally produced Music Videos and made the standard style for his videos this kind No Budget production with YouTube Poop-esque, proto-Million Dollar Extreme editing.
  • 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, 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.
  • Female Groin Invincibility: On "Pussy Ain't Got No Face", Esham declares, "You gotta stick it in their pee hole". That's not how sex works, and a woman would find that painful.
  • Fun with Acronyms: An interesting one. His group Natas's name is an acronym for "Nation Ahead of Time And Space", and sometimes "Niggaz Ahead of Time And Space". But it's also Satan backwards. It might be a backronym, given the multiple meanings the group has given for the name.
  • Genre Mashup: Rolling Stone described his performance style as a Mashup of Hip-Hop beats and Death Metal lyrics. Esham himself said that his style was comparable to Blues or Heavy Metal and that he considers genre categorization to be like segregation.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Acid Rain is a bit of an unusual example,note  as Esham had just signed to Psychopathic Records, and the label owners wanted to put something out to familiarize the label's dedicated fans with Esham's back catalog before his first album of new music dropped. So, shortened versions of older tracks were edited together like a DJ mixtape with several tracks of newly recorded raps by Violent Jnote  telling the story of Esham's career in rhyme form,note  even overdubbing a new part on the song "Everyone"note  — all leading up to four new songs and a remix of the old song "How Do I Plead to Homicide?", where the instrumentation of the original was entirely replaced by new instrumentation.note 
  • Hollywood Satanism: Esham was well known for his Horrorcore style. In his lyrics, he would refer to himself as "The Black Devil", and in one song (guess what it's called), he repeats the phrase "666" over and over against a Heavy Metal riff. Needless to say, his career has been Overshadowed by Controversy since he debuted, and he would be frequently accused of actually worshipping The Devil because his Shock Rock Meets Hip Hop performance style was taken literally, as opposed to simply being entertainment.
  • I Have Many Names: He is also known to go by Esham the Unholy, Esham the Boogieman, Bruce Wayne, Converse,note  Mr. Spade,note  Black Hitler and Homey the Clown.
  • New Sound Album: Judgement Day introduced more of a Rap Rock sound compared to his debut, with heavy Sampling of Rock and Heavy Metal bands.note  Closed Casket was Esham's last album to feature Satanic lyrics and extensive Sampling. Dead Flowerz, the very next album, features less frequent Sampling, a more Hip Hop sound and no Satanic Panic-baiting. This would set a template for his releases to come, as Esham would more actively court Hip Hop radio airplay throughout his career, with far less reliance on Horrorcore tropes. Perhaps the biggest divergence from his Horrorcore style was the '99 album Mail Dominance which was an overt Pop Rap album really actively vying for radio airplay with standard Hip Hop lyrical themes ("Twirk Yo Body"). The album directly proceeding it, Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987, was also absent of Horrorcore themes. And in a complete headscratcher, Esham's two albums for Psychopathic Records were both in a Gangsta Rap style.
    • Natas's music was initially in a sampledelia style heavily utilizing Sampling similar to Esham's second, third and fourth solo albums, but after Natas released two albums, Life After Death and Blaz4me, they switched their sound to a less sample-oriented Hip Hop sound emphasizing Horror Synth, on Doubelievengod and Multikillionaire: The Devil's Contract. Then they used a live band for instrumentation on WicketWorldWide.COM, Godlike and N of tha World, giving their songs more of a Rap Rock sound.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Rapper Bizarre has gone on record saying that after D12note  heard Esham rap "Hailie's in a coma, Hailie's in a coma",note  and Esham threw a bottle at D12's tour bus, the group, minus Eminem, chased and beat down Esham for disrespecting Em's daughter and throwing a bottle at the bus.note 
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "I Don't Owe U Shit" has the lyrics "like Bobbitt, cuttin' off dicks" and "we burn up shit like David Koresh", references to events that just happened. And "Cyberkill" references Columbine and the Trenchcoat Mafia while the tragedy was still fresh in people's minds.
  • Sampling:
    • Among the more interesting samples featured on the KKKill the Fetus album include the sample of Alice in Chains' "Dirt" on "Symptoms of Insanity", and Body Count's "There Goes the Neighborhood" on the single "Hellter Skkkelter", not only because of how recently these Metal songs were released and the fact that Esham was sampling current Metal bands instead of the typical 1970s Funk and Soul recordings typically plundered for Hip Hop production at that time, but because of how it's not at all obvious that these are where the samples came from, since he hid his sources pretty deeply when he flipped them by pitch shifting them and altering the speed of the samples.
    • Another interesting one comes on "Drive U 2 Suicide" off Closed Casket where Esham reverses a sample of Beastie Boys vocals for an interesting effect.
    • Speaking of the Beastie Boys, huge chunks of the backing track for "13 Ways" off Judgement Day are uncredited beat-jacking from the Beasties' instrumental "And What You Give Is What You Get", originally from their extended play An Exciting Evening at Home With Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
      • And "Devilish Mood" is essentially a Mashup of "Car Thief" (which itself sampled Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly theme) and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn".
    • The instrumental for "Crib Death" is not so much sampled from 24-7 Spyz's Heavy Metal instrumental "John Connelly's Theory" as it is Esham just straight up rapping over it.
    • And then there's the title track from Closed Casket, where Esham samples "Lick a Shot" by Cypress Hill and flips the B-Real line "had a bad dream, woke up in a casket" into a Madness Mantra.
  • Similarly Named Works: Esham's Rap Rock double album Judgement Day is not to be confused with the Rap Rock soundtrack album to the movie Judgment Night, which featured collaborations between Rappers and Rock bands like Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam, Ice-T and Slayer, or De La Soul and Teenage Fanclub.
    • Natas has an album called Life After Death (1992). Not to be confused with the 1997 album by The Notorious B.I.G., which was Biggie's final album completed during his lifetime and first posthumous release.
    • Natas released a 1995 song called "Fuck da World", not to be confused with Tupac Shakur's "Fuck the World", which was released the same year, or Insane Clown Posse's "Fuck the World", which came out four years later.
    • The rap group 11/5 released an album called A-1 Yola in 1996, 9 years before the better-known Esham album of the same name.
  • Take That!: It would be very difficult to keep track of everyone that Esham has dissed in his lyrics or keep up to speed with his beefs, because Esham is known to have a very contentious personality, to the point where many of the people he's beefed with are often former friends, and in some instances, he's dissed people who believed they were on friendly terms, even contributing guest rap verses to the same album Esham dissed them on. It's also not easy to tell whether Esham's beef with someone is serious or some kind of Andy Kaufman-style trolling, so it would be pointless to even list everyone Esham has dissed in his lyrics over the course of his career. To keep things simple, just presume that the Natas song "Fuck da World" really does apply to everyone in Esham's case.
  • Theme Tune: In 1995, Esham recorded the theme for a Horror Movie called The Fear (presented, but not written or directed, by Wes Craven), which had a slightly unusual soundtrack for its time, as it entirely consisted of Horrorcore songs, including tracks by Gravediggaz and ICP. The soundtrack would turn out to be the only saving grace from the movie, as most viewers, as well as ICP, found the movie to be really, really bad. It's about a demon that posseses a wooden carving that becomes a kind of evil Pinocchio named Morty get the picture. Among the movie's biggest headscratchers was who thought that naming the villain of a Horror Movie "Morty" was a good idea? It also unfortunately gives Esham's Theme Tune an element of Narm, as there's no way to take Esham shouting "Morty!!" over and over seriously, even paired with his "nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide" chant, even if the first thing you think of when you hear it isn't a teenage boy who travels the galaxy with his grandpa.
  • Updated Re Release: The original cassette and CD releases of his debut album contained different songs. When the album was remastered in 2015, the additional tracks from the 1990 CD were amended to the original cassette track listing as bonus tracks. However, the blasphemy on "Word After Word" was deleted.
    • Judgement Day was reissued as a box set in 2006, containing both original volumes, two volumes of previously unreleased recordings from the same time period (Vol. 3: Ascending and Vol. 4: Descending), a disc of newly recorded music (Martyr Sity) and a Concert DVD of Esham performing at the Gathering of the Juggalos.
    • All of the extended plays Esham released from 1991 to '94 were combined into a single disc and reissued as The EP Collection (1991-1994) in 2016, due to them all being out of print and it being less expensive in 2016 to put out one disc of mostly 4 song extended plays than to put out four discs with only about 15 minutes of music each, so Esham probably saved some money doing this.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Part of what built his profile in The '90s and Early 2000's was the random collaborations and compilation appearances. Esham showed up on Insane Clown Posse's debut, the P-Funk compilation Dance on the Wild Side,note  performed the intro on a Kid Rock song,note  did a song with the Alternative Metal band The Workhorse Movement and had two exclusive songs on the Rap Metal compilation Race Riot.note 

Alternative Title(s): Reel Life Productions, Natas