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Straight Outta Detroit – Inventor Of Acid Rap – Esham

24 February 2004 No Comment

For years, the name Esham has been synonymous in Detroit with the underground rap scene. Not many beyond the 313 have known about this mysterious hip-hop legend or how an entire school of rappers came to be influenced by the genre he invented and dubbed “Acid Rap.” Nevertheless, Esham’s legacy has made a lasting impact on the hip hop world. More popular acts have come into Detroit and noticed what was happening on the scene, some even adopting the style as their own.

In the mid-1990s, a genre called Horrorcore developed from his seed, with the most notable group to come out being the side project of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, called Gravediggaz. A wider national audience was now aware of this hip-hop genre, but few had still discovered the roots of it all. Esham came on the scene in 1991 with the release of his debut album, Boomin’ Words From Hell, which quickly became a hit in his hometown of Detroit. Though this album was produced when he was only 15, he came out with a furious rap style that delivered his lyrics hard and heavy. It was unlike anything anybody had ever heard come out of the city. 

His production was also ahead of its time, with trunk-thumping beats that used samples from a variety of sources, including P-Funk, Prince and Black Sabbath. Another Detroit rap act that was coming up paid close attention to what Esham was doing and decided to help out. At the time, Kid Rock was a relative unknown signed to Jive Records and on tour with bigger acts to promote his album nationally. Kid Rock explains, “I promoted that (Boomin’ Words From Hell) on that Ice Cube tour. I took 500 of his cassettes with me and gave them to everyone I know. Me and Esham were, like, running Detroit back then. I helped Esham out, Esham helped me out.” This type of assistance between Detroit artists proved to be rare, as both of these musicians struggled individually for every bit of success they achieved. “In the early days, day one Detroit struggled as a music community,” Esham comments, “because there was and still is no unity.” This lack of local support became painfully evident in the coming years.

In 1998, Source Magazine gave Esham the title of Most Slept On Artist. One year later, though Esham continued to stay beneath the radar of MTV and radio, his style became a bestseller as Detroiter Eminem blew up onto the scene from the home of Acid Rap. Eminem was quick to reveal his sources, claiming on his debut album, “I‘m a cross between Manson, Esham and Ozzy.” Tensions eventually grew between the two rappers, which led to Esham dissing Eminem on his album. Last year, tensions reached a peak as Esham and Eminem protégés D12 were removed from the Vans Warped Tour for a backstage fighting incident. “It’s like a father being upset with his son, a teacher and his student, a professor and an apprentice, the master and his grasshopper,” describes Esham. “The bridge between order and chaos is law. I must maintain order in my domain.” 

In 2002, Esham found a new home and a new direction, signing a worldwide deal with the Detroit-based label Psychopathic/Red Music, an independent record label backed by Sony. This November 18, 2003, Esham’s REPENTANCE will be unveiled to the world, his attempt to bring to surface all the wrong he has been responsible for in this world and show how it has affected his own spirit. But this is not the work of a sorrowful man or a man with any regrets about how he has affected the industry. With this album, Esham is ready to conquer all that he has yet to achieve in the industry. REPENTANCE is twenty tracks of fire and ice, and is the best album of his career. In defining the concept for the album, Esham chronicles, “REPENTANCE is a battle between good and evil–journey into my mind to see who wins”.

Just as easily as Esham can bring down a house with ruthless tracks, he can also slow down the pace and get the clubs grinding to the beat. His first single, “Woo Woo Woo,” does just that, with an infectious bass line that will have heads bobbing from coast to coast. As Esham characterizes it, “Woo Woo Woo is for the lovers, not the haters. It’s about not procrastinating, being about something good!”

The song “Pay,” featuring Bone Thugs N Harmony, is a hard-hitting collaboration track from true veterans of the rap industry. Esham and the members of Bone decided to link up for this song after touring together this past summer. During this outing, his live show was in full effect and won over many loyal fans who came out to see Bone. Esham depicts this as a major point in his career. “Going on tour with Bone was spiritually uplifting, and I’m still flapping my wings from the whole experience.“ The chemistry that they developed is evident on this song. 

No longer will the world sleep on this legend of the Detroit underground, as Esham will be out in full force to spread his words to the world. Look for Esham to tour nationally in support of REPENTANCE, which will be sure to draw even more fans to his music with his intense live shows. Prepare for a new generation to follow Esham’s lead, as his REPENTANCE marks a confrontation with the entire hip-hop industry.


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