Boomin' Words from Hell

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First released in 1990, a few years before gangsta rap took over the rap genre and nearly a decade before heavy metal-influenced rap rose from the underground, Esham's debut deserves recognition merely for its aims if not also for its accomplishments. It's a rather primitive album, composed with nothing more than a bass guitar, drum machine, sampler, mic, and tiny budget, yet it transcends its lo-fi trappings with its unique character. Esham isn't making gangsta rap here, even if his music shares that style's anger, and he obviously isn't making conventional East Coast hip-hop; instead, he crafts his own style -- later dubbed "acid rap" -- that co-opted hardcore rap's aggression, gangsta rap's angst, East Coast hip-hop's emphasis on MCing, and added a dark aura of murky beats and truly horrifying lyrics about exploitative topics such as murder, sex, drugs, evil, and the devil. The prototype for the musical style that he would develop and arguably wear out by the end of the 1990s is here -- just the tip of the iceberg, though. Many of the songs here are fairly mediocre relative to Esham's later work, but there are a few gems here that foreshadow his subsequent work. In particular, "Red Rum," "4 All the Suicidalist," and "Devil's Groove" stand out and flirt with the sample-based production that would dominate the following Judgement Day albums. Besides these three tracks, there aren't too many highlights here, though a few songs such as "Esham's Boomin" and "Some Old Wicket Shit!!!" are important lyrically, as the artist first begins to define his theatrical persona.

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