Esham

Judgement Day, Vol. 1

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Esham's ambitious Judgement Day double album may not be his most well-crafted work, but it certainly stands as his most inspired work of the '90s, surpassing any of his solo albums or his NATAS albums in sheer scope. Released in 1992, years before the double album became an accepted practice in rap, Judgement Day finds the Detroit rapper at his most demented, rapping almost exclusively about horrifying topics such as death, Hell, drugs, ghetto, and straight-up nihilism. While most may not find such disturbing subject matter difficult to enjoy or even stomach, it is hard to deny that Esham's work on this album is precedent setting and to a certain degree influential on subsequent underground rap artists. Besides his nightmarish lyrics, Esham also produces the sample-ridden beats on this album, an accomplishment that rivals his rapping. The production is admittedly lo-fi, yet this is an important element of its appeal; with his taste for fuzzy Funkadelic-styled rock samples, the bedroom studio-sounding production's griminess that results as much from its sampled roots as its quality feels somewhat consistent with Esham's rapping -- this is the definition of underground rap. There aren't any of the glossy commercial elements of hip-hop production anywhere to be found here, and also thanks to the album's downright disturbing rapping, this album became and remains an underground cult classic. With this album being as raw as Esham could ever get in terms of both production and rapping, it's no surprise that subsequent releases found him steadily cleaning up both his production and rapping. [Note that Judgement Day, Vol. 1 and Judgement Day, Vol. 2 were released separately, though intended as companions.]

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