Esham

Mail Dominance

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As his final solo album of the 1990s, Esham's Mail Dominance finds few traces of the morbid themes that populated the rapper's early-'90s work. At this point in his career, the Detroit artist opted for a more respectable route, rapping more about himself and why he's so great than the trademark horror tales that made albums such as Judgement Day and Kill the Fetus such cult favorites. So, in a way, it's sad to see Esham trade in his once inaccessible qualities for a much more palatable approach (it's debatable whether or not this constitutes "selling out"). Yet it's also nice, in a way, to see him rely on his rhyming skills and production rather than his often novelty tactics of the past. On songs such as "Oucha Atmosphere" and "Twerk Yo Body," Esham's skills are blatantly apparent; though he may not be nearly as commercially successful as the majority of 1990s rappers, he's unquestionably one of the best in terms of delivery and flow. Unfortunately, on Mail Dominance it's not his delivery or flow that seems questionable but rather his lyrics and the production. When not rapping about nihilistic themes, Esham struggles to find engaging lyrics; here he's best when he raps indecipherably. In terms of production, Santos collaborates with Esham for this album, bringing plenty of new ideas, some which work and many that don't; similarly, the beats are a far departure from the grimy samples of his early-'90s work. Yet for as much as this album distinctively feels like Esham consciously not trying to make an Esham album, it's hard not to favor his more perverse moments, even if he's at the top of his skills here -- it sounds as if he's changing styles just to change. Because of this Mail Dominance comes off sounding quite experimental, a sort of test to see if Esham's ventures into respectability seem pragmatic.

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