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Esham's long and winding career took another twist in 2002, when he joined forces with Insane Clown Posse, another underground hardcore rap act from Detroit heavily overshadowed by the wildfire success of Eminem. The mutually beneficial partnership began with an excellent Esham best-of, Acid Rain, and a year later came Repentance, the veteran rapper/producer's first full-length for ICP's label, Psychopathic. It's not a drastically different album from the ones Esham had been making in previous years, for better or worse -- an album chock-full of wildly eclectic songs characterized by slightly awkward structures, far left-field beats, and dark, dark spoken-rapped rhymes. As usual, there are a few songs where everything comes together perfectly ("Bang," "Woo Woo Woo Woo," "Pay," "Detroit") and a few that come together less than perfectly, as well as a number of interesting novelties: "Back in da Day," an oral history of the Detroit scene with a lot of name-dropping; "Ex-Girlfriend," a disturbing murder fantasy; "Boom!," a blastbeat-driven production; "Boss Up," a pop-culture lyrical freakshow that references such unlikely characters as Michael Jackson and Christina Aguilera; "No War," an Iraq War II-era musing; and "All of My Life," a totally unexpected R&B duet that concludes the album on a really impressive (yet definitely questionable) note. There are only a couple ICP collabos, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you feel about those clowns, so Repentance still ends up playing like an Esham album. It should therefore satisfy longtime fans, particularly those of his latter-day work rather than his early rap-metal style, yet at the same time probably won't win over anyone who didn't care for him in the first place. If you want to get particular, Repentance is a small step forward for Esham. He seems very confident here, comfortable with himself as an artist regardless of his Eminem issues, and when he pulls everything together, like on "Woo Woo Woo Woo" especially, he makes some of the best music of his long, fruitful, yet largely unacknowledged career.

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