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About Artist: Rashaam Attica Smith - ESHAM
A pioneer of Detroit hip hop, Esham released his first album, "Boomin' Words From Hell" in 1989 at the age of 13. The album's success led to an increasing local fanbase, which Esham dubbed "Suicidalists". With his brother James Smith, Esham founded the independent label Reel Life Productions a year later. The 1991 EP "Homey Don't Play", featuring cover art depicting Esham wearing clown face paint, inspired a local rap group, the Inner City Posse to adopt facepaint and incorporate influence of Esham's "acid rap" style, at the insistence of group leader Violent J, who renamed the group Insane Clown Posse.
With the release of Esham's double album, "Judgement Day", Esham became the first hip hop artist to release a double album, and crafted a psychedelic hip hop sound with heavy metal and hard rock samples that influenced a young Kid Rock, who helped promote the album and later based his own sound around that of Esham's.
With local rappers Mastamind and T-N-T, Esham formed the group NATAS (Nation Ahead of Time And Space), which released its debut, "Life After Death" in late 1992. The album was the subject of much controversy when a teenage fan of the group killed himself while smoking marijuana, playing Russian Roulette and listening to the album, but Esham told the press that NATAS and Reel Life Productions should not be held responsible for the actions of other people.
In addition to the hallucinogenic content of Esham's lyrics, which Esham compared to LSD hallucinations, and described urban deprivation, drug use, violence and extreme sexuality, Esham's lyrics also featured descriptions of Hell (as a metaphor for Detroit) and multiple references to Satan, which got him labeled as a Satanic rapper by the press, leading Esham to move away from these thematic elements following one last album of this sort, "Closed Casket", marking the semi-official death of acid rap, which had already influenced Insane Clown Posse and Kid Rock and would later go on to influence Eminem.
Beginning with "Dead Flowerz", Esham began to move toward more traditional gangsta rap themes, slowly moving away from his previous Satanic imagery and bury persistent rumors that claimed he worshiped Satan or was even the Devil himself.
Esham's brother and Reel Life Productions owner James was incarcerated in 1994. After releasing two albums distributed by Warlock Records, Reel Life resumed being a solely independent label and signed local rapper Dice. Following the release of Esham's "Dead Flowerz", his and Reel Life's most commercially successful release up until that point, Reel Life Productions went bankrupt.
Reel Life was rebranded as Gothom Records, beginning with Esham's "Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987". Gothom soon became a subsidiary of Overcore Records, acquiring Overcore-signed metal band 20 Dead Flower Children and signing its own rock band, The Workhorse Movement. In 1999, Esham signed with Insane Clown Posse's Psychopathic Records and joined the label's supergroup Dark Lotus, but left the group and label following a disagreement, returning to Gothom. Overcore began a distribution deal with TVT Records, and Gothom signed The Dayton Family and Kool Keith. Esham also found himself in a feud with D12 over his lyrics, which bashed Eminem. After being beat up by his fans during a 2001 concert, Esham blamed D12 for the incident, and both were kicked off the Warped Tour. Later in the year, TVT and Overcore went bankrupt, and Esham found himself living in his car following a divorce.
Insane Clown Posse signed Esham to Psychopathic, despite the fact that label dons like Alex Abbiss disliked him. He finally buried the previous Satanic rumors once and for all with a compilation album, "Acid Rain", which collected previous fan favorites showcasing various styles from his past albums and ended with Esham pledging allegiance to God in a song called "Redemption", which was intended to be the title of his next album, later titled "Repentance", which featured the single "Woo Woo Woo Woo", which received minor airplay on MTV2 and BET. Esham also developed a Psychopathic subsidiary, Urban Music Zone, which signed Detroit hip hop legend 'MC Breed' and was intended to showcase more traditional hip hop artists.
Following the release of James Smith from prison, Esham left Psychopathic to reform Gothom/RLP. In 2006, Esham became the first hip hop artist to release a box set, with a deluxe edition of "Judgement Day" which featured two additional volumes of previously unreleased material recorded around the same time period as the main album, an exclusive EP, "Martyr City", and a DVD featuring footage of Esham performing at the 2004 Gathering of the Juggalos.
Following the release of his 2008 album "Sacrificial Lambz", Esham unsuccessfully petitioned to run for mayor of Detroit, but was unable to raise enough signatures. 2009 marked the return of "Homey", the fist "wicked clown", on an EP called "I Ain't Cha Homey", which consisted of entirely freestyled material. In the accompanying music video, "Happy Happy Joy Joy", Esham wore face paint applied by Insane Clown Posse's Violent J. The EP was sold at that year's Gathering of the Juggalos.
More recently, Esham released the LP "Suspended Animation", was interviewed for Champtown's documentary, "The Untold Story of Detroit Hip-Hop", and completed his own documentary, "Death of an Indie Label", which is being serialized on Gothom's YouTube channel, and chronicles the history of Reel Life Productions, depicting Esham's developing career and his brother James' deteriorating mental state..
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