Bootleg (From the Lost Vault) – Vol. 1


At the musical crossroads of Too Short’s gangsta flow, Alice Cooper’s theater-of-the-macabre bravado, Funkadelic’s crushing funk grooves, Zapp’s electro-funk wobble, and Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack to The Omen, Detroit’s Esham talks a perverse and disturbing game as hip hop’s Glenn Danzig, with a back catalog as deep as his legacy. Since 1990, Esham has been a pioneer in the notoriously hit-or-miss sub-genre of “horrorcore rap,” a stylistic detour birthed by Esham, perfected by the Gravediggaz, and mercilessly destroyed by the Insane Clown Posse.

Although the always-venomous Esham often fumbles inarticulately and shies from using his graphic shock tactics and violent imagery as metaphorical representations for social commentary, his intensity is unmatched in most rock circles, his revolutionary, metal-influenced production truly rocks the bells, and this collection of hits, misses, odds, and sods from all stages of Esham’s career is furiously explicit enough to expose a certain Esham-biting Insane Posse as the banal, unnecessary clowns they really are. Despite his mind-bogglingly prolific output (11 albums in 10 years!), the devilish Esham manages to accomplish hip-hop’s near-impossible feat of remaining consistently engaging over a the course of a career, creating a cohesive mix of both futurism in his old-school raps and nostalgia in new-school jams. 1990’s “Redrum” has the lo-fi swagger of shoot-straight, blunted, James Brown-induced funk-hop (pre-dating DJ Muggs) under the unorthodox influence of calliope noise, 1993’s “KKKill the Fetus” combines Bomb Squad-esque tinny noisiness with creepy understated piano runs, and 1999’s “Outcha Atmosphere” displays a vocodered “paranoid android” juxtaposing Witchdoctor bounce with frightful minor-key ambiance straight out of The Exorcist. Over this murderous mess, Esham spits angry acid-rap missives that makes funky fun out the austere.

Despite the perplexingly misleading “bootleg” title, this collection of Esham classics is a solid introduction to the bloody path this murderous MC has stabbed into the hip hop map.

TVT Records, 23 East 4th St., Third Floor, New York, NY 10003;

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