Esham's flavor of hip-hop has been dubbed everything from "acid rap" to "hip-hop horror" and has been cited by Insane Clown Posse as their biggest influence. But this may be selling the MC short, especially considering his group Natas' latest release.
Musically, this is the old hip-hop guard's gift from heaven! Esham is a noted musician and it shows not only by the live instruments contained on the album but also by the way the tracks are constructed, like someone who knows how to write a song. The loops are rooted in blues musicality and funk groove, as opposed to the current top-40 structure of somebody noodling on a keyboard backed by a thin computer kick drum and hand claps.
"Long as I live" is one of those RJD2ish tracks that you instantly acknowledge as a joint that will always please a crowd when pulled out, regardless of familiarity or not. The ghost of Coltrane's transcendental tenor sax chants on "See you in Hell," while beefy soul horns punch "Crazytown" along. There is also the inclusion of Natas' signature hard rock on a handful of the tracks, which works with varying degrees of success, but no place better than on "Why you gotta lie," where that familiar drum break from Aerosmith/Run-DMC's "Walk This Way" is combined with the crunch chord progression of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" to produce some serious thunder.
Though there are the familiar themes of women, violence, and beefs with everybody that's crossed Natas' path, the lyrics are exceptionally full of poignancy and have angles that always catch the listener off-guard, again a stark contrast to a majority of cliché-regurgitating MCs currently dominating the charts.
"N of the World" spits "The world's goin' crazy, got me caught in a whirlwind/ like Hurricane Katrina coming back with her girlfriend." And from the same song comes the chorus of "Who gives a f* if the planet's at war/it's the end of the world," capturing the apathy many have towards the world stage when they themselves are in micro war zones. Institutional thought gets tore up throughout the record, but no more are the shots fired than on "N*z Alwayz Talking Alotta S*," where fingers a plenty get pointed. "N*z talk about murder/but don't want the solution... N*z don't wanna talk about how n*z got hung/ from the trees of their great grandfathers and sons/N*z talk about that/it's n*z that aren't even black." And there's much harsher words where that came from. Though Natas lyrically dismantles everything from individual personalities to mass mindsets, the group always offers flashes of hope and solutions to the listener by presenting their own views of self-reliance and what at times seems an allegiance to God (which god may be up for discussion). Which again makes the label "hip-hop horror" seem to be concocted by someone who's not really paying close attention to Esham and company.
Great, great stuff that I personally will drop on the many I meet daily that are starved for proper hip-hop.