by nicholasarthur USER (15 Reviews)
January 5th, 2012 | 12 replies

Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The beginning of the end for one of the creators of shock based hip-hop.

"I listen to some of the music they play on the radio today and I'm thinking to myself, that's not gospel, they're talking about selling dope and killing each other. It's a funny thing, they try to act like because they wear a cross on their neck that they're holy and it's just the opposite of that, they're the evilest people on the planet. It's camouflage."

Esham is a strange topic for hip-hop enthusiasts. There’s no way you can disregard his influence on hip-hop across the United States. He started rapping at 13, inventing horrorcore, making the first double album in hip-hop, selling over a million albums over the course of over 13 albums on a shoestring budget, and was one of the first artists to extensively use metal and punk samples in his songs. Despite these ridiculous achievements (there are more but the validity varies depending on who you ask) he has effectively driven his legacy into the ground. His recent records are a shadow of what he once did. These albums rely on empty shock value with disses directed at nearly everyone just to remain relevant in hip-hop conversations. His old records were socially conscious statements about the living hell Detroit was and, in many cases, continues to be. His music covered controversial subjects like suicide, murder, drug addiction, abortion, race and religion. He did this in a shocking but meaningful way that made you aware and caused you to think about these subjects like the best horrorcore and hip-hop intends to do. Tongues was the last album where Esham made one of these relevant statements.

The album seems long from the 24 track long listing but few break the 4 minute mark. Every song is short and to the point with nearly no skits. You also get some of Esham’s best collaborations (Kool Keith, NATAS, Dayton Family) and his worst (ICP). The album is a frustrating look at how much potential the rapper had at the time and a glimpse of the poor decisions that would ruin any potential success he might have gained from it. The disses, while pointed and interesting, are mainly focused on Eminem (“Chemical Imbalance,” “Mr. Negativity, ect.) making him sound desperate and out of step. However, when he sticks to what he does best by being as disturbing and oddly thought provoking as possible it sounds as good as anything in his catalogue. “Pill Me” hits a nerve on prescription drug addiction, “Slippin Out Amerikkka” addresses problems for Muslims in America before 9/11, while “So Selfish” discusses how drug dealers only care about making money and little about the people they hurt in the process. The typical subjects of paranoia, religion, and violence are prevalent on nearly song and while some ideas are recycled, they still are interesting enough statements to keep the album listenable.

The production on the album, while not commercial, is more conventional than Esham’s early albums. Gone are the days of Black Sabbath and Black Flag samples combined with Funkadelic grooves and live instrumentation. Tongues relies on typical funk driven production that has become common place on many hip-hop records.

Tongues is a document of a rapper being as relevant as ever but beginning to make decisions that would cause him to spiral into relative obscurity. All the disturbing, socially conscious rhymes are in place but the cheap attempts for attention such as dissing Eminem and associating with ICP are there as well. Tyler the Creator and Odd Future owe this man more credit than they or their blindly devoted fans will ever admit. The thing that is worse about this isn’t so much not giving credit where it’s due but forgetting how everything can fall apart. Esham started out promising enough, just as Odd Future has, despite how shocking and devoid of commercial value his lyrics were. He and his brother built everything from the ground up, breaking barriers in hip-hop with very little money and minimal, DIY production and innovative marketing techniques. Similar in many ways to some of the things Odd Future have accomplished. The comparisons are endless but the point I’m attempting to illustrate is best summed up by the old saying: those who aren’t aware of history are doomed to repeat it. Tongues is an example of what to do and what not to do when making shock based hip-hop.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
January 6th 2012


Esham WISHES he was as talented as ICP.

His albums are the delusional rantings of a talentless drug addict.

Also, guess what? That quote you head off your review with makes Esham a bigger hypocrite than he
already is for building up a fanbase using Satanic posturing, then claiming to not only be a hardcore
Christian, but GOD. Esham is a fucking idiot.

January 6th 2012


Esham is a few IQ points close to mental retardation. Seriously, the only reason anyone ever worked with him is for a joke. The only reason anyone's ever bought his albums is because no one can believe that anyone would intentionally make music this bad.

January 7th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

@FritzTheCat420 There's no way I can take that ICP comment seriously. I know why you made it. I assume your a fan of theirs and are kind of pissed off that he dissed them. In terms of what he came up with lyrically and in terms of the production he came up with in that genre there's no comparison. If anything he ruined his career by associating with ICP. There's no way anyone will take him seriously again after signing with them. It's one thing to like a band but it's another to be so blindly devoted to that band that you go and give an artist's albums all 1's just because he had a falling out with them.

If you made that comment you don't understand what he's trying to do in the first place. There are more interviews that he's done where he's explained that he uses shock value to make people think about certain issues that most people don't talk about. The Geto Boys did this same thing along with a lot of pioneers of that sound. ICP took all the sensational aspects of what they did and drained it of its message. Don't get me wrong what ICP did is brilliant because it obviously had an audience but it wasn't nearly as thoughtful or as important in terms of lyricism or social commentary. They found out Americans like violent lyrics that won't make white suburban kids feel uneasy or that won't necessarily make them think too much. I think he saw how successful that was for ICP. I imagine he was tired of starting record labels that would go broke so he gave what they did a try. His recent albums tend to be terrible because of their lingering ICP influence not because of a lack of it.

I don't really like Esham but when you think about everything he came up and how much ICP copied his early work it becomes kind of fucked up that people actually think this is an argument.

January 7th 2012


His labels go broke because he's a terrible businessman and artist. He didn't "ruin" his career by
associating with ICP. The only success he's ever had in his life is because of ICP. ICP gave him the
only clout he's ever had, or will ever have. It's one thing to dislike a band, but it's another to
so blindly hate them that you believe that they have anything to do with the failures of a man who
continues to repeat the same shit on every album he's put out because he doesn't have any
creativity. His rhymes are getting progressively worse, and they weren't that good to begin with.

There was never any "message" to horrorcore. Horrorcore is sensationalism, period. There is no
message to anything Esham has ever done. FYI, ICP do have a message, it might not be the kind of
message you particularly like, but it is a message, a morality tale, etc. Esham didn't do
anything original except copy the Geto Boys and Ganksta Nip, which you accuse ICP of doing with

None of what you're saying has any credibility. This kind of nonsense is so absurd, it sounds like
it was written by Lewis Carroll. "You're just mad because ICP and Esham don't get along"...where
does Esham being a drugged out, horrible businessman and lazy artist play into that theory?

As bad as Esham is, he doesn't even reach the profound levels of awfulness in his other Reel Life
Product signees:

Chupacabra: "I'm on drugs, I slur my raps, I'm to rapping what Sonichu is to comics"
Daniel Jordan: Copy Eminem badly. Wash, rinse, repeat.

While we're looking at new artist signings, let's see who ICP signed to their label:

Cold 187: Founder of Above The Law. Actually has talent, as opposed to Esham.

January 10th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

First I'll start with where I agree with you considering I don't really like Esham in the first place. He's terrible at running a label on his own. He fucked up landing Kool Keith on his label along with the Dayton Family. Those artists are better then anyone ICP will ever sign. Kool Keith is a more important artist than the dude who founded a second rate gangster rap group in the 90's. However, when given that tremendous offer he somehow fucked it up. If ICP were given that same chance they would market it a lot better.

Where I disagree with you is regarding the idea that if someone makes more money this makes them more artistically important. Being a good business person and being a good artist are two separate ways to measure someones success.

I can keep going down this rabbit hole of having to explain why I think ICP is devoid of any true musical depth and has found a niche in American culture which they continue to exploit. That all comes down to the fact that music is subjective as well as art itself. You can keep saying what a drugged out fuck up he is and I can explain why he's more significant to hip-hop historically and artistically than you think he is. It goes nowhere and there's no way you'll convince me that ICP are some sort of musical geniuses.

I'm of the opinion that no one will ever remember ICP for their music. They will be remembered for setting up an extremely successful business model for an indie label. They will also be remembered for starting up a cult like following that Jim Jones and L. Ron Hubbard would admire. That's my take on it and I understand that you'll write some lengthy comment about why you think that's not true. That part of this isn't constructive and goes nowhere.

January 10th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

The one thing that your argument is lacking is reliable information to support it. I've read the Geto Boys and Gangsta NIP argument many times. The fact is they all came out at nearly the same time. All those artists came out of a need to get people's attention to be focused on the terrible conditions that they all separately lived in.

Esham in an interview with Metro Times in reference to the album Booming Words From Hell which was released in 1989 explains:

"It was all an expression about ['70s-'80s drug cartel] Young Boys Incorporated, Mayor Coleman Young, the city we lived in and just the turmoil that our city was going through at the time. We referred to the streets of Detroit as 'Hell' on that record. So that's where my ideas came from."

Esham will be remembered as a weird footnote in the creation of a genre. He won't be remembered like Jay-Z or even as much as ICP. Those things are true but it doesn't mean he didn't play an important and underrated role in the story of hip-hop itself. That's in a small way what I tried to illustrate with this review. I'm from the Detroit area and I've heard the perception of both artists. I was giving an unbiased opinion of how I saw the argument about Esham without really being a fan of his that would get in the way of potentially making that argument.

January 10th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

Here's that article I mentioned which sums up the argument pretty well:

January 10th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

I just fucking hate ICP and get tired of their fan's arguments. Although this one was better than most.

January 10th 2012


You just quoted a coked up ego whore's opinion of his own music to justify claiming that anything he
has ever produced has had any relevance, ever.

Yes, it's clear that you hate ICP. It's also clear that you're out of your mind. You're comparing a
group that you don't like to Jim Jones and L. Ron Hubbard BECAUSE YOU DON'T LIKE THEM. ICP are
musicians and capitalists. They make music that they stand behind because, A, they like it, and B,
they know it makes them money.

How does Musician + Capitalist = Cult Founder?!? Someone better call Jay-Z and tell him his fans are
a cult.

Dayton Family and Kool Keith were never signed with Reel Life. There was no Reel Life after 1996.
eSHAM was signed to a label called Overture records. They set up a sublabel for hip hop, metal,
industrial, etc. called Overcore. Overcore signed artists like eSHAM, Kool Keith, Dayton Family, 20
Dead Flower Children, and other names that you don't remember because the only relevant artists here
are Kool Keith and the Dayton Family. By the way, Dayton Family, are in fact, signed with ICP's
label, and released an album, Charges of Indictment in 2011.

And, by the way, the way you keep referring to me as an ICP fan proves where the 'cult' lies.
eSHAM's fanbase is a cult. A very poor cult at that, because so many people stop listening to this
crap after they realize that it's a bad idea to drink this drugged out idiot's poisoned Kool-Aid.

You know what I hate? People who call ICP's fanbase a cult because they have no idea what they're
fucking talking about.

eSHAM has ZERO significance to hip hop. He's brought down the culture with his bullshit. Hip hop is
not about blaming D12 when your fans beat you up at a concert because you're jealous of the fact
that Eminem is selling more albums than you because he's not putting out a bunch of pitiful

Also, Above The Law and Cold 187 are as good, if not better, than Kool Keith.

Also, how is eSHAM a good example of early Detroit hip hop entrepreneurship, when CHAMPTOWN, who
launched his label Straight Jacket Records before eSHAM launched Reel Life Productions, and had a
LOT more success with it than eSHAM ever had? Champtown has recorded with Public Enemy, Ice-T, and
Run-D.M.C., and launched the careers of Eminem and Kid Rock. Champtown has done more for hip hop
than eSHAM ever has. Give it up, you're not from Detroit.

January 11th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

Reel Life became Gotham Records. Both Kool Keith and the Dayton Family were signed to Gotham Records which is owned by Overcore and distributed through TVT. Therefore Kool Keith and The Dayton Family were signed to what was essentially Reel Life Productions.

It's cool that Dayton Family is still around though I haven't heard much from them in recent years. I was definitely wrong on that point just because I haven't heard anything from them in along time.

The fact that your this worked up about this is just kind of sad. It also shows how much you care about this argument which somewhat proves my point about people who like ICP. Think about it I gave this album a 3 and was pretty critical of the flaws Esham has as an artist within the reviews and comments.

From the conclusions you drew from my argument for your last comment it shows you didn't really understand my reasoning on this. I feel like what I said about Jugglos being a cult like entity is the way most people perceive that fan base to be. If I'm wrong on that then a a lot of people are. You also could've brought up better rappers from Michigan for your example. MC Breed comes to mind who's from Flint and worked with Tupac and Too $hort. He even signed with Psychopathic for his last album and is a way better rapper than Champtown.

Champtown tends to not help you argument considering he made a Documentary like this that supports Esham and other Detroit Rappers:

I'm not from Detroit and said I was from the Detroit area. ICP, Eminem, and Kid Rock all come from the surrounding suburbs. Esham and Champtown are from Detroit. You would know that if you lived around here.

January 11th 2012


MC Breed proves my point about eSHAM exactly. Yes, he is a better rapper than Champtown. And Breed was
the only Detroit rapper outside of D12 and Eminem to be featured in 8 Mile's soundtrack, though
Em had some of his friends, like King Gordy, act in the movie.

eSHAM is actually from New York. Little bit of trivia there...

And, correct, anyone that says that ICP's fanbase is a cult is wrong and doesn't grasp the concept or
meaning of "a cult".

January 11th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

I kind of thought this was interesting when I was researching stuff for this album:

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