Insane Clown Posse, and Esham

The opera I Pagliacci may have spawned the murderous harlequin, but ICP elevated it to, well, something similar to an art form, if you count merchandising and marketing. The homicidal Juggalos' combination of predictably cartoonish rap-metal and lowbrow performance art owes obvious inspiration to KISS (or maybe Spinal Tap), but let's avoid dishing out blame.

Esham is a volatile hip-hop artist who's burned more bridges in Detroit since the early '90s than the Juggalos have blunts. He musically presaged rap-metal with his heavy incorporation of metal and rock samples in his early productions, and his dark, apocalyptic raps revel in decadence and nightmarish features. Beginning with his debut, Boomin' Words From Hell, recorded in 1990 at the age of 13, Esham's first releases cultivated death and devil-obsessed subject matter on tracks like "Momma Was a Junkie," "Sell Me Your Soul," "Kkkill the Fetus" and "Flatline." His later albums began to move on from the dark imagery, and his latest, Repentance, while still featuring the murder fantasy "Ex-Girlfriend," also tackles a musical history of Detroit ("Back in da Day"), political activism ("No War"), and even an R&B track ("All of My Life"). Esham's a criminally overlooked rapper and performer who's just hitting his stride.


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