IT’S THE MOST POTENT RAP EVER, IT’S THE VENOM. IT’S THE SPIT. IT’S THE WHOLE ESSENCE OF THE WORD ESHAM, EVERYTHING. IT’S THE WAY WE SPIT IT, IT’S BURNIN, IT’S HOT, IT’S ACID. THAT’S WHERE ACID RAP COMES FROM.
I’M SO AFRAID THAT YOU MIGHT GO A LIFETIME WITH¬OUT HEARING AN ESHAM RECORD AND THAT WOULD BE A WASTE. I WANT YOU TO HEAR THAT RECORD. I WANT YOU TO GET THAT REACTION. I WANT YOU TO GET EXCITED, SAY THAT SHIT IS DIFFERENT. IT’S A NEW PRODUCT ON THE MARKET, REFRESHING. IT’S LIKE ANYTHING ELSE, WHEN YOU HIT THAT ASS YOU WANT IT TO HIT AND IT WAS JUST THE BOMB!
Are you still the same person as when you created Boomin Words From Hell ?
Yeah and no. Yeah I am and no I’m no. That sounds crazy, like a politician. But yeah, I’m the same person, but you grow, you think differently. This new shit is gonna be some next millennium type shit that everybody on the fuckin planet can get onto. They’re puttin Rap into everything non fuckin stop commercials got rappin on ’em, everything. Rap is revolutionary American politics. It’s the shit.
What inspires you to write raps? What really keeps you going?
I don’t know. I just don’t stop thinking. It just don’t stop. It can’t stop. No matter what happens, I’ll just keep makin the music…it’s whatever anyway up in this muthafucka. When you listen to your old records how do you feel about them?
That shit is dope to me. I feel the same way I felt about ’em when I first made ’em. I got jams on them mutha- fuckas, I’ll bump that shit and ride to it just like anybody else. They’re not for the weak minded person though, I can tell you that. Scary—scary just mean that you must buckle up every time you get in the car and you do your thing. If you ain’t tryin to get nothing, don’t be fuckin with my shit. It’s the hardcore shit, it’s that wicket shit. My shit’s some straight-up street, it’s all around street— But you’ve taken it beyond the street. It’s the new millennium. It’s way past the hood now. We got songs that people in the hood can relate to, but also somebody in Australia could relate to our shit. It’s all of that shit.
I wonder what it is that makes Esham different from any other rapper out there….
You can’t clone something. There can only be one of that guy, there can only be one E-40, there can only be one 2Pac. People got a bad habit of thinkin that the consumer which is people like me, cause I’m a consumer, I’m a listener too, I’m a still a fan of the music, I’m still buyin records—don’t insult me as a consumer and think that we don’t know you’re recycling some used shit. I ain’t sayin it to step on nobody’s toes, but people in the music business should not think that the average listener is that stupid. As a listener I feel cheated and disrespected. People are raised different, I was raised totally different. I wasn’t raised like Prince William. It’s like if C-Bo has a hit, then you’re going to hear 20 artists coming out sounding like C-Bo. People gotta get a lock on that. Everybody knows who’s comin up with dope styles and who’s doin the original shit. And at the same time we don’t want some R & B cat comin out bein hard, Gangsta style—they do like a back flip up into another style and shit. When you hear Too Short you don’t want him to be soundin like N.W.A. When you were first coming out, did you think about all that or did you learn along the way? Cause nobody helped us, we always had to think. I’m thinkin now, I could never stop thinkin, not all day. When nobody don’t help you you’re forced to think on your own. When nobody don’t feed you you’re forced to feed yourself. That’s just what it is. We always been thinkin. I think about every muthafuckin thing I say. I’m not just sayin any fuckin thing, all day. When some¬body thinks you’re a fool, it’s up to you to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
You have created your own sound and your own market. That’s just what it is. We’re not in no category. You can’t call our music no type of style. You shouldn’t even expect it to be like that. It was just the bomb-ass shit. It’s like chimin’s or something—you thought it was nasty or something and it wasn’t— it totally surprises you.
You call your music Acid Rap. What’s that about?
It’s the most potent Rap ever, it’s the venom. It’s the spit. It’s the whole essence of the word Esham, everything. It’s the way we spit it, it’s burnin, it’s hot, it’s acid. That’s where Acid Rap comes from.
It’s doesn’t have anything to do with ISO?
Back in the day here a lotta kids were trippin off that shit. When we was goin to concerts we might do some sheets or whatever. That’s just part of comin up in America. How old were you when you invented the word Acid Rap? I was real young, we was like 9 and 10, spittin like that. Back then the groups we was into was Geto Boys,
N.W.A., all the original members of that. Too Short. Then they wasn’t even distributing that kinda Rap, when it was so hard to even get that typa shit We was up on the under¬ground typa shit. You know how people act like they was down with that shit until it just busted out in the mainstream, but we was up on all those cats, they was some of our heroes and shit. It was a lotta people we was into from Just Ice to KRS- One,we liked everybody. If you was dope you was dope. When did you really get into Rap? 9 and 10 till now. I had got shipped off to New York from Detroit, cause I was fuckin up down here in school and breakin into cars and shit. My mom sent me back to New York to live with my grandma. That was back when KRS-One and DJ Scott La Rock—Scott La Rock had got killed when I was in New York. I re¬member KRS-One comin on the ra¬dio and they was talkin about it I just digged the whole vibe of the whole shit.
What part of New York did your fam¬ily come from?
Long Island. I was born there. My mom packed us up and moved to Detroit when I was like 3 and 4. But she constantly would send us back for the summer, cause all our cousins and shit were down there. Back then people used to be dancin and pop lockin and shit, muthafuckas used to be acting like people from Detroit could dance real good. They used to be lookin at the scene, there was a local show that used to be syndicated and that was the only way people could see people from Detroit. They used to think we could dance and water-wave and float real good. We used to go down there and be battlin them cats. They’d be windmillin on the concrete and shit without no cardboard box under ’em and shit. That shit was fly. After that I just got off into all that shit from Run DMC to the Fat Boys, anybody who came out I was down with the whole movement.
You got into Hip Hop when you went to New York, or did you hear about it in Detroit also? They didn’t really play no Rap like that in Detroit. In New York it used to come on the radio, that was the first time I got a chance to just hear that shit spinnin all night. All them jams from back in the day, I just got off into them. A couple West Coast acts got in there. I used to hear the difference in all that shit. Like the beats in the West Coast and the way the East Coast people did it, we used to be vibin to all that shit When we was young my brother kinda hooked the whole shit up. He put me on. You were goin back and forth between New York and Detroit, when did you really settle in Detroit solid? I had to come back and finish school, I was about 15.
Your brother James (DEADBOY) is older or younger than you?
Older, he’s like 4 years older than me. He still was in Detroit though. He didn’t get sent to New York. I got sent to New York cause I was wild. I was gettin into too much trouble. He was in Detroit. As time go on and the politics of time and how everybody in every urban city livin he just came up with a formula and we got on with it. It was his idea to start the record label? Yeah, he decided to finally get some product and invest in it. Your brother wasn’t rapping? Naw, he didn’t rap. He rapped at first, but he stopped rappin after so long. He knew I could rap. He used to always tell me, you gonna blowup…just keep rappin…and whatever. At the time I was goin to school and I was goin to a studio and the people at the studio used to act funny with the equipment and the studio time and all that shit. So back then we decided to get some equipment and one thing lead to another—started learnin about the equipment and how to play different instruments. When I went to school they had mu¬sic programs where you could learn how to play a clarinet or trombone or flute. I was lucky enough to get that shit, now they don’t have none of those programs available. So I started learnin shit—26 keys is 26 keys. You and your brother set up a studio? Right. Started practicing and makin tapes and tryin to come up with our own flavor. Constant hard work, workin our ass off. That’s just what it was. How old were you when you put out your first album, Boomin Words From HelR I was 13. Wrote all the lyrics, made all the tracks.
The type of lyrics you were putting together at that age were more advanced than any 20 year old could write right now. I know, but you ain’t grew up in Detroit back then neither. Detroit was different?
Hell yeah it was different. We was starvin. The recession hit, mobs been kickin in the door, gotta go to school with the same pants every day. It was hard times. Hard times can make you write some crazy stuff. I fig¬ure the safest way to get all those thoughts outta my system was to record ’em. Once you got into the music you didn’t get into trouble too much? No, cause I was constantly doin this. This takes up most of your time if you’re really in this business. It’s gonna take up all your time. I just got accustomed to doin this. I didn’t play no sports or nothing like that. It was all music, I ain’t got off into nothing else. Just goin to school and doin the music. You made your beats or your brother? I made ’em, I made all that shit My brother
had the cheese to put the album on the streets. He was handlin all the paperwork and gettin all the connection with distribu¬tion and whatnot, just handlin his business. When you were staying in New York did you feel misplaced coming from Detroit, or vice versa?
See, that’s the kinda person I am. I can go anywhere and adapt. I don’t know, just bein that young my O.6., my mother, she used to send us on the Greyhound. We used to al¬ways be travelin. Little boyscouts travelin, III” muthafuckas. We used to always be travelin and communicating with all kinds of people—White, Black, Mexican—so I can go anywhere and it don’t even matter. Do you spend a lot of time on your own or are you usually with other people? I’m a by-myself type person. That’s the way I see you. A lot of people are always in the crowd or on the streets, I don’t see you like that.
It’s just how I was raised. Back in the day, like I say my brother had the cheese to put a record out, but people didn’t even know how to get a record deal let alone put a record out. We was doin a lotta stuff nobody else was doin. We helped a lot of people. People who had questions, we’d answer those ques¬tions. It was a learnin experience. I always had something, I never really wanted for nothing like that after a certain point. The shit started gettin better, it’s like every day is a struggle. You learn to deal with that shit the older you get. It wasn’t like a material thing.
How big of a role did your brother, James, play in your success? He did a lot, man. He’s still with you?
He’s still with me, yeah, but he’s goin through some things himself too. I mean, this busi¬ness ain’t right. Show business ain’t right. There’s no business like show business— that shit is right. True indeed, only the strong survive, but that shit is very hard on your head if you don’t know what you’re doin, and if your expectations and your priorities and all that shit ain’t in the right place. You might get fuckin HCE—your fuckin head’ll blow up. I ain’t gonna get off into all that…. But you’re down with your brother still? Yeah, we’re down to the end. When you first started there probably wasn’t much going on with Rap in Detroit. It was a couple of cats doin their thing, but it was shit goin on to where people were takin them seriously. They wasn’t comin with no styles where people were takin notice. Like when I first heard a Too Short record I was like, goddamn that’s the shit! He came with a new style. You never before heard nobody talkin no shit like he was talkin. That’s how I wanted to make my record—not like Too
Short, but when I talk about some shit I wanted it to be some shit that wasn’t nobody else talkin. I’ve heard that you were the first person to write a Rap about smoking weed.
In a sense, yeah. We called that truth, that’s what people called bud back then, and we had put a song out about that way back in the day. But it ain’t no big deal. Even though you haven’t been recognized in the mainstream, whatyou have done has had a big impact on the underground. You’ve influenced a lot of people. We’re caught up in the bureau¬cracy and the politics of our city and our state. We’re caught up in the whole web. I don’t know when it would accept anybody comin outta Detroit if your ass ain’t comin from the Motown era. If your ass isn’t 70 years old— they hate young people too. You gotta remember, there’s a lotta people in the Rap game—they thinkin like they’re teenagers and shit, but they’re like 30, damn near 40yearsold. Like I say, the record business is shady. Do you feel burned out about it? Like you haven’t gotten the rec¬ognition you deserve? Not like that, I ain’t never think like that. If you know me, I’m like no celebrity—I go beyond that typa shit.
You don’t feel mad that you haven’t got your props? That’s the powers that be, that’s the whole shit that we still fightin against. We still doin that. Like I say, we ain’t stopped thinkin. It’s today. A lotta people ain’t even thinkin today, ain’t even here to think. I can’t say that, I don’t have control of time.
Wouldn’t you like to be as big as IceCube or Jay Z? Wouldn’t you like want that?
We’re just so different from that. What I would want to be. I couldn’t even describe it in words. I could only show you, if you look up in the sky and see the sun—that’s what I would wanna be. If that’s something that they are, I can’t see it right now. You seem to have your own phi¬losophy.
I just be writin that shit that just pop up in my head. That shit just comes out We use it, we liter¬ally use everything, the thoughts that are comin out. People gotta use they head. I use mine. What I mean is—it’s just that, I use mine (they’re laughin atthe righttime). People are wondering what to expect on your new album. Is it more of the wicket shit or some¬thing different?
They’re gonna be gettin a little bit of everything, a whole rainbow of shit. It’s gonna be like fuckin taste the rainbow—so much flavor when they get it. Possibilities are endless when they get it. They’re gonna have everything that they want for their money on that record. They ain’t gonna be dis¬appointed, and then the killin part about it is it’s not gonna sound like any of the other 20-some-odd al¬bums that we’ve got. It’s totally different. Some people say that, like each album they put out is gonna be totally different, but sometimes that’s not true. And the listener’s not stupid like I say, when we hear the new record soundin just like the old record- that is wack. When we do a record, we make a whole truly different album, whole truly new material, breakin new ground we ain’t never even went this way. But still we keep the old stuff that got us here. We keep the nucleus of what we were doin always. But atthe same time we wanna give your ears a little taste of the world, at the same time how we see it, the travels that we’ve been on. You feel that Mail Dominance is a groundbreaking albumforyou? You haven’t come up with an al¬bum for about 2 years. That’s what I’m sayin, we worked on this one. It’s some different shit. That’s all I can say. No par¬ticular group is gonna say: yo this is this typa music, this is Ghetto Fab, this is this, this is that. You can’t say nothing about it other than this is bumpin. LikeSadeor something—what do you call her shit? Is it Jazz? R & B? She just puts out some dope-ass shit, whatever you wanna call it. My shit is some whatever-you- wanna-call-it type shit. How long have you been work¬ing on Mail Dominance? Since like’97. Some of the songs I already had. That’s what I do, I just keep makin songs up. Just pump that shit out like a factory—make like 5 songs a day and shit. We push it to the extreme.
You pushed it to the extreme on this album? It’s just how we make records. We have so many songs, then we pick from all the songs the ones we think is the bomb—that’re just so flavorable that we can’t resist ’em. Then we throw ’em all on the album and give’em back to the public. I ain’t tryin to dress it up, I ain’t tryin to sell you no fantasy on it…l ain’t tryin to sell you nothing. You must have a lot of songs that you never put out?
Yeah, I got tons of shit. I’ve had my own studio all my life, it’s always on. Man, I got shit. I can do like 10 box sets. Sometime I’ll just sit back and take a blast from the past and listen to ’em, listen to different shit that I never put out. For myself, how I grew as a person, just what I was even bustin about. Do you write your lyrics when you’re by yourself or with the music? It depends. It all gets back to thinking. I’m always thinkin and that shit just pop up in my head. I just try to keep all the positive thoughts that I can. We all know we can all think good and bad. Bein that we all have the power and that choice to do something, I’m tryin to get all the positive thoughts that I can—gather them all together and make me a song. All the thoughts that I think are positive in my own way. I might say some¬thing and you might interpret it in a differ¬ent way, but actually it was meant to be positive. Bein that we came from two dif¬ferent places, you might not relate to what I say and how I said it.
What you put in your lyrics is so real and you put it so bluntly that a lot of people can’t take it.
If you can watch The Burning Bed then you can listen to an Esham tape. You ever see that movie with Farrah fuckin Fawcet in it where the guy is beatin the shit outta her and slappin her around and shit—they show that shit on prime time TV, but muthafuckas get mad at an Esham record. Come on man, get over it. And they playin worse shit on TV now with cable and all the new technol¬ogy. This shit is wide open. It’s nothing I can say that’ll shock any muthafucka on this planet.
Do you think that it’s all been said?
In a sense that’s why it’s so universal, we
all are sayin the same thing. Who’s sayin it
better and who’s sayin it clearer to where
you can really understand it.
A lot of people don’t want to confront
They just don’t wanna think about those is¬sues. They don’t wanna confront the real¬ity. They just wanna live in their own little world and act like some of this shit ain’t goin
WHEN NOBODY DON’T HELP YOU YOU’RE FORCED TO THINK ON YOUR OWN. WHEN NOBODY DON’T FEED YOU YOU’RE FORCED TO FEED YOUR¬SELF. THAT’S JUST WHAT IT IS.
WE ALWAYS BEEN THINKIN. I THINK ABOUT EVERY MUTHA- FUCKIN THING I SAY. I’M NOT JUST SAYIN ANY FUCKIN THING, ALL DAY. WHEN SOMEBODY THINKS YOU’RE A FOOL, IT’S UP TO YOU TO OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND REMOVE ALL DOUBT.
WE’RE JUST SO DIFFERENT FROM THAT. WHAT I WOULD WANT TO BE, I COULDN’T EVEN DESCRIBE IT IN WORDS. I COULD ONLY SHOW YOU, IF YOU LOOKUP IN THE SKY AND SEE THE SUN-THAT’S WHAT I WOULD WANNA BE. IF THAT’S SOME¬THING THAT THEY ARE, I CANT SEE IT RIGHT NOW.
on. That’s just what it is, some people don’t wanna grow up. I didn’t make this fuckin world, I didn’t make this place. Come on. They can’t even send me fuckin home. They got all types of Heavy Metal groups that were way more out cold than what we be talkin about. But as soon as you got a nigga up there talkin shit, it’s the end of the world!! He’s got a gun, oh shit. That’s the reality of the whole shit. That’s America. But fuck it, I’m gonna pump that shit cause I like that hard shit personally. I love the hard shit. I’m one of them muthafuckas that when you put that hardcore tape out I bought it and I loved it. It wasn’t nothing that made me want to go out there and do nothing crazy. It was just the fattest shit that I heard, it was rough.
Do you think people are doing that kind of shit now?
You got some people, but I don’t think they really bringin-it-bringin-it. They ain’t bringing nothing new. There’s a lotta them refried beans out there. That’s what I call it anyway.
People are playing it too safe, trying to please the industry and the radio sta¬tions?
That’s how people do, they’re just tryin to meet their numbers anyway. It’s not about puttin out good music, it’s just about “I’m doin these numbers and those are the numbers”. We go back to the consumer and back to the listener. It’s only so long that the public is gonna take that type of force-feeding garbage in the mouth like that. They’ll spit it back out and yell yuck.
You see so many people come with a ra¬dio hit, they’re all over the TV and maga¬zines and then they disappear. I think Esham’s music will live forever. Hell yeah, that’s how we put it out here. I put it out there cause I want you to hear that shit. When I made that record it was so dope to me that—I’m so afraid that you might go a lifetime without hearing an Esham record and that would be a waste. I want you to hear that record. I want you to get that reaction. I want you to get excited, say that shit is different. It’s a new product on the market, refreshing. It’s like anything else, when you hit that ass you want it to hit and it was just the bomb! Or you just got something that go your way one time. It’s just one of those things. So many people who’ve done amazing things in this world never got recognition until they were dead. That’s what I’m sayin, and I’m like fuck that! I ain’t even tryin to go out like that. I’m tryin to change that shit, like the only way you can get it is dead. Fuck that.
If you were a regular consumer would
you buy an Esham record?
That’d be the first muthafucka I’d go
buy. I wouldn’t have a car and not have
an Esham record in there. That shit go
On all your albums you made the music and the beats? What about the new one? On the new one me and Jade Scott worked together. He’s from New York, but he lives in Michigan. He helped me on this new project. I did most of them. I collaborated with a couple of people on a couple of records. Like on Dead Flowers I worked with a lotta up and comin pro¬ducers in Detroit. I tried to collaborate and keep the unity, one love. For the most part I like to make my own shit. I’m the only one who hears it in my head like that. What I’m bringin you, that shit was rin- gin around my head, it just jumped outta my head like that. It’s not a case where you have an artist and you have produc¬ers, they’re bringin it all, they’re an all man team—that’s what I call ’em—and they’re all playin against us. They playin with the all-man because they’re nothing all by themselves, they gotta get the all-man muthafuckin universal dream team. If I were A & R for a record label I’d sign you in a second.
They’re sleepin. You gotta understand this too: they’ll never understand me be¬cause I been from the future. I’m the new thing, I’m the future, I’m that thing, I’m that being. They’ll never really under¬stand nothing that we’re doin. Some people will—they’re quicker and they’re smarter—they’ll bypass all the bullshit. When we make records, I don’t really concentrate on the industry or none of that. I concentrate on tryin to make a song not sounding like nobody. We ain’t tryin to bite nobody’s shit, ride on your little groove. We ain’t doin none of that shit, we comin with all original hits like how Barry Gordy and them used to do it back in the day, right up from scratch. I care about the industry as far the busi¬ness in it, hell yeah I care. But as far as the people in it and the characters amongst them, I don’t give a fuck about them. You don’t gotta like these muthafuckas, you don’t gotta like ’em. When you listen to your old albums do you feel you’ve changed a lot? Every year I feel like the production and the overall recording of the albums got better. That’s one of the reasons I never went back and messed with none of them, it would be like messin with a pe¬riod of time. If you heard the collection you would notice that each one of them got better with time and everything started to tighten up, till we got to the point where we are today where we could come in and don’t even hook a drum machine up and still come out with some fat shit with some drums and a guitar.
When you make a song what’s the most important thing? That you can feel the groove. Every one of the songs gotta have a groove and it’s gonna be an original groove. You know George Clinton, that’s my muthafuckin boy. Peace to the people, I’m down with that shit. You know that shit come from Detroit, and George Clinton stay up in this muthafucka, but they ain’t sayin all that. But what I’m sayin is when I make a song it’s got a groove that you ain’t never heard before, it’s nice and catchy and I’ll get your mood. For whatever reason your music has been labeled as devil asso¬ciated.
That’s how we’re spittin it. The unholy wicket shit. I’m spittin unholy lyrics. It’s like a nickname. Do you think that image worked to your advantage or disadvantage? I can’t say that. What can I say, it’s just the wicket shit. That shit’s just hardcore. That shit’s just comin in here bumpin. I meant to do it like that. It’s supposed to be hard like that. It’s supposed to hit you like that, make you won¬der what the fuck. You wanted to talk about things other people wouldn’ttalk about? That, and just really talk about the subject. Instead of just blabbin about some shit, do some research and really get off into the topic. It’s years of thoughts. We talk about a lotta things. It’s just like bein a part of a certain club. You sittin in the V.I.P. section you’re gonna get certain privileges, you listen to these records you’re gonna get certain things that you might not hear anywhere else. You’re gonna hear certain dialogs, cer¬tain lingos, the way we kick it. Just like any area, our area hasn’t been tapped into yet. People haven’t looked in our area yet. Once they open their eyes on what’s actually here, then they’ll be givin us heat. All it will just come to light.