Esham A. Smith is an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan known for his hallucinogenic style of hip hop, rock-based beats and lyrics involving subjects such as death, drug use, evil, paranoia and sex. Releasing his debut album, Boomin' Words from Hell while still in high school, Smith was one of the pioneers of acid rap. Smith co-founded the independent record label Reel Life Productions, and formed the group Natas with local rappers Mastamind and TNT.
Born Rashaam Smith in Long Island, New York, Smith grew up in the Seven Mile neighborhood of East Detroit and studied piano, guitar, flute and trombone in high school, and listened to Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss. In 1990, Esham founded the independent record label Reel Life Productions with his older brother James H. Smith, and released his debut solo album, Boomin' Words from Hell. His music fused hip hop music with the lyrical content of death metal. Smith labeled this style "acid rap," comparing the lyrics to hallucinations induced by LSD. After releasing two EPs, Erotic Poetry and Homey Don't Play, Esham completed the double album Judgement Day, and its two volumes, Day and Night were released separately on April 9, 1992.
As a student at Osborne High School in Detroit, Esham met Mastamind, who gave him a three-song demo tape of his music, leading the two to form the group Natas with Esham's longtime friend, TNT. In October, Esham appeared on Carnival of Carnage, the debut album of Insane Clown Posse, a group that had been influenced by Esham's work, producing three tracks and rapping on the album's final track. In November, Natas released their debut album, Life After Death. In 1993, Esham released his fourth solo album, Kkkill the Fetus. In his review of the album, Allmusic's Jason Birchmeier wrote that "At this point in his career, his rapping has already reached near-peak levels, and his production shows a continued path towards an inventiveness. [...] Never again would Esham be so gritty." Esham released his sixth studio album, Dead Flowerz, in May 1996. It peaked at #38 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In 1999, Reel Life Productions became Overcore Records, and Esham signed a deal with TVT Records to distribute the label's output.
In June of 2001, Overcore released Kool Keith's Spankmaster album, which featured several contributions by Esham, as well as Smith's ninth album, Tongues, which peaked at #7 on the Top Independent Albums chart, #46 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #195 on the Billboard 200. In August of 2001, Esham and D12 were kicked off the Warped Tour after members of the group allegedly physically attacked Smith over the lyrics of his song "Chemical Imbalance," which contained a reference to the daughter of D12 leader Eminem, who was not present during the tour. In 2002, Esham signed to Psychopathic Records, releasing the compilation Acid Rain. His first LP on the label, Repentance, peaked at #9 on the Top Heatseekers chart, #10 on the Top Independent Albums chart, and #71 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. After the release of A1 Yola, Esham left the label in 2005. The album peaked at #6 on the Top Heatseekers chart, #12 on the Top Independent Albums chart, #48 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #176 on the Billboard 200. Smith's twelfth studio album, Sacrificial Lambz, is is set for a August 26, 2008 release. Esham is quoted as saying "Sacrificial Lambz and my whole style and just the way that I rap has been a sacrifice to the industry. I feel like Sacrificial Lambz is like a gift to the industry and a gift to the consumer, whoever buys it. It’s actually a gift."