Esham – “Psyops” review

Esham is a 48 year old MC/producer from Detroit, Michigan who is widely recognized as the godfather of horrorcore alongside his former Natas cohorts Mastamind & the late TNT. His run from 1989-2005 (particularly the albums KKKill the Fetus, Closed Casket & Doubelievengod?) would go on to lay out the groundwork for subsequent horrorcore acts such as the Insane Clown Posse & even Eminem. His output since then has incredibly inconsistent but after dropping an unbearable cover of “Rock ‘n’ Roll N****r” by the punk poet laureate Patti Smith herself over the spring, I was still morbidly curious going into The Unholy’s 22nd full-length offering given his impact on this reviewer’s hometown as well as the most underappreciated subgenre of hip hop culture.

“Off Duty” opens the album with some funky bass licks & a heavy guitar calling out the guy who filmed George Floyd’s murder rather than doing something whereas “Wildlife” keeps the rap rock vibes going detailing how it is in the jungles even though I don’t really like how muffled Esham’s voice is. “B.L.M. (Burn, Loot, Murder)” has a riff buried in the drums that sounds like it was taken from the 60’s calling to retaliate against Big Brother, but then “Ms. Information” weaves in a bare guitar riff to call out the uneducated with a garish hook.

Meanwhile on “Lone Wolf”, we have Esham on top of some punky drums advising to stay away from criminals just before “#NoGoZone” has a much more rawer aesthetic to it sonically talking about the hard times we’re in. “Scam Likely” weaves in a buzzing guitar lead tackling identity thief leading into “Silver Bullet”, which is an 83 second riot starter Down the heavier riff.

“Selling Dope” literally has nothing to do with such rather it’s yet another addition to the evergrowing list of boring Esham love songs whereas “SNAFU” gets back on the punk tip talking about partying 24/7 with some catchy whistling throughout. The distorted guitar on “A Love Song” is pretty badass even though the vocals & lyrics are just awful while the track “Unholies” has a more bluesy tone to it getting in hustler bag. The penultimate song “Reel Spill” seems like an off-the-cuff freestyle even though I do like the a bare guitar instrumental & the title track rounds it off with a badass revolutionary ballad.

I genuinely had no what idea to expect from Psyops, but it just so happens to be Esham’s best album since Dichotomy. Dude’s always been notorious for sampling rock music throughout his career, so it’s nice to hear him stick to that sound for the course of an entire project. Plus given that Reel Life Productions has been based in Minneapolis for quite some time now & the protests that took place over there a year & a half ago as a result of George Floyd’s murder, I like how he sticks to this political/conscious concept revolving around it. However, my only real complaint is that some of these songs could’ve been mixed better.

Score: 3.5/5

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