Back in December, as we were approaching the new year, I wrote an article discussing a few hip hop albums that I deemed worthy of a horror movie fan’s attention. Now, months later, I’ve decided to dive a little deeper into the world of “horrorcore” rap with an album that is over 25 years old — Life After Death by the collective known as Natas.
In 1989, Detroit emcee, Esham A. Smith, released his debut album entitled Boomin’ Words from Hell. The 16 year old rapped about life on the city streets, which he referred to as “Hell.”
Unlike popular rap themes at the time, Esham’s lyrics were laced with dark imagery, deemed by many to be too “shocking.”
Fast forward a couple of years, the teen MC and his brother founded their own label, Reel Life Productions. Shortly after the re-release of his first album, Esham recruited high school friends and fellow rappers, Mastamind and TNT to form Natas.
Life After Death
The newly formed trio were inexperienced and still very new to recording. Still, created in Esham’s childhood bedroom, recorded on a Tamscam688 8-track recorder, Life After Death was born.
Like other hip hop of the late 80’s and early 90’s, Life After Death was a boom bap record with heavy sampling. Unlike those other records of that era, however, the samples were not only rap related. No, they also contained clips from horror films, news reports, and more, from many sources.
Using their own, rock-inspired rendition of the rap genre, Natas deemed their style “acid rap.” With tracks like “Dance,” “Bad Guys Never Lose,” and “Rock it Deadly,” the Nation Ahead of Time and Space was ready to change the Detroit hip hop scene forever.
The lyrics contained throughout the album’s 20 tracks weren’t the only cause for controversy for the hardcore rappers. Esham, Mastamind, and TNT, along with Reel Life Productions management came under heavy fire, after the album’s release, when a young man allegedly killed himself while doing drugs and listening to the 1992 debut album.
The Final Word
While Life After Death isn’t the crew’s greatest record, it certainly set the stage for what would become a rather long tenure in the horror rap game. Each subsequent record saw the group growing stronger, until tensions began to rise in the mid to late aughts.
If you are a fan of horror-influenced hip hop music, Natas is a group that you should be well aware of. Their influence on artists that came after them cannot be denied, as they were truly some of the first to meld styles and mix hardcore gangster sounds with that of the horror genre.
Thanks to the modern age of digital media, Life After Death is much more easy to obtain than it was years ago. You can listen to the album in its 75 minute entirety on Spotify and other digital outlets.
If you are like me, though, and still love your physical media, I’m sure you can find the album from second-hand sellers on eBay or where old school records are sold.
An alternative, more expensive option is a recently released boxset featuring the now legendary group’s entire discography. Earlier albums have been remastered for optimal sound and a bonus biographical DVD narrated by Esham and Mastamind, themselves, is also included in this must-have collection.
The numbered At the End of Time & Space boxset is limited, so go grab your copy at acidrap.com today. Don’t miss out on your chance to own a piece of history from the Godfathers of the wicked shit.