Forget everything you thought you knew about Slaughterhouse.
Done? Cool. Now, forget everything Slaughterhouse told you to expect from Slaughterhouse. You know, about how they were gonna “bring lyrics back”. How they were gonna do it their way.
They didn’t. They did it Eminem’s way. We have the reincarnation of D-12. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (in terms of sales).
First off, the bringing lyrics back mantra is ridiculous. There is no lack of lyrics in hip-hop today. Matter of fact, there are plenty of rappers releasing projects that are much more lyrically potent than SH. Skyzoo, Honors English, Lupe Fiasco, Sha Stimuli – the substance in their music makes SH’s “rapping about rapping” seem….well, silly, at times. Not because there isn’t an audience for “look at how good I rap” rap, but because they position themselves as the champions of the underground who are here to do what no other artists have dared to do – be successful their way while utilizing lyrics. And that’s just not what this album is.
WTOH is going to alienate some fans, specifically their core fan base. They decided to take a stab at mainstream success, and I can’t blame them, I just didn’t expect it to be this blatant.
I might feel differently about this album if it was the collective’s first project and I had no expectations about their direction. But Slaughterhouse has released – based on my unofficial count – 49 albums/mixtapes/EPs between them, spanning more than a decade. And while I support growth, this feels like a completely different group. It feels like Eminem wanted to continue the moderate success he had with D12 instead of building something new with Slaughterhouse. The entire thing feels forced and contrived.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have history with Slaughterhouse. Before the group formed, I recorded songs with Budden, Royce and Joell separately, simply because they were three of my favorite artists. Once the group formed, I conducted interviews with all of them, covering studio sessions, previewing albums and covering their XXL shoot (where Joell also explained the origins of the word Yaowa).
I haven’t had great results with SH regarding their reviews. I reviewed Joe’s Padded Room, which led to Joe’s PSA response to my claim that he was frustrated (yet completely ignoring the fact that I gave his album a 4/5). He also later went on a 10 minute BlogTV rant about me.
EDIT – my run continues. In reaction to this review, Royce tweets:
But things really went sour during my HipHopGame.com review of their debut (where I actually gave it a very generous 3.75/5). I gave it a solid, but critical, review, I then received calls from Royce & his manager Kino demanding I change or remove the review because “we’re supposed to be boys”. I wouldn’t, for obvious reasons, and they said that I shouldn’t expect anymore SH access. I was fine with sacrificing group access for my integrity. This review is in no way biased. I wouldn’t give someone I’m cool with a positive review if they didn’t deserve it, just like I wouldn’t give a negative review to a good album just because the artist is an arrogant asshole who called me old and boring just a few weeks back (ie. my interview with Wale).
Royce had played me his entire Street Hop album and talked about Joe’s poor mixing. Crooked spoke with me for over two hours, discussing his shooting and his brother getting shot, while drinking a bottle of Ciroc. Joell and I spoke about how he got discovered. And I had lunch with Joe and Tahiry, at a time when nobody wanted to interview her. Joell & Royce talked about the formation of SH, back when it was at the very beginning. Great moments. Lost because I was honest. I’m still a fan and root for them to succeed.
Let me say this – it isn’t a horrible project. Not by any means. It just isn’t Slaughterhouse. It doesn’t establish them as anything we haven’t already heard. They didn’t establish a unique sound. There’s nothing here that reminds me anything of the past 49 projects. I’ve listened to ten years of these four artists say “fuck the industry” and slaughtering anyone who sells out for sales, yet they used their major label debut to copy industry trends. They’ve spent a decade berating artists who have done the exact thing they just did.
You cannot listen to Swizz yell “throw it away, just throw it away” and not sense the irony. This is the same track that Swizz has done again and again that dissed for ten years. Throw That is the exact same formula Eminem followed for every album until he no longer had to. And My Life was probably the most formulistic of the trio.
I’m good with one or two of those. I can even understand why they would include Throw That. But when you take all three, then add in Frat House, Flip a Bird (two of my favorite songs) and Coffin – all on the same album, by a group who have collectively never done anything like these records – it feels like this was Eminem’s creation and SH were just props. I want to hear Slaughterhouse when I buy a Slaughterhouse album.
And I don’t mind the enhanced personality they display, but they were never before known for that. To hear them acting silly and animated on so many songs left it feeling not believable and contrived.
They’ve definitely learned some new tricks, and I’m not against that. Marshal has done a good job expanding the comfort zone of each artist. I would’ve loved for this project to feel more like what we’ve come to expect, but over stronger beats and with more potent choruses – then sprinkled with some of these new tricks. Instead, it feels as if they took everything new that they’ve learned and lumped it into one project, while sprinkled in a few of their more expected songs. The transformation should’ve been more subtle. Instead, it’s inverted. Because of that, it feels like this album was done by a completely different group, or could’ve been done by any group. It doesn’t feel like it was built for these rappers. The instrumentals are so busy that they don’t compliment the artists. They don’t give the lyrics room to shine.
They failed to establish a sound with this album. Instead, they just used everyone else’s. There’s nothing I could hear that would lead me to say “that sounds like a Slaughterhouse track”. Wu-Tang, G-Unit, Dipset, Roc-A-Fella and MMG all had their own signature sound. It seems they just took everything was hot and tried to do one of each. It’s just Slaughterhouse emulating D12′s style. The problem is – did D12 have fans? Or were they just people who listened to the group to hear Eminem? I’m afraid that’s what SH might become.
Another problem. When I invest 60 minutes of my life to listen to an album, I like to learn about the artist. Most of this album, however, regurgitated the same topics. There was Joe’s Goodbye verse and Crooked’s Flip a Bird verse, but mostly, they rap about how great they rap. I thought Other Side and Asylum (which I just heard, moments before writing this) would’ve been great additions to the album. They had actual concepts and gave them the opportunity to display their lyrical talents by doing more than just bragging. Frat House was a nice display by everyone involved and properly displayed some of their newfound humor, without sacrificing who they are as a group.
I loved Flip a Bird overall – beat, flow – but thought they could’ve done more with the concept. I thought Crooked’s verse was the only one that felt authentic, while Joell felt at least believable. Joe and Royce could’ve done more with this song. Thought Royce’s flow was impeccable.
Our House was a solid track, but dragged a bit. I liked the energy of Coffin, but it felt way too busy to me. Throw That was so typical. Hammer Dance was a great single and was a prime example of the sound SH should’ve looked for more.
Get Up was a standout track to me. It had energy, lyrics and personality. Park it Sideways had such a great feel, but the lyrics were the corniest I’ve heard on the entire album. I don’t think anybody really stood out (though Joe’s “weak in the knees be” flow was dope). The hook and beat carried.
I’m looking forward to removing Die from my playlist, once this review is finished. And Our Way was fine, I guess, but at over five minutes? I can’t see myself listening on a regular basis.
The thing with rap like this is – if the verses aren’t telling a story, then I better be entertained by every line. There are far too many corny lines mixed in with the dope ones. It’s unsatisfying. I’m sure there are still fans of punchlines, but to me? It doesn’t seem like something a major label group with over 40 combined years in the industry should be focusing on. Seems like they’re capable of more. Even when they rap with substance, it’s usually about dead family members and hardships – hardly new ground for a rapper. I wish they could’ve explored some new, unique topics, or at least these same topics, but in different ways.
Crooked I and Joell Ortiz definitely stood out on this album. They sounded hungry on every verse and never let their guard down. I can’t think of a single Crooked verse that I didn’t think was great, while Joell displayed great charisma without sacrificing anything lyrically (sans the “knick knack paddywack” and “spin the wheel, no Sajack” lines).
Royce came off as the most comfortable, most willing to experiment, and unquestioned front man of the group. He’s rapped with Marshall before, so never did he feel out of place. Unfortunately, he, more than anyone else, lacked substance in his raps. He sounds as if he’s run out of things to rap about. The flow is good and his confidence is at an all time high, but the lyrics are just boring. Maybe it’s because I’m such a Royce fan and have heard all his projects. Perhaps, it will all be new to the new fans.
This next statement is going to bury my twitter mentions for a week, courtesy of Joe Budden stans (who are convinced that Joe “steals” every track he appears on), but Joe had the least impressive performance on the album. He came off as boring and disinterested. There was a complete lack of creativity in his verses and he wasn’t very good at adapting to the new direction. He also had the best verse on the entire album with his Goodbye effort. And if you’re a Joe fan, I’m sure you’re convinced he was the standout. But he wasn’t. Joe sounded comfortable only when they were recording Joe-type records. Everything else felt like canned verses.
I will say this: selfishly – the group, itself – has released enough good music to make me happy. If you combine some of the best tracks off of their mixtape (some day, I want someone to explain why they released a mixtape just days before the album), like Juggernauts and Gone, with the best songs off WTOH, and maybe even mix in a couple off of their EP – you’d have a really great collection of music. They make good music, they just lack direction. They’ve yet to put together a great project. But there is plenty of great music.
Fans of Slaughterhouse want to like their music. We’re fans. We want to see them win. They’re all relatable. I found myself trying to like certain songs that I normally wouldn’t. I think a lot of fans will be doing the same (what would a SH fan say if any other artist released Throw it Away). Most of us will be replacing songs from the album with songs from the mixtape. That’s a telltale sign.
If I was rating this album, I wouldn’t give it more than a 7/10. The beats are better than their debut, and they did a much better job of changing up the formula (aka 4 verses per song), but they haven’t established a sound. If this album was released by anyone else, I think most SH fans would hate it. We’ve convinced ourselves that this is a natural evolution.
Also, those other movements always stood together. Joe Budden, who is probably the most known and influential of the foursome, has spent the past few weeks on BlogTV and twitter distancing himself from the album. While some of it is surely posturing, in the event that the album isn’t received well (see: Joe & Ice publicly reaching out to Kendrick on twitter for a Black Hippy collab, while his boss Em is best friends with Dre, and Jimmy walked Kendrick into Dre’s office – as if it was him that could make a collab happen), it does a lot of damage to people who are on the fence about this new sound. Whether or not he is satisfied with the final tracklisting (I have it from two exceptionally strong sources that Joe is not only behind the songs, but was the loudest voice in the room when it came to recording these – but this is meaningless without revealing the people I spoke with, so I’ll leave this topic alone), you have a responsibility to your label, to your group, and to your fans to stand behind the music and be accountable. He, more than anyone, should be using his influence to tell people that this is the new sound. This isn’t a Joe Budden solo project, so even if he was outvoted on certain decisions, he needs to present a unified front. If not, he’s basically sabotaging the project. It’s difficult to feel a project when the artist says they aren’t behind it. You recorded the songs. Accept responsibility for the final project.
It reminds me of Lupe with Lasers (PS – you can NOT defend WTOH if you hated on Lupe for Lasers). I’m a huge Lupe fan (talk about “bringing lyrics back”), but I hated that he spoke out so venomously against the album. I still strongly believe it was staged, just so Lupe could release a pop album while maintaining his credibility, but it’s just a theory. I hate that Joe is playing songs that didn’t make the mixtape and album on BlogTV the day these projects leak. I hate that he’s promoting his solo stuff (which isn’t even recorded yet) the week of the release and saying his “hands were tied” as far as Slaughterhouse goes. Even if he didn’t agree wit the song choices, he agreed to accept the label’s money. Everyone in Slaughterhouse should have enough money by now to record and release their own album, where they can maintain creative control. If their music is that important? Go that route. If you do not want to invest your own money and accept somebody else’s? Then you’re selling control. Stop acting surprised. This isn’t a new thing for anyone in the group. I’m tired of the complaining.
Do I think the album will be successful? Hard to tell. Shady Records is really doing everything possible to force-feed us these records. They already have 3 singles and 3 videos – amazing for a major label project with no sales history with the label. Bad Meets Evil sold 170k first week. It had a huge single, which SH has failed replicate, but was only an EP and didn’t have nearly the support that WTOH has. I think Eminem’s involvement is enough to guarantee at least moderate success. Yelawolf did 50k without much backing, and he didn’t have the built-in fan base that these four have. I’d expect somewhere close to 90k. Enough to keep them relevant enough to consider future projects and keep them touring. For their sake, I hope the album does well. I also hope they all feel that it was worth taking these shortcuts and becoming what they claimed they’ve hated.
Let me know if you agree or disagree below. Also, post your “WTOH 2.0 Playlists”.
SIDENOTE: You should all purchase this album. Between the mixtape and the album, they’ve given fans plenty of good, new music to listen to. For that alone, we should support. If we don’t, we won’t get any new music from them. Matter of fact, I’m bumping my version of the album now:
MY WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE 2.0 PLAYLIST
Flip a Bird
All on Me
Park it Sideways