February 9, 2011

My Gut Reaction: Slaughterhouse - Slaughterhouse EP (February 8, 2011)

Throughout 2010, the four members of the rap supergroup Slaughterhouse (Royce Da 5'9", Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, and Joe Budden) dreamed up various ways to deny that they were trying to sign a deal with Eminem's vanity label Shady Records, an offshoot of Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment, while not exactly denying anything.  Perhaps there were legal issues involved: they might not have been able to confirm much without jeopardizing the terms of their release from E1, their label home ever since their crew debut record, conveniently titled Slaughterhouse.  Or maybe they just liked to fuck with their fans.  Who knows?

Well, we hip hop heads know the truth now: after scoring a Budden-less group cameo on a bonus track from Marshall's Recovery (the relatively well-received "Session One"), it was announced in January that all four members of Slaughterhouse had finally signed a deal with Eminem's label.  This all happened while a single tear rolled down Obie Trice's cheek while he washed the dishes at a local Waffle House.  Luckily, one of the common threads between all four artists is that they have all been screwed over by their various record labels in the past, so they should be fully prepared when Shady Records ultimately fails them.

Before their major-label full-length hits store shelves (which will be later this year, which I'll believe when I see it), Slaughterhouse attempt to appease their fanbase by unleashing their final project for their now-former label E1, the lazily titled Slaughterhouse EP.  The disc consists of three original tracks and three remixes, two of which are re-imaginations of older material.  Even though the Slaughterhouse EP was pushed back by several months, finally seeing its release yesterday, it still looks like a rushed product to me.

Is it, though?

Predictably, the first song on Slaughterhouse EP begins with its strongest member (Royce) and ends with its weakest (Budden). Not so predictably, however, is the fact that the M-Phazes instrumental sounds more like random background noises taken from a news reporter's b-roll than it does actual music. The Black Sheep connection to the track (Dres, the only member of the duo still standing, appears on the “hook”, which is solely made up of a couple of his lines from “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)”, which has been credited as kicking off a career resurgence for them, thanks to its use in that omnipresent Kia commercial) is middling and unnecessary, too. At least the actual verses from all four stars (yes, including Joey) sound as potent as they did on their debut project, with Ryan even giving deceased rapper Apache a posthumous shout-out for good measure.

To my knowledge, D-12's Mr. Porter (also known as Kon Artis) has never been so blatantly upfront with taking credit for his beats, but on “Sun Doobie”, he inserts his name, Just Blaze-style, into the track no less than three times. I guess he's just really proud of his work. Luckily, it is a pretty great instrumental, one which everybody destroys as though their child was being held captive behind it (save for Crooked I, who sounds oddly restrained, cracking goofy jokes about Tyler Perry and Everlast instead of eliminating his competition (read: the other three rappers on the track)). I'm genuinely shocked that E1 allowed Slaughterhouse to leave in the egregious references to Shady Records , too. “Sun Doobie” would have made for a much better reintroduction to this barbershop quartet, even if the title is too goofy for words.

The final “original” composition on Slaughterhouse EP. Black Milk's beat is patently ridiculous (he pairs some hard drums with a synth melody that sounds as though it was lifted directly from one of those science modules you had to watch in elementary school), but it somehow clicks beautifully. The chorus is pretty generic (and unnecessary), but Royce, Crooked, Joey, and Joell all dominate the track regardless, each man trying to outdo their predecessor, as all Slaughterhouse songs should be. It's rare to actually hear a rap act these days sound excited about being given the opportunity to rap, and that goodwill transfers to the track. Nice!

This was a Joell Ortiz solo song (featuring all three members of The Lox) that was reappropriated as a Slaughterhouse posse cut, although out of respect, the original track (with all four verses intact, including Sheek Louch's hilarious opener) plays in its entirety before the Slaughterhouse expansion pack is uploaded at the end. Sean C & LV's instrumental sounds fucking great: you would think that the vocal sample woven throughout (which gives the song its title) would grow tiresome after a while, but you would be wrong. This was a pretty good song before, and the addition of three additional verses doesn't cause it to lose any of its forward momentum, which is a good thing.

I found out after the fact that the iTunes version of Slaughterhouse included an exclusive bonus track, “Fight Klub”: this is, apparently, the remix to that song, albeit one that excises Crooked I's extended outro. (For those of you keeping score, the iTunes version also included two additional instrumentals taken from album cuts.) Producer Frequency, who also handled the boards on the original, provides an instrumental that inserts the four emcees into an intergalactic abandoned warehouse, and they pass the mic back and forth in an effort to keep warm, as the furnace guy isn't scheduled to arrive for another thousand years, sometime between twelve and four. The beat is alright (it's a slight improvement over the original, anyway), but the song's very title would suggest an overly aggressive beatdown set to music, and what listeners actually receive is a slightly poppy radio confection with above-average lyrical performances from everybody that isn't named Joe Budden, although to be fair, Joey does get to take home the “Most Improved” trophy.

The final track on Slaughterhouse EP is another remake: the original “Move On”, yet another Frequency production (he also remixed this version himself), was the crew's attempt to deflect interview questions that focused solely on their pasts as artists with failed record deals instead of looking to their future as a four-man powerhouse (for instance, Joell is tired of answering questions about his brief stint at Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records, while Royce doesn't want to talk about how his just-now-rekindled relationship with Eminem crumbled shortly after Marshall became the most popular rapper in the universe). Lyrically, this song is the tits: each rapper receives ample time to get their point across (not for nothing does this track run longer than eight minutes). However, the retooled beat is boring as fuck, and the decision to include an R&B hook (provided by guest star Iffy) is puzzling, since Slaughterhouse is ostensibly the antidote to the bullshit that hip hop has become. A strange and uncomfortable way to end the EP. Had these guys simply included the original “Move On”, this might have worked out a bit better.

THE LAST WORD: The Slaughterhouse EP is a decent enough bridge between group albums, buying the crew some time as they trade up to a major label, but while the four lyricists spit their usual ration of flames (even Budden sounds alright, although he should still be replaced as soon as possible by another hungry artists whose label fucked him over), and their easy exchanges make for some contagious fun, their choices in beats this time around only work about half the time. Filling half of the project with remixes of earlier works is also a questionable move: aside from “Put Some Money On It (Remix)”, the revamped editions fail to add anything new to the original recipes. Do you mean to tell me that Slaughterhouse couldn't be bothered to knock out three additional tracks to help sell their EP? The lead-off single, “Back On The Scene”, is also pretty awful: how is it possible that nobody has pointed this out until now? Anyway, Slaughterhouse EP is okay as a lyrical clinic, but it isn't good enough for everyone to run out and purchase immediately: your time would be better spent waiting patiently for their Shady Records debut. Hopefully, the poor production that covers half of the project isn't indicative of the kind of musical backing Eminem's deep pockets will get for the quartet. I also believe that these guys should conveniently forget to tell producer Frequency that they have switched labels, as he brought absolutely nothing to the table.




  1. I seen this review coming. Now I know why I didn't buy it. Well, better luck next time.

  2. Still waiting on the Shady Records album.

    Hoping for a total of 0.00000 appearances from Yelawolf.

  3. "Frequency provides an instrumental that inserts the four emcees into an intergalactic abandoned warehouse, and they pass the mic back and forth in an effort to keep warm, as the furnace guy isn't scheduled to arrive for another thousand years, sometime between twelve and four." These are phrases that keep me coming back to HHID.

    I was already on the fence about buying this one, and after reading your review I'm still stradling.

    Max, I'm curious if you've heard Talib's new one Gutter Rainbows, and your opinion on that one? Keep up the good work.

  4. Sorry, didn't mean for there to be ambiguity: this EP is okay but not really worth running out to buy right away. The best songs were given away for free on other blogs earlier this year.

    I haven't listened to Gutter Rainbows yet, but I'm not really liking "How You Love Me" or whatever the single is called. Maybe my mind will change once I eventually get to Kweli's discography, though.

    Thanks for reading!

  5. I just read their article in the new XXL, and I for one am hopeful that Slaughterhouse can grow and prosper under the Shady emblem. As a fan of lyricism, I love that all of these incredible MCs constantly push and challenge each other with their lyrical competitiveness, but I also hope they can delve into some more conceptual work and storytelling as a group (like they started to toward the end of the first album). Great review-I just discovered this blog but I'm definitely gonna keep reading.