Before I get to the Shady Records debut of the hip hop supergroup Slaughterhouse, I figured that I should tackle this mixtape that the quartet released as a quasi-prelude, mainly because I've been told that HHID doesn't focus on enough mixtapes, but also because I appreciate any opportunity to listen to new material from Royce da 5'9", Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, and, um, Joe Budden (well, when he's part of a group effort, anyway). If you're hell-bent on finding out what I think of said major label debut, you should check back in a couple of days, since I decided to turn it into an excuse to run more than one post this very week.
On The House is a free joint mixtape (found easily with pretty much any search engine) from Slaughterhouse and DJ Drama, whose Gangsta Grillz mixtape series remains one of the most popular in our chosen genre. (Indeed, On The House is actually a part of that very series, albeit somewhat unofficially.) It consists of only thirteen tracks, which is a ridiculous amount of restraint shown by a group made up of four emcees who can spit as the day is long, but their reasoning will make more sense as we dive into the review. It was released nearly a week before their actual major label debut, Welcome To: Our House, and was intended to satiate fans who had been waiting all year for the project, suffering through release date pushbacks and general hip hop malaise.
As expected from any mixtape, On The House (see? Even its very title indicates that the project is free!) features our hosts rhyming over the beats of other artists, as that is the standard these days. The Re-Up Gang's We Got It 4 Cheap series has shown us that in no way is this a bad thing: if anything, On The House serves as an alternate-universe effort where the four members of Slaughterhouse are portrayed as being more popular in our chosen genre than they actually are at the moment.
So about that mixtape.
1. BACK THE FUCK UP
Three verses, one each from Royce, Crooked, and Joell, are to be found on this track, which is ostensibly a mixtape intro (as DJ Drama's vocal presence indicates), but you have to wade through an obnoxious StreetRunner and Salom beat (borrowed from a Nicki Minaj non-album single called "Roman In Moscow", if you give a damn) and a fucking terrible Royce "hook" that overstays its welcome about a third of the way through its first appearance. Thank God this shit didn't make the final cut of Welcome To: Our House, since it's really goddamn bad: not even the actual bars can boost "Back The Fuck Up" anywhere higher than "middling". It was a bit odd that Joe Budden was nowhere to be found on the mixtape's introductory song, though.
2. WEIGHT SCALE
This one works slightly better as a reintroduction to the barbershop quartet known as Slaughterhouse. All four members tackle Salaam Remi's instrumental (from Nas's "Nasty") with decent-enough results; Salaam has gone on record as saying his hip hop beats are intended for aggressive performances and not for the passive artists in the game, and if there's one word that could describe Royce, Crooked, Joell, and Budden, well, it sure as fuck isn't "passive". The sound bite from The Notorious B.I.G.'s "N----s Bleed" was kind of pointless, and I think we've all grown a bit tired of rappers and their extended metaphors comparing the music industry to the coke game, but as a glorified freestyle session, "Weight Scale" wasn't bad. Kind of makes you wish that Welcome To: Our House could have secured one of Salaam's beats, but apparently that wasn't meant to be. Oh well.
3. ON THE HOUSE
Only Crooked I and Joell Ortiz bother to appear on this project's title track, but the other two Slaughterhouse members aren't missed, as the ones who did make the trek to the studio that day rip Salom's not-so-good beat the fuck apart. It's obvious these two are just fucking around, with punchlines sharing just as much space as their typical threats and boasts, but you get so caught up in the effortless delivery of their rhymes that you'll actually get upset for a split second when they end, before you realize that "On The House" is supposed to be a song and, well, all songs have to end sometime. If only the beat were (much) better, this could have been a true contended. As it is, I found it entertaining enough, but I wouldn't save it from a burning bus or anything.
4. SUCKA MC'S (FEAT. FREEWAY)
Although I had my initial misgivings about a Slaughterhouse song kicking off with a Freeway guest verse (especially after I realized that Budden was, once again, missing in action), I have to say that this song was actually really fucking good. Over a repetitive Mr. Porter instrumental that will get stuck in your head anyway and will provide the score to all of the mundane shit you do throughout your day, Beardy slides right into place alongside Ryan, Crooked, and Joell, administering verbal beatdowns to the titular category of rapper (who are interchangeable with "haters", apparently), with all four artists sounding great while doing so. Nice, if a bit repetitive, which I've stated before. Shit, now I'm repeating myself. Time to move on.
5. YA TALKIN
Although there's a bit of a fake-out at the beginning, "Ya Talkin" is a Royce da 5'9" solo song, featuring Ryan talking shit over the beat from Rick Ross's "Maybach Music III" because the first two installments weren't fly enough or something. This is no actual song, as there is no chorus or breaks provided to give the audience a chance to process what just happened: instead, Royce rambles on for almost the entire track's runtime, and he sounds alright while doing so. The reason this song failed me is because of the selection of beat: I prefer to hear Royce over aggressive boom-bap, not this shit you would listen to on a yacht while fleeing from actual hip hop. But I digress.
6. ALL ON ME
Fittingly, Ryan sits out "All On Me", allowing his brethren to run wild over an Alchemist beat that still sounds far too subdued for these guys, but streets ahead of some of Alan's more recent work. The hook sounds like it wouldn't sound out of place on a modern-day 50 Cent song, which is a bad thing, folks, but Joell, Joey, and Crooked all sounded alright. It's a shame that this shit wasn't better: The Alchemist is responsible for one of Slaughterhouse's best songs, "Microphone" (off of their self-titled debut album).
7. SEE DEAD PEOPLE
This nearly eight-minute-long excursion into the supposed damaged psyches of our hosts (who clearly have been associated with Eminem for far too long) is soundtracked by a catchy AraabMuzik instrumental and a hook that actually doesn't suck. All four emcees (yes, even Joe Budden, who has to be coaxed into the booth before unleashing a Cappadonna "Winter Warz"-esque performance) spit for an extended period of time, the art of songwriting be damned, delivering the kind of track that the Slaughterhouse fans who read this blog want to hear from their heroes. Similar to Canibus, Slaughterhouse works best when all four rappers attempt to out-spit each other, but unlike Canibus, Slaughterhouse is signed to a major label, where you can't really pull those kind of shenanigans and expect to move units, apparently. So it makes perfect sense why "See Dead People" was demoted to a mixtape exclusive. But it's a damn good one.
8. WHERE SINNERS DWELL
Royce and Crooked I blatantly swipe Hit-Boy's beat from Kanye West's
"Theraflu" "Way Too Cold" "Cold" for an ill-conceived glorified freestyle. Both men sound good over the instrumental: in fact, it could be argued that they sound more comfortable than 'Ye himself ever did. The problem, though, is that the poppy beat doesn't really lend itself well to the darker material that is suggested by a title such as, oh, let's go with "Where Sinners Dwell", that sounds generic and plain enough, right? This track works as a brief interlude-slash-bathroom break after the lost weekend that was "See Dead People", but that's about all it does.
The Klasix's beat (which samples The Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius" and will always make you feel like you're just about to watch a basketball game, or at least a low-stakes contest in a bad movie) lends itself to an anthem of sorts, just as much as the Eminem sound bite that provides the song its title (taken from his cameo on 50 Cent's "Patiently Waiting") distracts from that very result. All four rappers sound alert enough, especially Joell Ortiz, who gets the least amount of screen time, but the song left me feeling empty overall, possibly because there isn't anything on "Juggernauts" that will ever convince any audience that the rap collective Slaughterhouse will ever be able to classify themselves as such. They've all done much better work elsewhere. Moving on...
10. COMING HOME
The poppy hook threw me off a bit, but overall "Coming Home" wasn't bad. I like when the members of Slaughterhouse all stick to a specific theme, and the idea that these guys are returning to our chosen genre after being fucked over in various ways by the very same music industry that is now calling out to them isn't a bad one to write to. So it's with an annoyed glance and an eye-roll that I report Royce da 5'9" apparently didn't get the memo. To be fair, this is an issue he's addressed multiple times on his own (and on other Slaughterhouse songs, to be honest), and the fact that he's the only member of the quartet who managed to release several albums before joining up with the crew means that he probably doesn't much more to say about this topic (that gold plaque hanging on his wall for moving over five hundred thousand units of the Bad Meets Evil EP Hell: The Sequel delivered the final blow to the idea that the man hasn't been successful), but still.
11. GONE (FEAT. K-YOUNG)
I couldn't get into this track. I will say that it didn't sound like a mixtape song in the least fucking bit, but that critique could just mean that Slaughterhouse cut it from the proper album but still felt like it needed to be heard for some ungodly reason.
12. WHO I AM (FEAT. SLV)
Regardless of what some of you two may think, Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents" really is one of the finest songs in the man's back catalog, so it's interesting that nobody has really thought to tackle Ski's Lonnie Liston Smith "A Garden Of Peace"-sampling beat before, well, now. Flawless Beatz play closer to Hova than jazz on "Who I Am", but the effect still isn't bad, especially since the added instrumentation means that Slaughterhouse isn't simply just jacking a well-known beat on here. Too bad they ruin the shit with an unnecessary hook that all but guarantees that you'll be skipping past the track. For the record, the rappers all sound fair-to-decent, and the allusions they make to some of the songs that actually made Welcome To: Our House were kind of interesting, but let's just get to the last song, okay?
13. TRUTH OR TRUTH PT. 1
On The House ends with a fourteen-and-a-half minute confessional track from Slaughterhouse. Well, actually, it's more like four songs in one, all of them sharing the same No I.D.-produced Rick Ross "Tears Of Joy" instrumental. And although this would never work on an actual album, for a mixtape track it's kind of brilliant, as all four rappers exorcise their various demons on wax one by one, with the beat fading out and then back in between each performance, so the audience can focus fully on whoever is in their earbuds at any given moment. Surprisingly, I liked Budden's contribution over everyone else's: not coincidentally, he seems to have the longest verse on here. But it's by far the most powerful I've ever heard Budden behind the mic (rivaled only by Crooked I's brief swipe at his father during his own verse on here). An interesting way to go out. Budden has promised a sequel to this track, which is probably why it's labeled as only "Pt. 1"; it says a lot that I'm actually looking forward to the sequel.
SHOULD YOU TRACK THIS DOWN? On The House is pretty heavily flawed, with questionable beat selection, songs that don't really go anywhere, and Joe Budden only bothering with about half the tracks. However, it is a free mixtape, an argument that easily trumps all others, and it does manage to stir up interest in what Slaughterhouse has up their sleeves for their major label debut. Although some of the tracks themselves go nowhere, some of the verses present on said tracks are entertaining as shit; Royce, Crooked, Joell, and, yes, even Joe Budden haven't lost a step with their lyrical prowess on the voyage from E1 to Shady. A couple of the songs on here (specifically "See Dead People" and "Truth Or Truth Pt. 1") even rank among the finest these guys have ever recorded together. (Perhaps coincidentally, both of those tracks feature the lyrical spontaneity and endless rhymes that I prefer to hear from these guys.) And hell, even DJ Drama doesn't interfere all that much, even though this is technically his mixtape, too. On The House most certainly isn't perfect, but it accomplishes its goal as an appetizer while you wait for the main course.
RELATED POSTS:Catch up with Slaughterhouse by clicking here.