Joell Ortiz is a busy man; he’s got a series of new solo projects on his plate, and he recently finished up recording on the new Slaughterhouse album alongside fellow rappers Joe Budden, Crooked I and Royce Da 5’9, as well as an all-star cast of producers who all worked with the quartet in the studio. The follow-up to last year’s Welcome To: Our House has become a much more collaborative project than the group’s debut offering. “The object is to try to make Slaughterhouse one person,” Ortiz says of the group’s evolution in the past eleven months, and while they may not be there yet, he’s confident they’re heading in the right direction. With a show at New York City’s Highline Ballroom tonight (July 16), Ortiz swung by the XXL offices to talk about the making of the album, the group’s development, and the culture of competition that exists amongst Slaughterhouse’s four MCs.—Dan Rys (@danrys)
XXL: Araabmuzik told us recently you guys were all putting the new Slaughterhouse album together in the studio. How is that going?
Joell Ortiz: Nah, it’s been crazy. Araab, Just Blaze, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Cardiak, Illmind, it’s like a real—it was like Slaughterhouse producers, just an ill assembly of dudes with different sounds that have all come together for that one common goal. We just wanted to make it raw, a raw sounding album, and I think we achieved that. Everybody was just working together as one cohesive unit; it was real, real cool. Maybe Cardiak would have a sample, and Just would be like, “I love it, but let me change the drums,” and Ill would be like, “Maybe if we just drop this a few dbs,” it was just a whole bunch of stuff going on that was just super ill. Everybody was on it; that was what was really going on in the studio, just a bunch of learning from each other going on, and it felt natural.
How do you feel you guys have developed since the first album?
The first album kind of felt like this assembly of four solo artists that are ill, and they all came together to do what they do in hip-hop. Like, hip-hop needs this, hip-hop needs this alliance, and that was kind of the story that the media ran with, when in all actuality it took us to get to this [new] album, in my opinion, to realize that we’re not the saviors, we’re not this assembly of super-rhyme dudes that came together for that purpose. Nah, this is part of a plan—God’s plan, in my eyes. We have similar stories. We’re friends, first and foremost, and we rap well. You can nickname it and give it a title, and say it’s this, and say it’s that. But in my eyes all it is is dudes that do the same thing in the music business coming together to make dope music.
Slaughterhouse is our name because it was the first song we were all on together, so we said alright, let’s run with that with the name. This was not a big business plan for, like, somebody from the West Coast, and somebody from the East Coast, and somebody from the Midwest—it just panned out that way. And this is a ridiculous pan-out. [Laughs] That’s why I say this is part of God’s plan. Certain things just happen, you don’t question it, and you move forward. That’s how we’re treating it now. We got in the studio this time around, it wasn’t so, “Yo man, the kids are gonna want this.” Or, “Yo man, we should swing for one radio record, we’re on a big platform with Eminem and Shady.” It was just, “Yo how does this sound, yo this is ill, I’ma do this to this, alright cool.” And then a slew of fabulous producers in there to just paint it for us, from Just Blaze to Araab to the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and Cardiak, and all them—it was just that. It was alright, we’re gonna paint this picture, and we got brushes in everybody’s hand—go. And we just put together a great body of work in my opinion, and I think it’s phenomenal. And I think it’s still discovering who Slaughterhouse is to this very day.
Sort of evolving as you’re going along.
Definitely, definitely. I don’t think we got there yet, but the object is to try to make Slaughterhouse one person. Like, when people refer to it, not like, “Yo, did you hear Royce’s verse? Did you hear Joell’s verse?” Just to be like, “This is Slaughterhouse shit, man.” How do you make it one person? And we’re gettin’ there, we’re gettin’ there. It’s fine to have four personalities—I have four personalities. [Laughs] It’s just about portraying it as one unit. I don’t want to have to have all four of us on something to feel like a member—it might just be something like me and Crook do and it goes out, and they don’t say, “You hear what Crook and Joell did?” It’s just like, “That’s Slaughterhouse.” So we workin’ on that. And at the same time, being who we are as solo artists. I’ll always be Joell Ortiz, first and foremost. But Slaughterhouse is that fun alter ego. I can get up with my boys, we get to write whatever the fuck rhymes we feel like writing about, and then we get to tour the world doing it with Eminem. You can’t paint it. You can’t paint it any better.
Is there a lot of competition in the group?
Well, you tell yourself good luck when you’re in there with those guys, you know what I’m saying? You look around and you go, “Aww,” you know? But it’s friendly comp. You’ll get four different answers if all four of us get in here—one of them might say, “It’s never a comp, we just get in there and do the best we can.” Another guy might say, “Yeah, we don’t pay attention to that, because it is what it is.” We’re four of the most competitive rappers, hip-hop MCs, on the planet. It’s always gonna be that heightened sense of, you better keep up. Let me tell you something—we play basketball together, I wanna have thirty. We wanna win, and I’m gonna do everything I gotta do to win, but if somebody don’t show up, we might lose. We all know that. So we rap our ass off every time. We don’t say, “I out-do him,” we just all contribute. We have to contribute in a real way for us to hold the trophies up, and that’s just how we do it.