Slaughterhouse is in a position that most—including the four members themselves—probably never thought they’d be: on the cusp of mainstream success. Such potential seemed unlikely three years ago; not for a lack of skill from Crooked I, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Royce Da 5’9”, but, rather, for their uncompromising dedication to extreme verbal pursuits—bars so intricate and loaded that their records seemed diametrically opposed to radio accessibility. Their 2009 self-titled debut (eOne) met minimal commercial success, but their mic aptitude earned them a deal with Shady Records two years later. Now, under the guidance of Eminem, Slaughterhouse look to strike the perfect balance.
Welcome to: OUR HOUSE fluctuates between the raw and the colorful, yet the essence of these MCs never wavers. “What is an MC? An MC is a soldier who never backs down from any challenge, from any cypher,” Crooked I professes on the project’s intro. From there, the group begins to toe the line, as Alex Da Kid’s pulsating synths and a chorus from Skylar Grey pace “Our House,” on which the four-headed monster and Em kick dazzling bars about their individual come-ups and connections to the culture. “I’m disgusted as a fan,” Joell raps. “Fuck swag and your kicks from south Japan”; “In my house, it’s rap or die,” Crook states matter-of-factly.
The album’s production credits further indicates a rise away from the underground, as Hit-Boy, T-Minus, No I.D., Boi-1da and Kane Beatz sustain the sonic set, though not always as fluidly as the Alex Da Kid collab. The T-Minus-produced “Frat House” is a predictable adolescent indulgence, barely salvaged by Budden and Ortiz’s witty back-and-forth; the Kane-crafted “Park It Sideways” echoes the beatmaker’s work on Lupe Fiasco’s “Show Goes On”; and the Hit-Boy-helmed “Coffin,” is the uninspired relative of 2009’s “Lyrical Murderers.”
The Cee Lo–assisted single “My Life” is a representation of the album’s broader pursuit and offers a wider sound without sacrificing an ounce of lyricism. Yet the strongest moment arrives on “Goodbye,” a chilling tale where each member opens up about loss (Budden’s unborn twins, Crooked I’s uncle, Joell’s grandmother) over Boi-1da’s rising drums and light keys. It’s cuts like this, “Rescue Me” and “Our Way (Outro)” that bring the efforts of the album in concert best, allowing intimate and masterful lyrics to gel naturally with the high-profile production.
There’s rarely a weak bar on welcome to: OUR HOUSE, though the verbal dexterity isn’t quite as stunning as it was on their debut. Still, as a crew, the complementary elements continue to work in unison, and they’ve created an album that, at its peak, reinforces that big beats and honest, untamed lyrics are not mutually exclusive. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)