(E1 Music)

As a group, Slaughterhouse is greater than the sum of its parts. Its members, while respected, consist of a pair of weathered industry journeymen (Royce Da 5’9”, Joe Budden) and two newer artists (Crooked I, Joell Ortiz). As soloists, their blue-collar work ethics—freestyles, mixtapes, indie albums—are what keep them afloat. Collectively, however, they’re the game’s most imposing lyrical force.

The LP opens with “Sound Off,” where each member verbally attacks with a dizzying array of one-liners. And this is the formula that is basically employed throughout. There’s Joe Budden addressing rap’s sorry state on “Lyrical Murderers” (“Hello, hip-hop, I am here, you dying, yeah/And I’m aware, a beast, so at your wake I cry lion tears”). Then Joell shows crew love on “Not Tonight,” spittin’, “I’m the man in the booth/With a few good men, and you can’t handle the truth,” while Royce gets rowdy on the bluesy, Mr. Porter–produced “Salute” (“Niggas will spray you up before they wet ya lady up/Then shoot the baby bassinet and shut the baby up”). And on the disc’s first single, “The One,” it’s Crooked I who plays standout, with lines like, “I’m the one who wants to spear Britney/Give Pink some Black, put it near her kidneys.” All of the album’s lyrical emphasis does come at a price, though. The sappy R&B groove of “Rain Drops” doesn’t quite match the MCs’ aggressive deliveries. And Emile’s plodding production on “Killaz” fails to complement the quartet’s verbiage.

Evidenced by the chemistry on their first effort, Slaughterhouse is no reality-show-created supergroup. And while each member may be a little movement by himself, without a doubt, they’re a force when they’re together. —PAUL CANTOR