11 September, 2012@11:58 pm
When it was first revealed to the public that the supergroup Slaughterhouse would be taking their talents to the house that Shady built, there was reason to cheer. A collective comprised of some of Hip-Hop’s biggest underdogs, fans couldn’t wait to see what the group would do under a major label umbrella. Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9, Crooked I, and Joell Ortiz have all received opportunities such as this before, but the results haven’t always been in their best interests. So despite the gripes many of the underground faithful would start to have, curiosity was reason alone to patiently wait for their most recent album. With Eminem taking the reigns as the Executive Producer, the stakes of success were undoubtedly raised. While this certainly isn’t their first attempt at a cohesive album, Welcome To Our House is very much a reintroduction to this Fantastic Four of rap.
If there was one thing that was certain about the group in light of their Shady Records deal, it’s that nothing was at all certain. Considering the uniqueness of the four artists involved plus the direction of one of Hip-Hop’s elites, there were a number of directions this project could have went. Fortunately from the moment the album starts, you realize the vision for this project was meant to be grand in scope. “The Slaughter” opens the album with a brief cinematic intro, followed strongly with the scene setting “Our House”. As the first song on the album, the group doesn’t disappoint, and a complimentary verse from Em only strengthened the effort. The sharp lyricism backed by the dark, dreary production from Alex da Kid just screams vintage Slaughterhouse. With the sound set, one would expect the next track to build off this sequence, but instead takes it a bit off base. The Busta Rhymes hook assisted “Coffin” is a fast paced switch up. The song itself captures the frantic energy of everyone involved, but feels out of place following the previous track.
Despite the questionable sequencing, it isn’t until “Throw That” comes on when you start to worry where the direction is going. Eminem is considered a modern day Hip-Hop legend by many, and for good reason. Unfortunately with that same praise comes a careers worth of mis-steps. Look no further than any of the lead singles off his own solo records prior to Recovery, and you’ll certainly notice a formulaic trend of cheesy songs. Obviously those that know better realize Eminem’s singles never capture his full body of work, but the fact remains they still exist and take away from it. While his influence on a Slaughterhouse record could only help the group from a conceptual aspect, it also serves as a detriment to what they do best. “Throw That” with its mundane hook, annoying lyrics, and lackluster concept is by all means a record that only Eminem is notorious for not leaving on the cutting floor.
On the flip side of the Slim Shady influence spectrum, “Rescue Me” also hints at Em’s presence, but the result is far more impressive. The track finds the Slaughterhouse quartet at their introspective best. Playing to the strengths of the group will always be where they triumph. Force-feeding tracks like the Swizz Beatz assisted “Throw It Away” isn’t doing them any favors. As a group that was built around individuals that always rejected the status quo of Hip Hop, seeing them on a track as redundant as “Throw It Away” is disheartening. The predictable hook from Swizz definitely doesn’t lift spirits. “Flip a Bird” doesn’t fare much better, but the lyrical executions from Joell and Budden on this one allow you to overlook this.
While the album is built off a series of hit or miss songs, let it be said that when the group hits, the results are amazing. “Hammer Dance” and “Get Up” are exactly what make this group one to root for. If there were to be an anthem that fans could identify with the group, “Frat House would be a nice placement for it. “My Life” takes them outside their comfort zone, and surprisingly works well for them. The group is at a good place in life, and the track allows them to articulate that message.
From a production standpoint Hit-Boy and No I.D. continue to demonstrate while they are two of the more sought out beat makers of the times. Their contributions on “Coffin” and “Get Up” respectively should not go unnoticed. Especially when the majority of the albums production is overlooked by the words, a rare feat these days but a welcome change of pace.
All that aside, the highlights of the album come from the brutal honesty that has made this group one to champion behind. “Goodbye” is a heart wrenching moment of clarity shared by Budden, Crooked I, and Joell respectively. Each verse showed a vulnerability that reminds listeners that they’re as human as the next man. The only thing missing was a perspective from Royce, which would have been interesting to hear. “Park It Sideways” should have served as a victory lap for the group, but “Die” brings the early celebration to a halt.
Going back to the earlier gripes of this album, the sequencing keeps this project from ever truly catching ground. Not a bad song, “Die” is just out of place as the second to last on the main album, if not the project as a whole. Even more questionable was the decision to make “The Other Side” a bonus track, as it could have easily replaced the former song leading into the final cut “Our Way”.
Slaughterhouse for many reasons deserves to come out on top. The vision of the group is one to admire, but ultimately legacies are built off execution. Unlike their self-titled debut that at times seemed like it was just one big cipher, Welcome To Our House is built off conceptual ambition. While certain flaws in the album could be blamed on the show runner and machine them, the accountability will fall on the group. Fortunately, once you listen to the body of work, you don’t end the experience on a disappointing note. A lack of attention to detail is what ultimately hurts the rating of this album, but this project is much bigger than that. The records speak volumes on their own, but in a full body of work should have been presented better. Is it album of the year? No. The best lyrical exhibition put on wax? Not quite. A moment to be cherished by all parties involved, as overcoming odds and winning one for the “under dogs”? Absolutely. If nothing else the Slaughterhouse regime has proven that they have all the right pieces to survive and win. When they finally bring those pieces together, there isn’t anything that this group can’t achieve.
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