Amazingly enough, there are still some silly-ass rappers out there who attempt to carve an identity for themselves by stoking the dead coals of the coastal rap wars of the pre-millennium tension. Despite the brutal lessons we've learned, they can't help but hide behind the monochromatic local-scene identification, the pre-packaged fuck-the-world geo-team mentality ideal that claimed the lives of two of the greatest rhymespitters of all time.
Sometimes, to establish a firm divide between Then and Now, you only need one true core dynamic. One group to eliminate all that silly old-school bullshit, not with words or posturing or non-regional fashion, but by existing as representations of all zones - with a skill set to stand against the hardest fire of criticism. This, of course, brings us to Slaughterhouse, a rap collective pulling strength from Los Angeles (Crooked I), from Detroit (Royce da 5’9”), New York (Joell Ortiz) and even the Garden State (Joe Budden). After a searing debut, a mentorship under Eminem and a tremendous preceding mixtape in its own right (On The House), the dynamic flowmasters arrive in full color on their sophomore LP and major label debut through Shady/Interscope, titled Welcome To: Our House.
There's a reason the flowmaster quartet don't mind so much that the album leaked a week before release. In fact, it's the only reason an artist should feel any sense of satisfaction on the cat escaping the bag ahead of schedule: the reactions are hugely favorable. Sharper production, a barrage of guest MCs and knob-crushers including Busta Rhymes, Cee-Lo, Swizz Beatz, No I.D., Boi-1da, Mr. Porter and T-Minus, among others, brings a widely varied collection that early detractors have claimed presents a highly commercially-ambitious design. Bringing the producers into the group's Detroit studio for each session rather than importing patchwork tracks over email was essential to the album's cohesion, but a major unifier in the sound was the fact that all group members were on hand to lay down verses rather than dropping in on a piecemeal platform. The team spirit carries through the speakers clearly, buoyed by none other than Marshall Mathers in his most populated set of guest appearances on an album.
Others have said that Eminem's presence and influence on the record (he may as well be the group's fifth member at this point) sometimes feels like a wrestling match for control of the wheel. They're right, but don't act like that's a bad thing; Slaughterhouse are simply covering all the bases to ensure dramatic impact on all fronts, with a production level and consistency of quality that far eclipses their debut. With such a varied base of cooks in the kitchen, the spectral design is more than understandable - what's important is that through quality of production and consistency of caliber, the variation is a strength rather than a weakness.
The furiously biting “Flip a Bird” delivers on the spine of a sinister minimalist beat with an MVP hip-check verse by Budden before Royce sets the blogger vengeance on edge, an entirely off-the-grid track in commercial terms that sets an even balance with its radio-bait predecessor "Rescue Me". Here, Skylar Grey drops in with her trademark gorgeous ghost-haunt drip as Alex Da Kid frames a frightening track around some equally dangerous lyricwork.
Breathless runner "Throw It Away" brings a Swizz Beatz feature, produced by Mr. Porter with a banging beat and some classic Ortiz and Budden one-liners - though the chorus repetition suffers slightly. "Coffin," meanwhile, is a perfectly fitting ring for Busta Rhymes' tasmanian-gorilla rampage, but the real slug comes through on "Goodbye," the fourth official single from the album. Produced by Boi-1-da, the jaw hits and bounces off the linoleum under a piano synth design as the narrative lays out Joe’s miscarried twins, Crooked I’s family cancer and other deep-diary confessions. The sampled hook sings “Goodbye, so long farewell, but it’s not the end of the chapter” before carrying on.
A downright overwhelming album, Welcome To: Our House is brimming with the kind of masterful wordplay befitting the Shady label head and reputations of the four proper members. Eminem said Hip Hop needs this album, and in the sense of pure artistic aggression matching commercial design, he's absolutely right. The typical nonsense modern rap cliches are few and far between here on Slaughterhouse's second full-feast offering, with the group opting instead for evolved flow and fifth-gear intensity from start to finish. It's a fine house, and we're happy to be welcome in it.