How’s this for an idea: take four technically gifted rappers with more flops under their belts than successes, and put them in a group together. Give them an album, the entirety of which they will spend soullessly trying to out-rap each other, listenability be damned. When that inevitably flops, give them a major label deal and throw buckets of cash at the next project. The Slaughterhouse gambit is irrational, but it seems to have paid off: Welcome To: Our House arrived to glowing reviews and over 50,000 copies sold. Slaughterhouse owes much of this sudden prosperity to label boss Eminem, whose ear for pop hooks has kept him doing great business even as his dense, lyrically dextrous approach seems to have fallen out of vogue. But Slaughterhouse doesn’t do hits. Never has.
So Eminem took the reins, corralling a gaggle of A-List assists for the album, co-producing thirteen of its sixteen tracks and rapping on two of them. Eminem’s attempts to affix pop sensibilities to his Shady Records 2.0 rap fraternity have played out like a hip-hop Icarus project, though. Recovery, Em’s own blackhearted dash for renewed relevance, was peppered with big, stinking, obvious hits (“Love the Way You Lie”, “No Love”), and Radioactive, his protege Yelawolf’s major label debut, was torpedoed by a midsection full of tasteless, failed crossover attempts. Slaughterhouse fares worse as the group’s famous lyrical interplay is routinely drowned in urban radio sheen, and whatever ragged glory its members have accumulated as rap folk heroes is trampled underfoot.
Welcome To: Our House is heavy on moments of poor taste, especially on its sketchy run of singles, ill-conceived from “My Life” and its Cee-Lo assisted interpolation of Corona’s cheesy ‘90s dance classic to “Hammer Dance,” which finds AraabMuzik sampling Korn’s weak “Freak on a Leash” retread to stripper anthem “Throw That”, which is built around the rapey come-on “I’ll throw this dick on you, girl.” Mr. Porter provides an elementary ESG flip and Swizz Beatz delivers an expected repetitive chorus on “Throw It Away”. Skylar Grey delivers two servings of frumpy emo platitudes that make Joe Budden’s mopey solo output look like party music. Em’s attempts to disguise Slaughterhouse’s blatant unmarketability keep the album on a pendulous slide between frat house lyricism and aggressively radio friendly pap.
Even though Welcome To: Our House’s collaborators bring very little in the way of chemistry and intrigue, and the pop elements here feel soldered on, Slaughterhouse barely manages to keep up their own end of the bargain. Lyrically, Welcome To: Our House is embarrassingly reliant on petty sex jokes and juvenilia. Clunkers like “I took the rock and a hard place and made the best orgy,” “Dropping more niggas than who dropping out of school,” “I was losing my mind like I was trying to lose it,” and “On blue boys and shrooms, now the club is Smurf Village” are commonplace. Slaughterhouse bricking on the only element they needed to deliver is a shame, but it’s not a disappointment. This project never worked before, and no amount of bells and whistles can conceal a lack of proper songwriting capabilities and chemistry.
The album’s awfulness gets a slight rejoinder in the form of On The House, a mixtape under DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz series. Loosed from a need to move units, the group gets to stick to the one thing they are unilaterally great at: dispensing dazzling internal rhymes at breakneck speed. It gets grating in large doses, especially on the 15-minute closer “Truth or Truth, Part 1”, but listening to talented rhymers playing with words beats listening to them trying to get on the radio. Although, faced with the prospect of rooting through the two-and-a-half hour trash heap of music Slaughterhouse just released in search of quality songs, the better choice is ultimately to walk away.