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Can’t Spell Slaughterhouse Without “Laughter”… OR is Our House Firm?

August 28, 2012

Slaughterhouse should have never gotten this far; supergroups usually don’t fare well for all parties involved.  It’s difficult enough trying to record and tour starting out as a group.  There are too many factors involved in trying to keep a group together; you’re constantly having to keep your ego in check, money (whether it’s getting too much or not enough) will play a factor, someone in the group is going to stand out and someone will be the weak link.

When a group of extremely talented individuals who have seen some type of success individually come together, it becomes a more powerful beast.  The expectations magnify, the egos are bigger, someone stands out more, someone will leave fans scratching their heads as to why they were included, someone won’t fit, and money always plays a factor.

Sometimes supergroups might make it as far as one song; schedules and/or contracts play a big factor in a supergroup being more than just an idea.  The Commission, concocted by The Notorious B.I.G., would have included Jay-Z and Charli Baltimore, but it was only a mere idea put forth by Biggie that never came to fruition as he passed before he could get the idea off the ground.  The original Murder Inc. was a supergroup thought up by Irv Gotti to have a (then up-and-coming) Ja Rule link up with Jay-Z and DMX.  Also, is it me or does Jay-Z seem to be a focal point of these often conjured up supergroups?

For the rare supergroup that make it past the song phase, then comes the album making process.  With the monstrous factors added into the anticipation for the album to be released, it mostly becomes a case of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

There are supergroups that do pretty good under the pressures.  Underground favorite Sean Price, former Dilla protégé Guilty Simpson and producer Black Milk teamed up to create  (and release) the fairly good Random Axe album.  Roc Marciano joined Cali producers Oh No and The Alchemist, another supergroup going under the moniker Gangrene (go figure), to make an EP under the name Greneberg (“Gangrene” and “Marcberg”…get it?).  In the only supergroup involving Jay-Z that came to fruition, The Throne (a joint effort between Jay and Kanye West) did pretty good, even if the album was mediocre.

When Slaughterhouse dropped their debut album in 2009, they actually fell into the “pretty good” category.  Their album was above average, although there were some missteps and qualms, specifically the fact that all they did was spit.

Gaining over 30,000 copies after the first two months, and gaining a significant buzz, Slaughterhouse decided to do the right thing and release their second album on a major label to a more mainstream audience.  Of course, all four members were signed to major labels (Joe Budden on Def Jam, Royce da 5’9″ on Tommy Boy and Columbia, Joell Ortiz on So So Def, and Crooked I on Virgin and Death Row) and were dissatisfied with the results, or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, major labels have not been kind to supergroups not involving Jay-Z, as evidenced by The Firm, a project that saw it’s humble beginnings as a track called “Affirmative Action” on Nas’ second album It Was Written.  The Firm, originally consisting of Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown and Cormega, was created during the peak of “mafioso rap”, where moving cocaine, wearing suits and alligator-skinned shoes and name-dropping name brands were welcome.

“Affirmative Action” was met with positive reception, and that was all that was needed to get a full album by The Firm into the works with backing by Dr. Dre and The Trackmasters, and Interscope/Aftermath being the label that would release it.  There were initial setbacks, as Cormega stepped down due to creative differences with the group, as well as disputes with Steve Stoute (who was Nas’s manager during their time recording the album).  He was replaced with Nature, and recording kept going.

When the album was released it was panned for going for a more pop-oriented sound.  Expectations had not been met, and fans introduced to The Firm by “Affirmative Action” were left disappointed.  The group was immediately disbanded, going back to their respective solo careers.

After hearing negative reviews, people who liked the album (but not loved it) and hushed whispers about the direction of Slaughterhouse, I decided to take a listen for myself.  I say all of that to say this: Slaughterhouse may be suffering the same fate that once plagued The Firm.

Coincidentally enough, Slaughterhouse’s decided to release their newest album Welcome to: Our House on the very same label that released The Firm’s only album: Shady Records, which is an subsidiary of Interscope/Aftermath.  Of course, Interscope & Aftermath would put their fingerprints all over the album, as was expected.

Because of the similarities between The Firm (The Album) and Welcome to: Our House, I decided to take a listen to both albums.  Once I took a listen to both albums, I managed to notice a tiny flaw: there is no comparison between both albums.

Where The Firm had a purpose and a direction, the direction to Welcome to: Our House leads me to believe Marshall Mathers and Ryan Montgomery (as well as the A&Rs and executive producers) chose their songs by throwing darts at pieces of paper or blindly choosing them out of a hat.  The Firm went with an approach of a Mafioso crime family whose empire was crumbling down slowly but surely, making it reminiscent of an actual crime movie.  Slaughterhouse’s direction was reminiscent of a frat party movie; you might get a few good lines, some sappy background story and some hot ladies, but ultimately, it’s not something that will stand the test of time.

It’s saddening, because Slaughterhouse is a team of dope lyricists.  I still play their “Death of Autotune” freestyle in which they decided to (unreasonably) slay the beat without question.  I like Royce, especially when he and DJ Premier get together, I’ve always liked Joey since the day I heard “Pump It Up”, I fell in love with Joell Ortiz when he spit on “Mean Business” “I’m so not regular; I’m young, I’m smart, I’m nice, I’m handsome, I’m cool, etc., etc.”  Admittedly, I hadn’t been a huge from Crooked, but he took a huge leap starting with the Shady 2.0 cypher at the BET Hip-Hop Awards.

Welcome to: Our House is the album you expect them to make: an album full of shit-talking interspersed with a few introspective songs that make you wonder why they underachieve as much as they do.  It’s the “we-are-the-best-lyricists-on-the-planet” sixteen bars that should only be reserved for radio promo freestyles and BET Hip-Hop Awards cyphers, mixed with the songs of introspect and regret that have you remember why you liked them in the first place.

The production is what you’d expect from a mainstream album.  The club bangers are pandering at best, and laughable at worst.  The song titles do even less to inspire excitement.

There’s a song called “Flip A Bird”, produced by Black Key Beats and Zukhan.  I’m not one for spoiling movies, but there’s no point in beating around the bush: the samples contain the lyrics “flip a bird”, “on the scale” and “in the kitchen”.  It doesn’t take a genius to know that references of cocaine, as well as the middle finger salute, litter the song.  There’s a song titled “Park It Sideways”.  There’s a song.  Titled.  “Park It Sideways”.  THERE’S A SONG TITLED “PARK IT SIDEWAYS”!  Enough said.

Of course, the album’s saving graces are “Our House”, “Goodbye”, “Rescue Me” and (if you have the bonus version) “Asylum” and “The Other Side”.  Unfortunately, it’s not enough to save the album from itself.

Making matters worse is that certain members have been dissatisfied with the album, and rumors that Slaughterhouse may be dissolving after this album, as The Firm did after releasing their only album 15 years ago, are not helping their cause.  They may move 100,000 units by the time it’s all said and done.  Either way, there’s going to be a need for a sit down, and discuss the group’s future and their next album.  Another album like this one will just push the group into Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer status, if I may use my final movie analogy.  And no one wants to be grouped with Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer.

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