There had been rap supergroups before, but more often than not crews like the Four Horsemen served as clashes of titans rather than unions of them. In the ego-fueled monster that is hip hop music, rare is the crew of established MCs that can share time in the booth and not drive each other up the wall, let alone pull it off for a full-length collaboration. So when Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9″, and Crooked I, four superlyrical cult heroes from across the map that collectively had been sodomized by the record industry for the better part of a decade, announced their teaming up as Slaughterhouse in 2008, doubts were almost as high as their stratospheric expectations. You know the restâ€”against all odds, the quartet churned out a universally acclaimed album so quickly that DJ Premier didn’t even have time to return a voice mail asking for beats. Since then they’ve yielded a few quality solo outings and been the victims of further label drama in their quest to sign with Eminem’s Shady Records (not to mention a particularly embarrassing tattoo episode), but it’s clear that their mission to remain a regime rather than a side project is still a top priority. 2011’s “Slaughterhouse EP” is in all likelihood their final release on E1, a 29-minute six-track EP featuring three new tracks and three remixes to slightly older songs.
The EP starts appropriately enough with “Back on the Scene,” an energetic M-Phazes banger featuring Black Sheep’s own Dres. House Gang arrives in full force, needing to kick no dust off their punchline-driven rap. The name of the game here is the same as on their debut full-lengthâ€”tireless onslaughts of couplets, pop-culture references, and punchlines over pulsating street-ready tracks. Mr. Porter returns with the gritty “Sun Doobie,” a piano-laced heavy hitter supplying the expected volume of quotables.
Although “Slaughterhouse EP” has more consistently big names on the production end than the debut did, listeners will find that the effect of the music is quite similar. At times, the straightforward (if not simplistic) production and unimaginative hooks feel haphazardâ€””Sun Doobie” employs another chorus built around mere yells rather than wordsâ€”especially in light of the meticulously penned verses. This definitely contributes to their appeal and image as a group that aims to produce hardcore hip hop above all else and fight the tides of radio-friendly rap. On the one hand, I feel that a group the caliber of Slaughterhouse would warrant more show-stopping beats, but on the other hand it’s hard to imagine their ruthless tag-team bars over anything but these trunk-rattlersâ€”anything more complex might detract from the effect of the lyrics. Black Milk’s beat on “Everybody Down” is far blander than what we’d normally expect from him, but it leaves plenty of spotlight for the head-spinning versesâ€”sample Budden’s:
“I get on my I don’t give a fuck shit, fuck the money, fuck the wealth
Fuck your label, fuck your lyrics, you sit on the fuckin’ shelf
Nigga, I ain’t a rapper I’m a mercenary
Every verse I bury, some’ll blame it on the purse I carry
My advice for the fuck boys, make some hard improvements
Career at a standstill, how you gonna start a movement?
Slaughterhouse the gang, take part in what we doin’
Or you’ll be steamrolled over, pardon the intrusion”
“Put Some Money On It (Remix)” is the showstopper of the bunch, featuring verses from all four Slaughterhouse members as well as a verse apiece from each of the L.O.X. over a minimalist beat by Sean C & LV. Sheek Louch kicks off the track with a monster sixteen, a verse almost outdone by old compatriot Jadakiss later in the song:
“Don Corlito, flyin’ outta Tito
The further I get, the ground look more mosquito
Dutch burnin’, other hand big mojito
I don’t mean Dorito when I say (Put some money on it)
You ain’t really all around all that stuff
The coke, the crack, the guns, heard that enough
They said, ‘Yo Donny, you go’n really sign with Puff?’
I said, ‘I’d love to, more this fetti’ (Put some money on it)
I’m the L-O-X Jeter
Tattooed up in a white wife-beater
Ashton Vanquish parked at the meter
I forgot to feed her better go (Put some money on it)
Now they all love the Don G
I’m on B-E-T more than ‘Leprechaun Three’
They say I’m on fire, it don’t hurt when I pee
I don’t lay away, only y’all (Put some money on it)”
Joell takes the baton from Donny G in perfect stride:
“I’m a product of the corner
Cornered the market with the product I would offer
Slaughter the garbage, slide a condom in your daughter on the floor in the projects
Homeboy, I’ll make more than a promise (Put some money on it)
I know the amount of hate that my words spark
But I ain’t goin’ nowhere like a birthmark
I pound puppies before they get to their first bark
Anybody wanna get their first spark? (Put some money on it)
What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?
Your words so fake they collapsed in your lung
Some bass on your voice like you snacked on a drum
Watch my fist make a track on your dome (Put some money on it)”
Frequency produces both the remixes to “Fight Club” and “Move On,” tracks leaked before the debut LP. The “Fight Club” remix is an eerie, atmospheric treat, with some of the best sports-related punchlines this side of “Around the Horn” (check Royce for the Tyson Chandler shout and Joey Jumpoff for the crack about A-Rod’s cousin). The original “Move On” remains my favorite Slaughterhouse track, an epic eight-minute marathon with some of the most purely jaw-dropping verses I’ve heard together on one song. I also always found the original’s beat to be pure genius, and Frequency’s doesn’t improve upon it, replacing the smooth synths and guitar riffs of the original with more dramatic pianos and female vocals. It’s a clever production that unfortunately can’t handle the tall order of doing the original justice. Still, the verses here are simply phenomenal and if you’ve yet to hear them then stop what you’re doing right nowâ€”with one of their first songs Slaughterhouse more than delivered on their immense potential.
“Slaughterhouse EP” doesn’t change or expand upon the formula of their debut, although some moments at least approach if not eclipse the full-length’s highlights. Until their Shady debut, they’re subscribing to the notion that if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. Not to milk the basketball references, but listening to Slaughterhouse can be like watching the Miami Heat playâ€”sometimes you have to take a step back to realize that it’s almost beyond comprehension to hear this much talent together. House Gang is rap’s Avengers, Dream Team, and Traveling Wilburys, and until their next go-round fans should cop the EP.