On some level, regardless of critical reception or sales results, the rap supergroup Slaughterhouse succeeded as soon as their self-titled LP hit stores last month. It seems that every year or so, two or more renowned soloists announce plans for a joint album, only for the material to eventually get shelved — if their busy schedules even allow extensive recording in the first place. But once four of independent rap's most talented emcees — Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Crooked I and Detroit's own Royce Da 5'9"— saw the chemistry between them, they buckled down. They recorded a full-length album in a week, found a home for it on E1 Records, steadily leaked songs online, and became a headliner on last summer's national Rock the Bells tour alongside Nas, the Roots and others. Best of all, Slaughterhouse capitalizes on the supergroup's buzz without compromising quality.
As their biggest fans might expect, Slaughterhouse is chock-full of the raw lyricism that fans of all four emcees have learned to expect and love. Whether the beat is gritty and subdued (as on the Alchemist-helmed "Microphone") or triumphantly upbeat (the Emile-laced "Onslaught 2"), the group annihilates it with memorable lines, engaging deliveries, and unyielding mic presence. The aptly titled "Lyrical Murderers" finds Royce scowling, "Independently penning the best words that were ever said, a mixture of level head and Everclear ... picture a grizzly next to a teddy bear." Tracks such as "The One" and "Cut You Loose" (produced by Detroit native and D12 member Mr. Porter) showcase authentic chemistry, as the members playfully volley rhymes back and forth within verses and adlib each other's lines. There's brains along with the brawn, though: "Rain Drops" and "Pray (It's A Shame)" showcase introspective, emotionally volatile rhymes about rough childhoods, career hardships and other struggles.
Aside from a few unnecessary "skits," Slaughterhouse's debut album is exactly what it should be. And it's about time: Rap fans who've put up with has-beens and never-was conglomerations like the Firm, the Golden State Warriors and the Four Horsemen deserve at least this much. And if those above names don't ring a bell, then consider yourself lucky and hope that future rap supergroups use Slaughterhouse as a model.
William E. Ketchem writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.