Welcome to Our Triumph

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Pham Binh reviews Slaughterhouse’s new album

“Welcome to Our House” (WtOH, released August 2012) is the long-awaited result of Eminem’s endorsement of the Slaughterhouse project back in 2009 when Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, and Royce da 5’9 unexpectedly appeared behind him in the “Forever” music video. Eminem produced much of WtOH and mixed it as well, so it’s no exaggeration to say that he is Slaughterhouse’s fifth member.

WtOH is both lengthy and dense; few hip hop albums have 18 tracks of music and so few skits (only two), and even fewer deliver solid lyricism so consistently from beginning to end. This album is a like slice of chocolate cake so rich that you have to stop eating it midway, take a milk break, and then come back to complete. If you savor and appreciate each track, you probably won’t be able to listen to the whole thing from beginning to end in one sitting.

The replay value of these 18 tracks is phenomenal. Each track is packed with funny/brilliant punchlines, complex rhyme schemes, meter changes, and a gamut of raw emotions — anger, elation, frustration, sorrow, fear — as the four MCs rhyme about fame corrupting their friendships, dealing with their kids and “crazy baby mamas,” staying at the top of rap’s lyrical pecking order, and escaping the street life thanks to hard work, talent, and lucky breaks (which they are cognizant and appreciative of).

WtOH is one of the few albums that merits a track-by-track review, but I’ll stick to the standouts so as not to ruin the surprise and pleasure of discovering and experiencing the depth of each track for yourself. “Get Up” is probably the most motivating track and my personal favorite. Skylar Grey lends her trademark haunting and melancholy vocals to two of the album’s somber, serious tracks, “Rescue Me” and “Our House.” “Goodbye” is poignant, with Budden saying farewell to miscarried twins, Crooked rapping about losing the uncle who filled in for his deadbeat dad to cancer, and Ortiz rhyming about his grandmother passing away. The four MCs deal with their own humanity in the sad but somehow uplifting “The Other Side,” where Royce confesses that if his wife died he’d want to die alone (unusual since rappers generally claim “bitches ain’t shit” and pretend to be completely emotionally unattached to women) and Ortiz lays bare his problems with one of his baby mamas.

Underlying all of the tracks is a feeling of triumph, of total victory over all the haters and doubters (a doubter is just a hater who hasn’t come out of the closet). I picked up on this triumphant feeling even before I heard Royce on the chorus of “Our Way” sing: “We made it / But we did it our way.” For four MCs who have been in the rap game since the mid to late 1990s, WtOH is the pinnacle of their careers thus far, careers that have been an unending series of frustrating false starts, deals fallen through, and delayed/cancelled projects all of which bred cynicism among rap fans that the Slaughterhouse project would produce anything more than quality internet mixtapes given their individual career trajectories. WtOH proves that Slaughterhouse is much greater than the sum of its parts in this regard, and every track on this album is like the endzone dance of a football team that was never supposed to have a chance of getting into the Superbowl much less scoring touchdowns.

As good as WtOH is, it’s not flawless. “Walk of Shame” and “Throw That” (featuring Eminem) are straight garbage, pure recycle bin material for anyone’s computer. These two are also the album’s most misogynistic, woman-hating tracks, so deleting them is a double pleasurable. Although Slaughterhouse managed to put some witty and clever lines on both tracks, it was a waste of talent.

The choruses for “Flip a Bird,” “Throw it Away,” and “Frat House” are lame/annoying but the four MCs’ lyricism not only rescues them from the skip button but makes them enjoyable overall.

The last blemish on the otherwise flawless facade of WtOH is the identical structure of all the tracks. Each MC takes his turn on each beat, dropping 16 or 32 bars. This formula is rinsed and repeated 18 times (although Royce didn’t have a verse on “Goodbye”); there is almost no interweaving between the four MCs a la Royce and Eminem on the Bad Meets Evil album. Ortiz and Budden trade bars back and forth with each other for a minute on “Frat House,” but aside from that, each MC sticks to his own bloc of time. A related issue is that, while the four of them stick to a unifying theme for each track, not once do they craft a unified story over the course of their four verses. These four gave us “Three Sides to a Story,” “Part of Me,” “125 part 4,” and “My Life 2.0,” so it’s clear that Slaughterhouse hasn’t even begun to tap into their collective story-telling abilities. Maybe we’ll see these elements in a more developed form on their next release.

These minor blemishes pale in comparison to what is a solid achievement by four rap titans who are finally getting their due.

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