The name Slaughterhouse, combined with the unfortunate “hung pig” art adorning the album, may elicit unintended comparisons to the unfortunate “horrorcore” phenomenon of the early '90s. But the opening sample of the album -- a collaboration between Joe Budden, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, and Royce Da 5’9”-- doesn’t seem to be cribbed from a Vincent Price; it actually compares the four contributing rappers to Voltron. Other than an ill-conceived line about Ortiz being a cannibal, Slaughterhouse sidesteps the general silliness of trying to rap horror lyrics and falls into a totally different well. Slaughterhouse, despite the varied viewpoints of its contributors, ends up sounding utterly forgettable. Though each artist has moments of inspiration during the album, they are more than overshadowed by the tired posing, easy allusions and formulaic production present on the disc.
Although hip-hop has its own canon for references, there is no reason for the artists to be stuck irrevocably in the '90s. When a line referencing Die Hard is dropped into the middle of “Microphone,” it pulls back the curtain on the façade of this collaboration. Every one of these rappers have had their moments of success, and they, though not as far in the past as Die Hard, exist in a time when rap was dominated by angry, ominous posing and unprovoked swagger.
The game has moved on from this point, but Slaughterhouse seems blissfully unaware, spitting rhymes about guns and bitches and padding the disc with filler skits. These are themes and devices that have been explored to their fullest potential and for the most part in more interesting ways by other artists. The hope would be that the four artists as a unit would actually be able, as promised, to create something more interesting or perhaps subvert expectations based on their solo work. Instead, they choose to remain well within their comfort zone, rendering Slaughterhouse a largely unsatisfying experience.
If there is any evidence that hip hop groups are on the decline, look no further than this year's Grammy category for Best Peformance by Rap Duo or Group, which included no actual groups, but collaborations between solo artists. Not that they're headed to Los Angeles for the Grammy ceremony anytime soon, but the formation of Slaughterhouse does give enough reason for excitement for anyone who longs for the days of multiple MCs rapping over the course of an album. Slaughterhouse was created less than a year ago when Joe Budden enlisted three other rappers (Crooked I, Joell Ortiz & Royce Da 5'9") for one of his songs titled "Slaughterhouse." The chemistry between the four highly lyrical MCs was noticed and they decided to form a group. Each rapper brought along an internet following and respect in the hip hop community. Their self-titled debut was reportedly recorded in six days and features production from DJ Khalil, The Alchemist, Emile and StreetRunner.