It's almost September (it already is on the Hot 100, which is dated over a week ahead of time), and the labels are starting to roll out the medium-sized guns: Muse! The Script! Trey Songz! Slaughterhouse? The best stuff is older, though: The Chief Keef track is from a mixtape released in March, and the Eric Church and Luke Bryan tracks are both over a year old and milking best-selling albums. None of this week's entries is great, and three of them are awful (guess), but the fall season has officially started. Don't forget to duck.
There are two ways to tell if an upcoming album is going to be a letdown:
• When the artist starts talking about his next project before the new project even comes out. See: Common hyping up his No I.D.-helmed The Dreamer/The Believer even before Universal Mind Control was released. And what happened? UMC was easily one of the five worst things to happen to human ears. (That is not an exaggeration.)
• When the artist puts out a free project immediately before or after the album drops. See Lil Wayne putting out the mildly disappointing Sorry 4 The Wait right before the vastly disappointing Tha Carter IV.
That's why we should all temper our excitement about Slaughterhouse's upcoming major-label debut Welcome To Our House, which has been preceded by a mixtape full of non-stop bars called On The House. Chances are it'll end up being far more entertaining than the actual album; Whereas Welcome will have a few grasps for radio play and some standard major-label tropes, On The House is mostly just an endless rap orgy. Which makes it perfect for a Slaughterhouse challenge! Here's how it works: We'll give each individual rapper's performance on each song that features at least 75% of the group one to four points; the best verse gets four, the worst one. At the end, we'll average out the scores and see who Slaughterhouse'd it hardest.
Hip-hop is at its best when artists collaborate, challenging one another to create their best work, and this week's best hip-hop tracks are highlighted by a collection of odd couples. DJ Khaled, of incessant yelling and inexplicably giving Ace Hood work, managed to put Nas, Scarface and DJ Premier on the same song; meanwhile, Odd Future upstart Domo Genesis linked up with New York producer legend Alchemist.
Welcome to Sound of the City's scouring of the many hip-hop songs that drop every week in hopes of finding a couple of songs that stand out. This week we managed to get our hands on three and three-quarters of themnot bad at all.
Slaughterhouse w/Flatbush Zombies
Best Buy Theater
Thursday, March 29
Better than: Spending the next few nights in the bookings alongside Joe Budden.
There's Joell Ortiz. Here comes Crooked I. Royce just bopped onstage... but where's... uh oh. "Where's Budden at?" shouted the tipsy Nets hat next to me. Two songs into last night's Slaughterhouse show at the Best Buy Theater, Joey's glaring absence was addressed. Royce announced that the police had arrested Joe Buddens just prior to him coming on stage due to a warrant from an "unpaid ticket from 2007." Jersey had came ready to rep, and people started chanting, "Joey! Joey! Joey!" after the announcement. The NYPD waited over five years to execute that petty warrant; you'd think they would've at least waited until after this momentous night in Budden's career to place him under arrest.
If the Smithsonian upped its cool factor and wrangled a sponsorship from a multinational corporation looking to promote its iced tea line, the result might be the Brisk Bodega, a made-over West Village storefront serving as a branded homage to Shady Records. Relics like Eminem's superhero costume from the "Without Me" video and 50 Cent's diamond-bedazzled bulletproof vest were on display, and shelves of PepsiCo productBrisk Iced Tea, salty Frito-Lay snackswere up for grabs to anyone suffering from the munchies. Saturday night, rap media cognoscenti, boys in snapbacks and variations of camouflage, and ladies who refused to relinquish their clingy summer garb despite the turning weather gathered there to catch sets by recent Shady signees Yelawolf and Slaughterhouse.
Even though the lineup had changed, the promo flyer for last night's show at S.O.B.'s still showed off Crooked I's scowl, his name looming large alongside. "I know originally we were doing a Crooked I show," he said, ""but it's a rare occasion when all of my Slaughter brothers are in one city." And with that, he cut his solo set to two songs and brought out the rest of the gang--first Royce, then Joell--to perform "Sound Off." The gimmick allowed each member of Slaughterhouse to have individual shine, even though they each have their own spotlights. (Joe Budden, whose mouth runs on a treadmill, is a walking spotlight unto himself.)
The criticism that Slaughterhouse sometimes gets involves the members trying to make each song their own and therefore fighting one another, but in person their teaming up made sense. They move like a volleyball team: serve, rotate, repeat. Generous, they finish one another's lines, giving a thundering boom to each punch.
Last night there were a lot of punches, so many spin-it-back moments that Slaughterhouse shows require a DVR. Crooked I: "My father didn't want me here, but I broke through the Trojan." Royce da 5'9, from "Fast Lane," his new team-up with Eminem: "My slow flow is euphoric, it's like I rap endorphins."
Earlier this month, the Voice's Philip Mlynar took a look at the dilemma faced by Slaughterhouse, the all-star underground rap crew recently signed to Eminem's imprint, Shady Records. Balancing their credibility with the profit-making aims of a major label might be tricky in the current moment, but, Mlynar argued, "Slaughterhouse are finally rolling with the right team" now that they're on board with Eminem and his crew. Today's announcement that Em and Slaughterhouse member Royce da 5'9" would revive their Bad Meets Evil collaboration--which was last spotted together on record in 1999--would seem to be the first piece of evidence bearing out that hypothesis.
As one of the sassier New York Times magazine q&a's in recent memory ("Do you regret having written so many songs that refer to women as 'bitches' and 'hos' who exist solely for your pleasure?") may have alerted you, Eminem, too, has a new record out this week. Let's all hope for the best. Rap Radar is your source for the iTunes bonus tracks, including "Session One," produced by Just Blaze and featuring putative supergroup Slaughterhouse, featuring Brooklyn's own Joell Ortiz but dominated here by Crooked I, who, given Eminem's verse about getting blown on the couch, comes closest to getting into the spirit of the thing: "I buy my bitch a new ass/Watch her shit on my money" leading into the far more preferable "I bear more arms that six koalas." Hey, it's better than "We Made You."