Thursday, 6 August 2009

Men and their hats

Slaughterhouse is a boyband aimed at twenty- and thirty-something rap fans who spend a lot of time on the web, and who feel that things "used to be better". Their debut album--also named Slaughterhouse, to belabour the point--follows a series of unofficial mixtapes including, somewhat gloriously, one called The Leaked Shit. The key points being:
  • to 'step up' from the 'mixtape scene' with an album that is 'shorter' and 'more focused', full of unfamiliar tunes by cheap producers;
  • lots of boasting, some of it recorded after Michael Jackson died;
  • to sell some records to people who buy records;
  • the condition of being "on one's grind"; and
  • to not be the lousiest member of Slaughterhouse.
What with the emphasis on bombast and dense rhyme schemes, there isn't much to separate our four musketeers: the lack of variety in the pacing, flows and concepts is the reason this isn't too much fun after four or five tracks. All of this lot have free mixtapes on offer, mostly superior, though when this works, it's very good. But let's try to tease apart these rapping buddies:

Joe Budden
is an Atlas of self-regard, forever shouldering the weight of public indifference to his career in the entertainment industry. At one stage, he suggests something like "I had a fight with my shadow after he dissed me on Twitter", which, even in jest, suggests he lacks more perspective than a high-mediaeval cyclops. No Bushwick Bill. Playing with other kids helps Joe a bit here, encouraging him to 'come out of his shell' and 'pack it in for a bit', though his chums do indulge him with a couple of unlistenable moaning Tupac-style "aksk God why" tracks towards the end. On the front cover, Joe is pictured sporting a hat.

Joell Ortiz
has a deep-seated need for affection and approval, what with his 'class joker' schtick, his breathless reverence for everything old, and his funny beard. I do hope this potential weakness doesn't lead him to fall in with the wrong crowd, for Joell's principal poke-power is helpfulness: his ad-libs, hooks and serviceable raps hold the album together. Given more confidence, he could have made Slaughterhouse more than the sum of its parts. As it is, this has neither the sense of place to match his The Brick: Bodega Chronicles nor the versatility and fun that marked Covers the Classics. On the front cover, Joell is pictured sporting a hat.

Crooked I
has a simple job, which he fulfils creditably. Whereas New York is made of burning dustbins, hard knocks, jazz, and concrete stuff, Crooked's native Los Angles is a cartoon city, full of curvy women, sticky weed, funk, and colourful gang handkerchiefs. The album could have done with a few more tracks that played up these contrasts, and a few more beats favouring his behind-the-beat, half-whispered flow; at times, he is indistinguishable. On the front cover, Crooked I is pictured sporting a hat.

Royce da 5' 9"
is best suited to mixtapes, where he can say jaw-droppingly unpleasant things in exceptionally complex metres without interference from 'radio', 'A&R dudes' or 'Tipper Gore'. Not that Slughterhouse are going to be guesting on Graham Norton anytime soon, but albums seem to cramp Royce's style. Is he willing himself to fail? Would he like to share with the group? Again, the production doesn't flatter him: running barmy adenoidal rings around beats only succeeds as long as the beats can carry the song. On the front cover, Royce da 5' 9" is pictured sporting a hat.

Here's the most bangingest track:

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