For four guys with their own separate careers, Slaughterhouse has accomplished quite a bit as a collective in the three years since they formed. This week, they released their sophomore album, Welcome to: Our House, their first since signing to Eminem's label imprint, Shady Records.
The group found critical acclaim and moderate mainstream success with their first effort, but the second time around, expectations are higher. Maybe it's because they're now under the guidance of one of one greatest MCs ever, or because Royce Da 5'9" had a top five Billboard hit with "Lighters." Realistically, it's because Slaughterhouse is comprised of four very talented rappers, and we should expect a lot from them. They know this.
After performing in Asia, Complex got on the phone with three of the guys for an in-depth conversation about competition amongst the group, our controversial "30 Best Rappers In Their 30s" list, and why they think they're the best rappers around.
Interview by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)
Are all four of you on the line?
Crooked I: Royce is on a private jet with Em, but we gon' hold it down.
Alright. With almost two years between getting signed to Shady and putting out this project, do you feel like the momentum has been good? People drop mixtapes every five minutes these days and you guys stayed away from that. Do you feel like that helped you because it made people want your music more or did it hurt you because you weren’t as visible until the album started coming around?
Crooked I: We are in a market that’s about real product. Every two seconds there’s a brand new rapper, but I think we just go with natural progression. We don’t do too much strategic planning. "Yo, let’s wait 'til this time and then drop the mixtape because the fans will want it more." Nah, we just let the music guide us.
What’s it like being involved with the major label system? A lot of you guys were in and out of it, and now you're on one the biggest labels out there.
Joell Ortiz: It’s been awesome. First and foremost, you got time to record, unlike our first album. We did that in six days because we were under the bar and we had to get busy. Really, really get the pens pushing it because we didn’t have a lot of time. This time, we had all the time in the world. There’s resources that come along with being signed to a major. The budget was bigger so we reached out to some of our favorite producers. It was a plus all the way around.
And being signed to someone like Eminem. Him being your boss. He’s a lyricist himself so we didn’t have to compromise records to point them in any direction. Some of these majors, they are looking for singles any they be giving you stuff that might be outside your element to try and get radio spins and things of that nature. That wasn’t the case with this album at all. We felt free.
How much do you guys just nerd out about rap with Eminem? It seems like it's not all business with him. Do you all break down 16s and really go in on the artistic, creative side when you're working together.
Crooked I: Word. You said it all, bro. Him being the boss and understanding this art form on one of the highest levels that an MC can understand it, it's great. We can sit around and talk about juggling bars back and forth amongst each other. We can talk about different song structures, like, ‘We might do a 16 on this. Yo, you do a 24. I'ma do a 12.’ Some of these scenarios are impossible under certain umbrellas. It’s a blessing to have that dude be in the boss position. I had the opposite, so I know what’s it like.
What’s the collaborative process? Whether it’s with Em or yourselves. Is there the trust that everybody is going to deliver what they need to? Or is there a lot of editing? Is it dudes saying, ‘Joell, those last four bars. That shit has to be tighter.’ Do you guys really critique each other’s work?
Joe Budden: Nah, they just always critique me. I always get the criticism.
Joell Ortiz: [Laughs.] In what way?
Joe Budden: Dude, I be writing the wackiest shit.
I wouldn’t be surprised if dudes really came at you, Joe, for whatever reason.
Joe Budden: [Laughs.] Nah. I think we all do a pretty good job of picking each other up in the places that we needed to be picked up in. But the bright side of that is, we are all professionals and we have been doing this for a long time, so we kind of got the gist of it. In the event that we don’t, it’s three brothers to either side of me that’s right there to pick me back up.
With that said, how competitive is it? Do any of you step away from a session feeling like, "Yo, I bodied all of them on the track that we recorded." Or, do you ever feel insecure, like, "Fuck, I should have re-written my shit."
Joell Ortiz: That’s hilarious. No. Dog, all we do is listen to the music, man. We don’t think about nobody’s verses. We just listen to the music as a whole. It is what it is. We all know, bring your A game every night because the person next to you is just as dope as you. That’s it. And we trust each other.
Some people get caught on one night and another person get caught on another night. It is what it is as far as what you guys judge. It’s never on us. We never say, "God, damn! I got my ass whipped." We say it jokingly but none of us really mean that because we always bring our A game and we always give it our all. We might joke around and be like, "That damn Crook, he’s a fucking robot. There’s nothing you can do about it." But we don’t take it personal and be like, "God damn man, what the fuck are you doing?!" Nobody sitting in their hotel room going, "Watch, watch tomorrow!" That don’t go on, man.
But, if anybody, Joe, not to pick on you, but you present yourself as the most emotional one of the crew. I could see you driving home at night like, "Fuck, I’m slaying dudes tomorrow. That shit wasn’t cool."
Joell Ortiz: [Laughs.]
Crooked I: [Laughs.]
Joe Budden: I object. How I am most emotional in the group?
Joe Budden: These niggas hide behind their fucking monitors. I'm just vocal about shit. Being vocal, verbalizing, and being emotional are two different things. My emotions are in check. Contrary to popular belief.
Crooked I: Yeah, man. The funny shit is, we might as well go in and make an album and battle each other on every song. Every time we do an interview, everybody think we are just clawing at each other on the mic. No. We are on the same team. We going at these other niggas, man. We going at these other niggas who I feel we are better than.
Speaking of other rappers, do you guys ever feel old? Especially being in the same space as twentysomethings who are hot right now.
Joell Ortiz: Nope. Never. Music is what it sounds like to you. You can’t put an age, a year, or a number on talent and artistry. Never do we say, "Aw man, these young niggas are..." We might say, "These new niggas." But never these young niggas. Listen, we the Dream Team. I hate to sound that cocky, but we the Dream Team. That’s just that. We are not worried about anyone or anybody. Old nigga, new nigga. It doesn’t even matter.
That’s why you ask these competitive questions, because we're competing with the best amongst each other. That’s how all of us feel. We try to not be those guys that are like, "No one’s better." But when you're trying to be blunt, I don’t think there’s a better cast then the Slaughterhouse four.