A Joe Budden-less Slaughterhouse took the stage at Best Buy Theater in New York City.

Written By Eric Diep (@E_Diep)

The phrase “supergroup” is ordinarily applied to groups that bring together a bunch of individual stars. But only a rare few actually manifest the chemistry and camaraderie that makes them add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. One of those groups is Slaughterhouse, the fire-spitters signed to Eminem’s Shady Records. The foursome was supposed to be in full effect last Thursday night (March 29) at New York’s Best Buy Theater. But the sold-out crowd was in for a little surprise.

Opening act Flatbush Zombies had a rough go of it. Sometimes, facing a restless New York crowd can build a group’s confidence, but the buzzing BK duo was drowned out by boos within seconds of beginning their first song.

They kept powering through their set, even as the obscene comments continued. Neither the blunted banger “Thug Waffle” nor the syrupy smoked-out “Laker Paper” had a chance with this room full of Slaughterhouse faithfuls. When they were forced to end early, Meechy Darko didn’t fight back and joined in. “You want to see Slaughterhouse? Make some fucking noise for Slaughterhouse!”

They took the stage one by one—Joell Ortiz kicked things off, then Crooked I, and finally Royce da 5'9" entered with his Detroit venom. Fans couldn’t help but notice a vacancy within the group. Unfortunately, their New Jersey reppin’ MC was not in the building.

“NYPD locked up my nigga Joe Budden,” Royce explained to the audience. “I feel bad he is missing a show of this magnitude,” An hour and half before the show’s start time, Budden was arrested by the NYPD for a warrant stemming from unpaid $75 parking ticket in 2007.

During the day, Budden tweeted a photo of the venue’s empty space, anticipating that he was going to bring the ruckus. The venue was packed from wall to wall with plenty of Budden fans who kept cheering “Joey!” in hopes of his return. “We love Joey too, chanting for him ain’t gonna get him outta jail,” Royce responded.

Slaughterhouse’s rendition of the Shady 2.0 cypher from last year’s BET Hip-Hop Awards was the highlight of the show. Royce’s infamous “Hi Rihanna!” line has grown into its own catchphrase over the course of their WELCOME TO: OUR HOUSE tour—so of course everybody shouted it out on cue. They eased into their solo material in between posse cuts. Joell went in on “Battle Cry” while Crooked took the spotlight for an extended acapella verse. His punchlines were on point, stinging with every delivery.

The araabMUZIK-produced beat to “Hammer Dance,” the single from their upcoming sophomore album, pulsated through the venue, inviting fans to put their hammers up and dance. But Slaughterhouse seemed more interested in paying homage to Budden, as if his incarceration might stretch out longer than just an overnight stay in jail.

“This one is for Jumpoff Joey!” Royce said, taking shots of liquor with the crew. Shortly after, a surprise appearance by Naughty By Nature helped make up for the lack of New Jersey love. From “Hip-Hop Hooray” to “Pump It Up”—which of course turned into a “Free Joe Budden!” chant, Treach, Vinnie, and KayGee brought the energy as only they can.

They say you never appreciate a good thing until you lose it. And with only three-quarters of the Slaughterhouse crew on stage, it became clear just how important Budden is to their whole operation. There were no verses from his Mood Muzik series, and his absence left big holes in many Slaughterhouse singles.

Still the lyrical juggernauts kept coming. “Microphone” stood out for its hard-hitting lyricism. Another couple spins of “Hammer Dance” had the whole team trading two step dances on stage. Still, the outcry for Budden’s return was heard until the very end, vented by Royce to the audience. “They did what the fuck they did, but that’s some bullshit.”