Welcome back to the latest edition of Flashback Friday Flop, a weekly feature in which I examine a hip-hop album from years ago that was considered a flop, either critically or commercially or both, when it was released and see if it has gotten better – or worse – over time.
This week: Slaughterhouse’s Welcome to: Our House (2012)
I’m a Slaughterhouse fanatic. I really, really like Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9″, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked I as individual artists, but I love them as a group. Unfortunately, their aggressive, super lyrical content would be more at home in the late ’80s or early ’90s, so I’m one of about 29 people that went out and purchased their debut self-titled album in 2009.
Despite that project’s disappointing sales, the group didn’t disband. They continued to make music, both individually and as a group, and were ultimately signed to Eminem‘s Interscope imprint, Shady Records. Many of Slaughterhouse’s fans rejoiced at the news. Finally, the group would have a platform and a budget to match their skills and they’d be in the hands of someone who knew the best way to market them.
After all, who appreciates lyricism and wordplay more than Slim Shady?
After some delays, Slaughterhouse’s first album on Shady, Welcome to: Our House (why the colon?), was released on August 28, 2012. Executive produced by Em, it debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 with 52,000 copies sold. However, it quickly fell off the chart before reaching the 100,000 mark and while it tried to introduce the foursome to a new world of fans, it alienated many of its original supporters in the process. Many believed that Slaughterhouse’s sound had been compromised and actually preferred the DJ Drama-hosted Gangsta Grillz mixtape On the House to the actual album.
After a few years, does the album sound better if all of the previous expectations and complaints are stripped away?
It is impossible to get beyond the fact that this album is still a marriage of two sets of powerful sounds that aren’t always compatible. If a DJ had made a mixtape of Slaughterhouse raps over Eminem beats, this might be the result. Em is not only the exec producer, but he’s also listed as a producer or co-producer on 13 of the album’s 16 tracks.
Shady’s hands are all over this.
Much like Canibus and many others before them, the members of Slaughterhouse have long been praised for their ability to rhyme but critiqued for failing to make compelling albums or even songs while Eminem has been able to translate his technical proficiency into record-breaking commercial success. (If we’re being completely honest, we must also acknowledge that he was a cute, bleach-blonde white rapper with catchy hooks and beats with a co-sign from Dr. Dre that came on the scene when TRL ruled the pop music conversation and album sales were at their apex.) In theory, the combination makes sense.
But the results are decidedly mixed.
Em has produced for a variety of artists over the years, including the greats like Nas, Jay-Z, and (posthumously) 2Pac, as well as his own protégés Obie Trice and 50 Cent, but most of the time he tried to craft backdrops that suited those individuals. By contrast, several of the beats on Welcome to: Our House sound like leftovers that didn’t make the final cut of Recovery and they’re not a great fit for the group. As Joe Budden said in 2015, “Eminem is great at being Eminem. He may not be great at being Slaughterhouse.”
Regardless, there are some songs that undeniably work great. Joe, Joell, Royce, and Crooked each skate all over AraabMuzik’s pulsating “Hammer Dance”; the hook of “Flip a Bird,” which samples Imogen Heap’s “Little Bird” is completely hypnotic; and the final track, the Boi-1da crafted “Our Way,” is a classic Slaughter cut that would sound at home on the first album.
And the rappers still do what they do best: rap. The lyrics are still in abundance, in every form, like Crooked I’s clever wordplay on “Frat House” – “Her pussy hotter than a chili pepper/I tell her lay down and give it away give it away now” – or Joe Budden’s imagery on “Coffin” – “I put my prints in your heart without piercing the skin.”
But the bad fit and misguided approach are what ultimately doom the project. For example, on the Em-featured title track, the lyrics are dope and they flow over the beat of course, but the two don’t seem to really mesh and, moreover, the Skylar Grey chorus feels like it’s from an entirely different song. In addition, the overt reaches for wider mainstream appeal, such as the Cee-Lo featured single “My Life,” feel forced and uninspired. Similarly, it is almost jarring to hear this quartet of emcees that feel most at home – and are at their absolute best – spitting metaphors and double entendres in a cypher trying their best to make songs for the clubs alongside the likes of Swizz Beatz.
Even the songs that are decent, like “Coffin” and “Die,” feel like they could be even better under difference circumstances. Weirdly, the song that best manages to combine the sounds of Slaughterhouse and Shady, “Asylum,” which features an Eminem hook, was pushed to the deluxe edition.
It is extremely difficult for a highly lyrical hip-hop artist to gain widespread appeal. Of all those that have tried, very few have been successful and even the all-time greats that have had success bridging the gap weren’t always immune. Jay-Z made “(Always Be My) Sunshine” and Nas made “You Owe Me,” but both managed to recover.
Slaughterhouse is working with Just Blaze on their next album, Glass House, so hopefully they can do the same.
Previously in Flashback Friday Flop:
Tha Doggfather | Blood in My Eye | The Best of Both Worlds | Can-I-Bus | Beats, Rhymes and Life | Encore | Immobilarity | 14 Shots to the Dome | Forever | Christmas on Death Row | Double Up | The New Danger | A Better Tomorrow | Back from Hell | For All Seasons
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.