It might not be the hottest topic in 2023, but with the leak of several songs produced by Just Blaze, the untapped potential of Slaughterhouse weighs heavier than ever. Four purist MC’s, all revered on the mic but rarely able to put it all together for wider success, teaming up under the standard of raw bars and Eminem’s backing. What could go wrong? Well let’s see what brought them together in the first place.
A common thread between all four Slaughterhouse artists is their philosophy as rappers and their backgrounds in the industry. Royce da 5’9″ is largely considered one of the best MC’s of all time, at least by those who have bothered to tap into his discography; more than an Eminem sidekick or late bloomer, his career arc tracks from killer mixtapes early on to deeply personal and masterful displays of lyricism. Royce’s industry woes are well documented: regrettably turning down a deal with Dr. Dre in favor of more money from Tommy Boy, his 2000s would be plagued by leaks, personal struggles, and a failure to string together full projects outside of Death is Certain.
Joell Ortiz meanwhile, did sign to Aftermath. Despite such a high profile placement and his best work in The Brick: Bodega Chronicles, the New York MC rarely escaped the boombap box and fell back on his signaturely forward delivery and street wordplay. On the other coast, Crooked I actually was signed to Death Row records and even had his own imprint, but the early 2000s were hardly a prosperous time for this scene and his releases were often left in development hell; thus, Crook’s talents were largely limited to features and compilation appearances.
And then there’s Joe Budden. Hardly the most personable character in hip-hop given his disputes with Def Jam (well documented in his diss on the label), countless beefs, and the rare rap retirement, he remains responsible for iconic hits and a string of classic mixtapes in Mood Muzik thanks to his charming, growled punchlines. It’s only natural that Joe would recruit Royce, Joell, and Crook to feature on “Slaughterhouse” from his 2008 album Halfway House (despite his on-and-off beef with Nickel).
From there on, Slaughterhouse’s work as a group often fell short thanks to the same issues that plagued them as soloists. Their actual projects ended up a mixed bag; while their self-titled debut album was a solid display of raw punchlines, lyrical miracles, and veteran knowledge of the rap game, there was a disparity in talent amongst the members which some might be reluctant to acknowledge.
In a cruel twist, Slaughterhouse was caught in yet another label dispute with E1 for blocking them from moving on to Shady Records; less surprising, however, was Eminem and Shady’s failure to put out decent music. While Slaughterhouse’s next project, the On the House mixtape, was arguably their best work, it only ever came together on mixtapes, as was typical of each MC. With Bad Meet’s Evil’s Hell: The Sequel dropping only shortly before, the writing was on the wall; Slaughterhouse’s full album Welcome To: Our House was wrought with all of the classic Shady bullshit – poor production, forced pop cuts, and excessive edge.
Over the rest of the 2010s, Slaughterhouse would drift apart and split due to creative differences, marketing frustrations, and some behind the scenes drama. For one thing, Royce was finding greater success and popularity through PRhyme and Bad Meets Evil, while Joe started his massively successful podcast and trashed Em’s music at every opportunity. While Joe might sarcastically admit to being the force behind the group’s split, it’s not hard to believe he’s at the center of it given all his industry debacles and enemies.
Most tragic is confirmation that their third album Glasshouse, executive produced by Just Blaze of all people, has been scrapped, and recent leaks indicate it could have been the culmination of their potential. Meanwhile, Joell and Crook are out here dragging the group’s name through the mud and dropping hot garbage.
Thankfully, Shady’s roster has since improved with the likes of Griselda, Grip, and Westside Boogie, while the Slaughterhouse members have pumped out a range of quality projects recently (namely Joell’s collaboration with L’Orange, and Royce’s late-career opuses). Regardless, it’s a true shame that these talented MCs fell into the same traps time and time again, leaving Slaughterhouse as one of hip-hop’s biggest “what ifs?”.