Once upon a time, there was a rap group called Slaughterhouse.
Slaughterhouse was the Justice League of MCs, consisting of Royce da 5’9”, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and KXNG Crooked. These are four of the sharpest wordsmiths to ever breathe on a mic. In a just world, Slaughterhouse would still be around, packing stadiums to the brim with at least three Platinum projects under their belt. Instead, the foursome fizzled out and messily disbanded like a ‘90s boy band.
What—and I’m dead serious when I ask this—the fuck happened? Slaughterhouse should have been huge.
Slaughterhouse began in 2008. You know, the good old days when we weren’t sick of superhero movies yet, and Sarah Palin was the craziest person in politics. Joe Budden dropped his third studio album, Halfway House. Track six was titled “Slaughterhouse,” and it featured, you guessed it, Royce, Joell, and Crooked. The rest is history.
A year later, Slaughterhouse delivered their self-titled debut album under eOne Music. The record had enough dizzying bars to satisfy any hardcore hip-hop head and enough contagious energy to make you bop your head ‘til you cracked your neck. Take standout selection “The One,” which is a powerful ode to drugs, sex, and rock and roll, perfect to blast on your way to the club where you’ll end up vomiting on the bartender.
Unfortunately, while the album received mostly positive reviews, it garnered damn near no public attention outside Rap Twitter. Sales were lackluster, and it barely made a nanosecond-long blip on the cultural radar—which is a damn shame. But fear not, Interscope was on their way to save the day...
Despite eOne allegedly trying to stop negotiations, Slaughterhouse kept tossing hints that they were going to sign a new deal with Eminem and Shady Records. The foursome appeared on “Session One,” a bonus track on Em’s Recovery, and released the track “Beamer, Benz Or Bentley (ShadyMegaMix).” This move was the music industry equivalent of knowing you and your girl are about to break up and lining up a rebound in advance.
In 2011, Budden and company finalized a record deal with Shady. To commence what Em referred to as “Shady 2.0,” Slaughterhouse, along with Yelawolf, posed alongside Mr. Mathers on the cover of XXL. The crew celebrated this new chapter with the high octane posse cut “2.0 Boys.” To build buzz, they released The Slaughterhouse EP and hopped on the Bad Meets Evil track “Loud Noises.”
The Slaughterhouse EP, “2.0 Boys,” and “Loud Noises” were all appetizers, with the main course, Welcome To: Our House, still cooking. Rap fans understandably had high expectations for the album. If it wasn’t an instant classic, we were fully prepared to TP Eminem’s Detroit estate and spray paint a dick on Paul Rosenberg’s car. That July, the group posed on the cover of The Source and dropped On The House, yet another free mixtape to keep escalating the momentum.
One month later, in August 2012, Welcome To: Our House finally landed on store shelves. This was back when music was actually made available for purchase, on shelves. You know, in stores. Despite getting trashed by various hip-hop outlets, the highs on Welcome To: Our House are higher than Shaq on stilts. “Hammer Dance” is sinister and bouncy, sounding like the theme song for a Netflix series where Denzel Washington decapitates zombies. “Rescue Me” mixes visceral emo-rap with the bombastic intensity of a trap banger, leaving you wondering if you should start bawling or start a mosh pit. The painfully catchy “Frat House” is the only good thing ever to be associated with frat houses other than John Belushi.
Unfortunately, the album is bogged down by forced attempts for mainstream hits. Look no further than the Cee-Lo Green-assisted lead single, “My Life,” which feels like it was crafted on a radio hit assembly line. You get the impression everyone involved in the song did their part while being held hostage in the studio. This is a feeling that permeates the whole album. But since the record was tailor-made for commercial appeal and released under a major label, the guys had nothing to worry about, right? Right? Right?!
Well… Shit. It didn’t work. Sales were abysmal. Moving 52K units in its first week, Welcome To: Our House sold like whatever the opposite is of hotcakes. [Editor’s Note: It’s important to remember that the album was released pre-streaming era. In 2020, 52,000 first-week copies sold would be a fantastic total.] For a Shady Records release in 2012, 52K first week sales are like if Avengers: Endgame only earned $22 and a Panera gift card at the box office.
By comparison, in 2019, Shady Records released Griselda’s debut album, WWCD, to warm reception, proving that fans do have a hunger for grimy rap. One notable difference between Welcome To: Our House and WWCD, though, is nothing on WWCD feels overproduced or commercialized. WWCD entirely maintains Griselda’s roots. Shady Records, seemingly, learned from past mistakes. Imagine if your crazy ex-girlfriend went to therapy and became cooler and started dating a guy just like you, but the relationship is healthier. That’s how Slaughterhouse must feel when they press play on a Benny The Butcher record or hear a Westside Gunn ad-lib.
In the years since Slaughterhouse released Welcome To: Our House, Joe Budden has been an open book about how the record label provided the group with beats that didn’t match their sound, the red tape surrounding the length of their album and their single selections, and how the finished album was very different from the one they initially turned in. Eminem reflected on the backlash he received in a 2018 interview with Sway, expressing the pain he felt when the album flopped and his frustration that Slaughterhouse never busted through the ceiling.
In 2013, Slaughterhouse started recording new material for their third full-length studio album, Glass House. Unlike with their major-label debut, Eminem took a more hands-off approach this time around. Unfortunately, his hands-off approach went for naught. Slaughterhouse slowly started to fall apart like that wobbly IKEA chair your fat uncle loves.
Glass House is finished—it’s been finished, for years—but the album is currently collecting dust on someone’s studio hard drive, somewhere, despite a number of fans (mostly just me) who would ritualistically sacrifice multiple goats just to hear a snippet or two. Unreleased rap albums will forever exist (see also: Detox, or 95 percent of the albums Kanye has ever announced). Still, Glass House represents an unfinished story, like a porno that ends right when the pizza guy shows up to the sorority house.
By 2018, Slaughterhouse had officially broken up. Other than some beef between Eminem and Budden, it was an amicable divorce. Glass House exists, but much like Watch The Throne II or an apology from Trump, we’re never going to hear it. Is Slaughterhouse done for good? Or will they give it another shot one day? Damned if I know, but Slaughterhouse should have been huge, and I blame you fuckers for their downfall.