Slaughterhouse returns to the basics on "House Rules" mixtape.
In the hip-hop industry, there are four kinds of artists: those who have crossover appeal, those who don’t, those who choose not to, and those who shouldn’t. Slaughterhouse, as a collective and as solo members, simply shouldn’t. Crooked, Royce, Budden and Ortiz could be raking in commercials deals right now, dropping radio hits with Bruno Mars and releasing studio albums once a year—they have the talent to do it—but that would be a misuse of their abilities. The group’s debut on Shady Records, Welcome To: Our House, highlighted the error of this kind of marketing. “My Life” and the Eminem-featuring “Throw That” were fun, light-hearted, affairs with “radio hit” written all over them but Slaughterhouse fans didn’t care about any of that. What Slaughterhouse fans wanted was unabashed lyricism from four of the game’s elite emcees—the kind of material that only gets released on mixtapes. As a result, Our House criminally undersold (tapping out of the charts with under 100,000 copies shipped) and the group gracefully exited the spotlight. Until now.
Similar to 2012’s On The House, House Rules serves an appetizer for the main course: the upcoming Glass House LP. Also like the former, the mixtape is exactly what the fans were looking for on the studio album. From the introduction all the way down to “I Don’t Know,” lyricism is at the front-and-center. Beats from the likes of Cardiak, Illmind, AraabMuzik and Harry Fraud are decidedly minimalistic—lending shine to the emcees instead of overpowering them. For some listeners, those who favor a hot beat over lyrical performance (the fans who thought "Throw It Away" was a smash), this may make the tape feel a bit tired. Hooks are practically nonexistent and there’s very little in the way of straight verse-to-verse rapping. For fans of the group’s original tapes, however, the cypher-esque approach could not be more welcome.
Earlier in the year, Budden claimed that the House’s new material was reminiscent of his notoriously personal Mood Muzik series. That claim certainly holds legitimacy here. “You got something on your mind?” asks Royce at the opening of “SayDatThen.” The next forty minutes find all four rappers answering this question or some variation of it. Royce tackles disloyal peers (and Big Sean) in “Keep It 100,” Budden deals with his father’s cancer and questions money as a motive on “Trade It All,” and Crooked reminisces on living in poverty on “Struggle.” Punchline-driven material finds itself restricted to “House Rules” and the Ortiz-headlined “Life In The City.” The real tape highlight, however, is “Offshore.” Holding a listener’s attention for over nine minutes is no easy task, but the energy level and emotional content on the track make the time fly by with ease. That being said, it feels weird being placed in the middle of the album. The song screams “outro” in every way.
House Rules is everything Slaughterhouse fans could have asked for: four brand new solo tracks and six lyrically-exhaustive team efforts. By throwing label-influenced crossover appeal to the side, the Shady signees have crafted a damn near perfect mixtape with stellar performances from everyone involved. Perhaps it could have used a few hooks to break up the monotony (the verse-on-verse-on-verse approach can be overwhelming), but that's what studio albums are for. Lets just hope Glass House maintains the momentum.