There is only one supergroup with good chemistry both on and off the microphone. Slaughterhouse – Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9″ and Crooked I – has become an imposing lyrical force in hip-hop through its mixture of underground emcees that deliver raps in the vein of the genre’s illustrious roots. During their second appearance at Rock The Bells – now with a well-received Slaughterhouse debut under their belts and a new home with Shady Records – Slaughterhouse’s lyrical punches were met with great enthusiasm from the Bay Area crowd. From Crooked I’s acapella freestyle, to Budden’s infectious single “Pump It Up,” to the collective’s trademark sound and camaraderie seen in “The One,” the packed audience shows that they have succeeded in cracking the mainstream.
After their performance on the Paid Dues stage, Slaughterhouse sat down with RESPECT. for a quick talk about the significance of appearing at Rock The Bells, balancing commercial aspirations while still staying true to the underground, revealing a Milli Vanilli feature for their second album and more.
You guys have come a long way from your first appearance at Rock the Bells. How has the festival help put Slaughterhouse on the map?
Royce: We did Rock The Bells at a time when we didn’t even have an album out. I think us forming an alliance, strictly in the underground hip-hop scene, and having an Internet buzz and working things shows that you can build organically from the ground up. And Rock The Bells was an instrument that helped us show people that. It enabled us to show a wider audience what we could do. We definitely thank Guerilla Union for that, for giving us that opportunity.
Crooked I: That shit is dope. Really, that is what hip-hop is supposed to be about. Hip-hop is not supposed to be about the Billboard charts. It’s not suppose to be about who can sell the most records. It’s supposed to be about talent. And pure talent on the Internet put us on the stage in front of thousands of people. And I think that’s inspiration for anybody coming up.
Speaking on your talent, a lot of your music displays raw lyricism. How do you balance commercial aspirations without making a pop record?
Royce: We just kind of do what comes natural to us man. We go in doing the kind of music we like listening to, that we prefer doing. I’m speaking for all four of us, never have we went into the studio and felt like ‘Yo, let me make a record for this, let me make a record for that,’ and I think that’s why we have similar stories. We have all been around the block in this industry because we are not willing to conform to industry standards. You know, and that’s what brought us together and that’s what makes this situation special.
Crooked I: You are looking at dudes who have not conformed to living their dreams. Like, all of us in this room – not only that we are all talented and entrepreneurs in our own right – and we haven’t conformed. This is something we live, we breath it, and we’ve done it and we are climbing the ladder of success without selling out and conforming.
If you hear a record from Slaughterhouse and it sounds pop? Its only because that’s what the fuck we wanted to make. That’s what we felt that day. But you know, sometimes we feel like … like the other day, I seen a dude on a freeway ramp. He had a sign that said: “College graduate – homeless.” And he was selling water out of an ice chest for donations. You know what I’m sayin’? This is a college graduate, who is homeless. And it made me want to write some inspirational shit. That shit that comes out sounding like a “Lighters,” with Royce and Em, but it’s not like it was like ‘Oh shit, time to make a record that’s going to cross over.’ It was like, ‘You know what? This shit is crazy and we need to speak on this shit.’ I think is just about coming from the heart.
Slaughterhouse has four voices, which all bring something different to the table. Do you guys feel collaborations are unnecessary for your tracks?
Budden: We don’t feel like that. Sometimes you do a record, and as capable architects, you can hear who needs to be on what. Sometimes you got to put ego and machismo bullshit to the side for a greater good of the music.
Crooked I: All these fuckin’ collabos I’m hearing, that shit is whack.
Crooked I: Yeah, hell yeah. I’m listening to nine dudes on a fuckin’ song that don’t belong together. I hear records all the time – too many fuckin’ collabos – all you trying to do is impact the market. Let me get a south guy to impact that market. Let me get an east guy to impact that market. That shit is so fuckin’ weak man.
Joell – In the words of Joe Budden on “Microphone” – Microclones. There’s only one Slaughterhouse, man. And Imma leave it right there.
Crooked I – Yeah, we are collabratin’ – Us. Fuck all that other bullshit music. The fans need to understand that shit is bullshit.
Royce, Joell – [laughs]
Last question: What can fans expect from the debut on Shady? Are there any notable producers worth mentioning?
Royce: We aren’t at the stage of recording where we need to start naming names. But we have been in with the heaviest hitters you can think of.
So comparing the Slaughterhouse debut …
Royce: It’s not a comparison.
Joell: I will say this. We do have a chorus from Milli Vanilli and its gonna be … wait till you hear that! That’s all I’m going to say.
Crooked I: It is dope too.
Door Eric Diep