In a backstage dressing room at Chicago's Metro, the four members of rap supergroup Slaughterhouse – Royce da 5'9", Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I – are spread out on plush couches. Recently signed to Eminem's Shady Records, the rappers will release their first album with their new label, Welcome To: Our House, in May. Later in the evening they will perform before a raucous crowd. For now, they try and relax.
Currently in the midst of a 50-city tour, the group members are visibly tired but nonetheless eager to talk about their forthcoming album. There's a palpable sense of relief among all four men that the album, executive produced by Eminem, is nearly done. After all, the follow-up to their eponymous 2009 debut was originally slated to be released in 2010 but delayed by a falling out with their former label, E1 Music.
The additional time gave Slaughterhouse a chance to perfect their writing chops. "We didn't have a time limit for this album," Ortiz explains. "On E1 we had a deadline to meet, and that's why we recorded the debut album in six days. This was more, 'You guys fly to Detroit, sit with producers, really get in there and work on a record and creatively come up with concepts.' That took deadlines off of our minds and let us be artists." As a result, Ortiz feels this album is far more creative than their debut. "This is our chance to display how ill songwriters and MCs we are on a different level."
The bulk of the album was recorded at Eminem's Detroit studio. "Whenever we find time to get together, Detroit was the headquarters," Crooked I says. "I really enjoyed the process of making this album far more than I did the first one. There's no comparison." Sound-wise, the group aimed to go larger in nearly all respects, compared to their debut "We wanted to sell it to a bigger audience," Royce explains. "We wanted to come with a bigger sound. We wanted to put more of each group member's personalities into it. Still keep it hip-hop, but show people that we can write records at the same time."
"It all sounds so grand and big. It just sounds like stadium music," Budden says, adding that he sees the group eventually performing the LP in its entirety. For its lead single, "Hammer Dance," the group teamed up with producer AraabMuzik, who lays down a jittery, MGMT-style electro beat beneath an otherwise aggressive lyrical free-for-all. "AraabMuzik is nuts. He's a different kind of producer," Ortiz says. "This little short dude walks in with his book bag, just sets up and gets right to music. I was like, 'This is Araab?'"
In Eminem, Slaughterhouse found not only a label boss, but a producer and mentor. "From day one, Marshall was hands on," Royce says. Last year he released an album with Eminem, Hell: The Sequel, under the moniker Bad Meets Evil.
Even before beginning to negotiate a deal with Shady Records, Budden says the group felt Shady was the right fit. "We thought that it would be the place where we would be able to come in and do what we wanted to do but under the right tutelage," he explains. "And that's what's happening."
Royce says that as a producer Eminem gives the group creative freedom. But the legendary MC is also quick to lend a hand when needed. "He'll come in and say 'Maybe change a line here, change a verse there, maybe move this around, let me add an instrument here," Royce says. "That's just what an executive producer does."
Crooked I, in particular, is excited to see Eminem behind the boards; he feels the MC has not gotten his proper due as a producer. "He doesn't get his credit and his props for songs he's been involved with and songs that he's produced entirely," the rapper says. "If I'm in a barbershop debating who's the best producer-slash-rapper, nobody says Eminem. To me, it's almost like a robbery."