Exclusive: Joe Budden and Crooked I chart the group's growth and evolution three years later, and explain some of the key moments and ingredients in their Shady Records debut, "welcome to: Our House."
“We’re an alliance,” Royce Da 5’9 announces to a crowd of Slaughterhouse fans in Los Angeles, California’s El Rey Theatre. “We a outfit equivalent to Voltron’s,” he continues as “Sound Off’s” horns blast and audience members scream along to every word. He stands alone, momentarily, rhyming slowly until his pace picks up. Soon every member of Slaughterhouse joins him. First Joell Ortiz, then Crooked I and finally Joe Budden. This is Slaughterhouse. This is the alliance. This is Rap’s Voltron.
After overcoming obstacles as solo artists on different journeys, their paths met. Along with Nino Bless, these four emcees blessed a track and they titled it “Slaughterhouse.” It seemed like a one-off at first, a posse cut to be debated in barbershops, blocks and boards. Who had the best verse? But eventually, it was clear that the song was much more than that. It became the start of a group for these four emcees. It became this alliance, one as menacing as their name and as lyrical as their pasts might suggest. Critical acclaim followed as the group released an independent group project. Then, the video came.
There they stood. Eminem, on his song with Drake, Kanye West and Lil Wayne, chose to stand alongside a different set of emcees. He chose Slaughterhouse. His longtime friend-turned-foe-turned-friend Royce was right behind him. Crooked, Joe and Joell were right beside him. The smoke in that video became fire in a Shady Records deal for the group, forming Shady 2.0 along with Yelawolf. Then came the wait.
Slaughterhouse’s Shady debut was heavily anticipated. With Eminem’s backing, fans were curious and excited about what the outcome would be. Their first album, the independent project, was such a well received LP that expectations for their Shady record were through the roof. Then, this week, welcome to: Our House finally came.
In this interview with HipHopDX, Crooked I and Joe Budden speak about the group’s camaraderie, Eminem’s contributions to their album, success, failure, “Truth or Truth” and “Goodbye.” They also discuss welcome to: Our House, their personalities and the importance of rhyming about their personal lives.
Slaughterhouse On Eminem’s Contributions, The Group’s Bond & Being Labeled In Rap
DX: What elements do you feel this album has that the first album didn’t and what would you attribute that difference to?
Crooked I: Well, I can think of one element that’s different: Eminem. [Laughing] Yeah, that’s a very different element on this album. He had some influence on certain material. He arranged, he mixed and he was featured. That was a big difference between the first and the last album. Other than that, he was like, “Yo, I fell in love with the first project. Go and do what y’all do.”
DX: What about in the dynamics of the group? I know you all have become greater friends since the first. How has that camaraderie contributed to the recording process?
Joe Budden: I think the camaraderie is something that continues to get better as time passes, every day. While our chemistry was good the first go around – we did that album in six days – this time, I think the best way to say this is that the chemistry probably reflects the music a little more. That’s because we were allotted more time to let that show.
DX: When we spoke about the first Slaughterhouse album, Royce Da 5'9 said you wanted to address the boxes that people had placed you all in. With this album, what was the concern that you all had while discussing the direction of the album, if any?
Joe Budden: Nothing particularly. No, I think all of us just went in there and put our best foot forward. Then that Slaughterhouse music just started to come through naturally, organically. It was a cerebral process but we lent no thought to how we should be marketed or how we should be promoted or making a single or making a “girl” record. We didn’t play into any of that. There are a million roughs of records we started because we went there in like a machine, day in and day out, for weeks and weeks and weeks at a time in Detroit. Nah. Nobody thought about all of that. We just went in there, vibed out and zoned. Fortunately, for all parties involved, good music came out of it.
Slaughterhouse On “welcome to: Our House,” “Goodbye,” & Personal Lyrics Behind “Truth Or Truth”
DX: Joe Budden says, “Failure is not an option,” on “We did it.” Recently, we spoke with Crooked I about how success is different for everyone. How would you define success and failure with this album?
Joe Budden: I’m the first one to say that success is self-determined. If the album comes out and it sells one copy, that’s really not my concern because we went in there and we made the best possible music that we were able to make. Whoever enjoys it, that’s great. I appreciate it. Whoever doesn’t, in my opinion, you’d be depriving yourself but you could feel totally different. The music is great.
Crooked I: I second that emotion. It’s like being in a barbershop and a dude walking up to you to say, “That ‘Flip a Bird’ joint is tough.” That’s a success to me. I feel like somebody appreciates what we’re putting in. That’s that. For me, personally, in my personal career, it’s been hard for me to get to that shelf. I’ve had several record deals. There was always something that went wrong in the process between me making music and actually putting it out. So, with the product being on the shelf, hey, that’s a success.
DX: On “Goodbye,” all of the emcees discuss very personal and yet very relatable topics. How did that song come together and how did you all respond to each other’s verses when you heard them?
Joe Budden: I was blown away. I’m always blown away by things that these guys do.
Crooked I: Man! With “Goodbye,” which is probably my favorite song on the album, Joe [Budden] just went in there and laid it down. He set the tone. We was out here in L.A. at my studio. Boi1da came through with a crazy ass beat. Joe walked in the booth and the rest is history. We had to vibe off of what he was doing. His shit was so authentic and real, there was nothing we could do but follow it up in our own ways. You know?
DX: Is there ever a topic that is too personal to touch on a record?
Crooked I: For me, it used to be that several topics I used to be embarrassed to discuss. I grew up below the poverty line at times. Certain things I would be ashamed to talk about when I was a young emcee. You know? But when Tupac made “Dear Mama,” and exposed that his moms was hooked on crack at some point, me looking up to him and being inspired by him, I thought, “If we could be open enough to say that, I should never be afraid to say anything about anything that goes on in my personal life. Good or bad.”
DX: Joe, how about you?
Joe Budden: Hell no! Nah. The more personal, the better for me. Listen, if my dick is itching, I’ll rap about it. That’s just me though.
DX: Where do you feel that candid honesty comes from?
Joe Budden: I mean, I’m comfortable with me. That’s really the bottom line. I’m not really about what anybody else has to say or think about my life or the way I live it. When you operate like that, shit just comes easy. I don’t know if that’s a testament to honesty or security or comfort. I don’t know what to attribute it to but I’ll take it.
DX: Is that why you talk about being so proud of your son when he came up to you and said, “I’m weird” on “Truth or Truth?”
Joe Budden: Hell yeah! Hell yeah. Fuckin’ right! That wasn’t something like…I wasn’t privileged enough to be there every step of the way of my little guy growing up. But even if I was, that’s probably not something that I would have tried to give him so early on. He freestyled that shit to me. He caught me by total-total-total surprise. It was just like…It was an ill moment for me.
DX: It sounds like it was a proud moment too.
Joe Budden: Yeah, easily. It was easily one of my most proud moments.
Slaughterhouse On Learning From One Another, “Throw It Away,” “Our Way” & Emotions In Music
DX: What would you all say you’ve learned from watching each other now that you guys are friends?
Crooked I: I learn from them guys all the time, man.
Joe Budden: Word.
Crooked I: I just think a good artist, or human being period, has to learn something every day. The day you stop learning, I feel sorry for you. To be put into an environment around three genius artists, in my opinion, there’s so much you soak up and I soak it all up. It’s too much to even name and some of the stuff I’m learning without even knowing I’m learning.
Joe Budden: I learn entirely too much from those guys. I’m constantly learning.
DX: I recently asked Crooked I when he realized that [Slaughterhouse] was more than a Rap group and more like a family. But I was interested in the other members and when the moment came where you realized this was deeper than just a Rap crew, that it was more of a friendship.
Joe Budden: This was a long time ago. This was in 2008-2009. I figured that out early in the game for me. No one thing [made that happen]. It was a combination of things. But it was quite a few things and those things are still on display today.
DX: Songs like “Frat House,” “My Life,” “Throw it Away” and even “Our Way” sound like celebratory cuts. What do you attribute that to?
Joe Budden: I attribute all the music on the album to whatever the overall mood of ours was at the time. If we were in the studio and we had one big party because we felt like we had finally got one step closer to whatever our ultimate goal is so we felt like celebrating, then we celebrated, we reminisced. We told war stories. We talked about four different brothers’ unique paths to get where we are today, all against the odds. But yeah, if it sounds like we were celebrating, it’s probably because we were celebrating some shit.
Crooked I: Yeah, if I went to the strip club that night in Detroit, then I might have a verse for “Throw it Away” ready. You know? But a good project in Hip Hop, as a fan of Hip Hop, not even as an artist, a good project should always respect the daily moods: happiness, anger, sadness. As long as you can feel every emotion on that album, the job has been done. If you could celebrate to “Throw it Away” and “My Life,” you could reflect on “Goodbye” and “Other Side,” you could understand what we go through on “Our House,” it’s a roller coaster of emotions. That’s what I want out of an album and I feel like that’s what we delivered.
DX: What would you say has been the most surprising aspect of your fellow group members?
Crooked I: Joell [Ortiz] could do stand-up. He’s hilarious. [Laughing] He can control a crowd like a mothafucka too, without even rapping. Royce [Da 5'9] is very technical. He’s very, very technical in the studio. He can take a song from one level to a whole ‘nother level without even rapping, just with his ideas. With Joey, one thing I’ve admired about him since we started this group, has been his openness and honesty, like we just talked about. If he’s on stage and feels a certain way, he’ll let the crowd know or even conducting an interview. So, these guys are definitely people to learn from, artists to learn from. It’s been a dope ride, man. If Slaughterhouse broke up tomorrow, it’s still Slaughterhouse forever on mine. I got the ink in my skin and it ain’t going nowhere, man. I’m Slaughter for life.