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HHV Exclusive: Slaughterhouse talks Eminem and life after “welcome to: OUR House” with K. B. Tindal

By K. B. Tindal
Hip Hop Vibe Contributing Writer

When the Slaughterhouse regime was formed a few years ago, Hip Hop heads who loved lyricism couldn’t have been happier. Finally seeing this caliber of four gifted lyricists all on one project as a permanent unit was spiritual and enlightening to some people. For others it was a chance to hear more sharp darts or, bars if you will.  Joell Ortiz from Brooklyn, New York, Royce Da 5’9” from Detroit Michigan, Joe Budden from Jersey City, New Jersey and Crooked I from Long Beach, California were already household names to people who searched for good Hip Hop that was not always mainstream.

All four of these gentlemen have been through solo deals with major labels. They have had some mainstream buzzing moments as solo artists and with respected artists and labels which, seemingly disappeared. They have been cosigned by some of the backbone pioneers of the art form and they all fought vigorously to revive and keep their careers alive, even when it seemed like all of their options were exhausted. They also dedicated themselves to the independent grind of an artist, and never took their feet off the gas when it came to being some of the most complex respectable wordsmiths Hip Hop has ever seen.

With the resurgence (Not that it ever left to real Hip Hop heads) of the focus being on lyricism within our genre, these 4 specimens of rap deserve to have their names mentioned. I won’t get into who is the best of the best or the top 5 dead or alive because that topic would last forever.

I will say that Hip Hop Vibe got the opportunity to chop it up with three quarters of Slaughterhouse, being that Joe Budden had scheduling conflicts for this interview, but with true loyalty, his three counterparts held him down completely. Come join us as Slaughterhouse talks about everything from Pac to Pun to Marshall to fucking Hollywood actresses.

Keep in mind, although Slaughterhouse is a group of witty, intelligent, charismatic individuals the following is also a story of four men. It is a story of a bond, a story of a kinship, a story of a struggle and a story of a dream that became a reality, again, full circle. SLAUGHTERHOUSE!!!

Well, what are some of the things that have gotten better since the release of welcome to: OUR House?

Crooked – Well, I got stopped at the grocery store today, so something is going right. (Laughs) Actually, a lot of things are going better. To be able to have another day to do something you love to do and be able to pay your bills doing it, it doesn’t get any better than that. Obviously, when we started out we all had career ups and downs and valleys and peaks and what not. Now to have the Slaughterhouse movement be as impactful as it is right now in hip hop, I see people gravitating towards what we do. It’s just beautiful. Everything is getting better, but we have a lot more work to do.

Joell – Yeah man I went Wells Fargo today and they made me coffee so I’m just blessed. (Laughing)

Royce – I think for me it always just feels good to be able to put out material and get an idea of what’s working in the climate, like what people want to hear. Music is constantly shifting these days and it’s been so long since we were able to put out, something from a major standpoint and on a major scale. So that’s a blessing in itself because it’s going to help all of us with future releases, it’s going to help us with all of the Slaughterhouse future releases and makes you feel like you’re back in the game, like you’re back talking to the major people. That’s what changed for me and my life.

Do you guys feel as though the timing was just right because lyricism in some sort of way has been missing from Hip Hop on the large-scale? And everything in Hip Hop gets recycled. So there was a time when people listened to a lot of lyrics and then they didn’t and now we’re getting back to listening to lyrics. So do you guys think it was great timing that allowed all of this to happen for y’all?

Joell – No one ever stopped rapping ill lyrics or ill bars. That music has always been available but you had to hunt for it. You gotta look online, you gotta click on your favorite artist, it’s not gonna be in the video, on the front page or on the radio. So we felt good to bring the art to a major. I feel like that was a big move. We’ve been taking care of our loved ones for a long time without a major.  It’s a blessing but we never stop doing what we were doing anyway. They just put us on a bigger stage and we perform what we’ve been doing forever and that’s why this group works so well because its 4 dudes with a similar story. We’ve all been on a major, we’ve all been rappin’ our asses off since the beginning of our careers and were finally getting a little more shine as far as a major label is concerned or videos on MTV, some radio play, but we, alongside other MC’s have been rappin our asses off for a long time.

Crooked – To add to that, niggas know what we about. Real heads in the barbershops and in them little hood pockets they sometimes feel like they’re being represented correctly when they turn the TV on and they see different shit. So I know it felt good for them see people like Slaughterhouse on 106 and Park. They tell me that type of shit. They tell me they’ve been watching 106 and Park since it started, but they’ve never seen or it’s been sometime since they have seen anybody on that show that was on some lyrical shit standing up there on that platform. I recognize how much that means to these people when I’m in the hood talking to them. I recognize that it’s like were champions. Were like the hometown champion heroes for being able to spit like we spit and being able to take that type of art all the way to the level of a BET or MTV.

Royce – Ditto to what they said it felt like they were reading my mind with that one.

Give me one pro and one con of being a part of a collective?

Royce – I think of way many more pros. I guess the only con for me speaking as an individual, is that I’m the type of person that can’t really multitask and I pretty much give whatever I’m doing at that moment my all, so I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of used to being in a group at this very second. I’m having a little the issues right now recording [Laughing] my also shit because I’ve been used you to leaning on these brothers for years. It’s a way more natural process when you’re dealing with other brains and there’s four of us so when we’re in the studio, I’m really only focusing some of the time, on a verse or a hook and then sometimes just on the verse. Everything else is done together. The beat selections and all of that is done with other people. So I’m kind of like a fish out of water right and now and I’m adapting back to being a solo studio nigga.

Joell –  to keep it 100 like, I’ve been doing some solo shows man and I need my brothers back man it’s too much work [All Laughing] that’s my problem like a motherfucker.

Crooked – Another con is like Joey not being on the phone with us today [All Agreeing] that’s a real con, because it’s like our schedules conflict sometimes. He has a project that he’s pushing out right now he’s got the Mixtape out he’s got the song with Wayne he’s got shit to do so sometimes the scheduling is kind of off because when you solo doing your solo shit you’re going to be there. But when you have to get four dudes together that have different schedules sometimes it just conflicts, but like Royce said there’s way more pros.

Give me an example one thing that you sacrificed for the love of Hip Hop.

Royce – I feel like I sacrificed pretty much everything involved in my personal life. Over the years I’ve learned to kind of like departmentalize and put every little thing in my personal life into one box and then just sacrifice it all at once and I just recently stopped doing that. I was kind of like leading a double life. I was the artist on the road and then I would come back and expect to be the father and husband and it was kind of conflicting and I’m just starting to find that balance now on how not to sacrifice all of the serious shit that I have to do. Quite naturally I’m not going to be rappin’ forever.

Joell I know you’ve been doing some acting lately, can expand on that for me please? I’m in acting school right now. I’m going to LA in about three weeks to do some readings. I haven’t placed yet but there will be a placement in the near future and I’m really excited about that. I’m just trying to have a blast man and Hip Hop helped out a lot by being able go on stage and perform for an hour or an hour and a half and remember lyrics. So I’m getting these scripts and it seems like it’s more natural, more fun and I’m just looking forward to fucking all these Hollywood actresses.

Give me one thing that each of you have learned from each other that has made you better artists.

Royce –  I would have to say from Joell he was the first artist that I listened to besides Eminem and I always used to look at Eminem on a whole another level than any other artist, so they were certain things that he would implement in is style that I didn’t think that I could do. When I got around Joell, Joey and Crook, it was Joell in particular that made me want to start bringing more personal elements to the table to be a little bit more introspective. With Crooked I would look at some of the reactions from his verses, versus some of the reactions from everybody else’s and he kind of made me feel like maybe I can add more lines or shock value lines or more learned that people would remember and want to repeat. So it’s basically about taking pieces from everybody styles, because quite naturally everybody in the group is going to have something that they do better than somebody else but what I try to do is that if I find that I feel like there is something that one of them is doing better than me, I try to take it and in factor it into my style to try and just become more complete as an artist.

Joell – These niggas taught me to stop feeling myself! You go into one of those mufuckin’ sessions thinking you that nigga and you’ll get your ass whooped. I bring my A game to everything I can bring my A game too. These guys are phenomenal at what they do. I’m a secret fan in the group. So when we’re in the studio, like I might be rockin’ but I’m looking left and right thinking, what the fuck is this nigga gon’ say. It feels good, it feels fun. I’m happy to have met these gentlemen as men they are my friends besides my group and it’s just been a good ride and we the rollin’.

Crooked – I learned a lot from these guys now it’s funny because certain things that I used to do that I abandoned for whatever reason, I picked it back up when these guys do it that they can like well maybe I shouldn’t put that down. I’ve been rappin’ since I was eight years old. So I’ve gone through a lot of phases. When I was on Death Row I used to always sit with songs. I would sit with songs for weeks just tweak them. When the Internet generation kind of came through, I kind of stopped that and just started continuously putting out music, but what I’ve learned from Royce is that he’ll sit with a song and take from one level to a whole nother level. It would be a skeleton and it might sound like a full song to me but it ain’t shit but a sketch to him because he’s not finished with it. The last couple times I’ve been in the studio I’ve been telling myself that I have to implement that because he’s making the quality of the song way better. With Joell he’s a showman like a muthafucka. That muthafucka could probably entertain anybody doing anything and that’s part of what we do. You can’t just be a dope lyricist and a whack ass entertainer. You have to add everything to try to become a more complete artist and his just trouble for the next nigga when we learn from each other.

Crooked you did Hip Hop Weekly years ago by putting out a song every week for 52 weeks straight and Royce you dropped The Bar Exam which in my opinion was one of the best Mixtapes that I’ve ever heard. And on another Mixtape you had a song called 52 Bars so obviously great minds were thinking alike before you guys even met. Joell you then dropped The Bodega Chronicles off of which Latino was my favorite song. What mind state were all of you in when you released these projects?

Royce – When I dropped The Bar Exam, I was actually on work release and that was the first time that I was actually mindful of trying to make myself become more Internet savvy. I was like Marshall at one point in time. I was one of those niggas that didn’t even know how to log onto the Internet. I was like, use a computer for what? Where’s the notebook at? So I became Internet savvy and I started to learn how to release my own music and I saw the trend where the Internet was starting to become the new streets and I wanted to jump on that bandwagon. I can release songs and leave comments and get to see what people think about it? That was like the best shit in the world to me. I was on work release and I felt like I needed to put something out there just to let people know, hey I’m not invisible. I’m sitting on thousands of songs over here with no outlet to do something with them. So The Bar Exam was just my first dose of being Internet savvy and being able to have that outlet to release my own music.

Joell – The Bodega Chronicles to be honest man. When I put that out, Imma be real with you I had 1 foot in and 1 foot out because I was still dabbling in the streets and then I would record. That’s why I got real personal on some of those records. I talked about the streets, I talked about the hustle, I talked about the grind because I was still involved in it. That was my first project ever and I was putting out for sale and I was excited. Hunger was in those records and being that I’m Puerto Rican when I heard the music for Latino that was just one of my favorite records off the rip, so I’m glad you liked that and enjoyed that. But The Bodega Chronicles, yeah that was Joell with 1 foot in the projects and 1 foot in the studio. Champion hoodies and a 40 ounce of old English that’s what it was.

Crooked – With Hip Hop Weekly I was just getting off of Death Row Records and a lot of people were putting that black cloud over me from being associated with Suge. I figured I had to innovate something that would cause some sort of separation between me and my past. I noticed that artists were putting up songs maybe once a month so I said to myself well what would happen if I put a song up once a week? And I would pretty much just stay on the sites every day for a whole year a lot of people told me it was impossible because nobody had ever done that before, nobody has got that many bars, you have to make 52 songs and that’s going to be too much.  I heard everything and I managed to do it. I was also doing Mixtapes and features and I was writing for people. So I put out a lot of lyrical output in that year that people recognized and it took me from the booth all the way to magazine covers without a hit record. I always tell people that even though I’m probably the one who innovated that even though we have things like iTunes and things like that, all of these artists started coming out every week trying to put out something and I’m definitely the one who created that. You can get somewhere in the world of Hip Hop without all the shit that they say you have to have. You don’t necessarily have to have hit records or you don’t necessarily have to have platinum plaques to be respected, to be well received and to be able to make a living for yourself. I think that we proved that.

Crooked, I know you got counterparts that you rhyme with like the Horse Shoe G.A.N.G. and Royce I know you’ve always had Kid Vishis so are there plans to put out your own artists?

Royce – Kid Vishis is always gonna always be with me that’s like my little brother and I’m always into that, but to be totally honest that is not my area of expertise. It goes back to what I was saying about me focusing on one thing at a time and that’s when I’m at my best. It’s an uphill grind, even with 2 million singles sold, a gold album and being number one on the charts with the Slaughterhouse album. It’s still an uphill struggle for me. I’m still trying to get myself solidified to where I can totally focus on another artist but I would love to be able to do that. There’s a time and a place for it, but that’s definitely something that is on my agenda. It’s definitely at the top of my priority list, but you know, first things first.

Crooked – I’m on the same level. I’ve got the Horse Shoe G.A.N.G. They got the Sunglasses and Advil single out right now. They look at and up to what we do right now as Slaughterhouse but there right along with the movement. They are just in the background. They came up to the studio the other day and they got the Slaughterhouse tattoos but instead of saying Slaughterhouse it says House Shoes. They got part of the logo and part of the Slaughterhouse logo and they all got it and it’s not just the passion. They are riding with us 100%. It’s like Royce said, first things first. We have to put our foot in the game all the way and then bring in those people that we have that are just waiting in the wings to terrorize shit.

What are the best and the worst things about being on the road?

Royce – The best thing for me is being out there and working on whatever you worked so hard on whatever that project is whether it’s a mix tape and album or both. The best part about it is being able to get out there and really push the product that you trying to sell in the marketplace and trying to make aware in the marketplace and it’s just another aspect of the job. The only downside for me is being away from the family and it goes back to what I was saying earlier about balancing the two lives that seem to be living and that’s just me.

Joell – My answer is pretty much identical. The best part about it is getting up to doing what you love and the hard part about it is leaving some of the people you love to go do that.

Crooked – The best part for me to is to actually see the fans and see the people who are actually supporting what you doing and they have passion about it. It gives you more fuel even if you do have obstacles. Sometimes you need that fuel. Sometimes you need to go out there and meet those people and get that energy.

Joell – Well with the other question you were talking about like putting people on and stuff like that, I’ve been in the studio for the last month working on my solo shit, so Royce or Crooked, one of y’all niggas sign me man? I’m tellin’ y’all I’m hot yo! [All Laughing Hysterically]

Royce – I’m gonna sign you to, Can’t Get Right Records. [More Laughing]

Crooked – I was just sitting there talking to my little brother the other day and I was like, I don’t think none of us got a record deal, solo. {More Hysterical Laughing]

Royce – I remember when we used to be worried about getting a record deal, now we can’t remember if we got one or not.

Joell – Niggas be callin’ their lawyers like yo, who am I signed too? [Laughing]

Crooked  – Cause you be feeling like you’re signed like a muthafucka when you’re in the studio making all this music and then you get out and you be like damn, where this shit gon’ come out at? [Laughing]