Slaughterhouse at Old Rock House, 5/25/12
For hip-hop fans who still appreciate lyricism, Slaughterhouse epitomizes the term "supergroup." Joe Budden, Royce Da 5'9", Crooked I and Joell Ortiz returned to St. Louis last night for the first time since 2009 - this time bringing a stronger performance, a bigger catalog, and most importantly, bars. The underground heavyweights are currently touring in support of the upcoming album Welcome to: Our House, their first project under Eminem's Shady Records imprint.
I was a little worried about what the turnout would be after Joe Budden's concert here last fall, but there was a respectable showing of at least a couple hundred this time around. Also, it's always nice to see local talent come out and support hip-hop shows when they aren't on the bill - it shows that they're still fans of the music. Tef Poe, Nato Caliph and Ruka Puff were in the crowd, among several others. The show brought out a few characters, too. If you're ever at a rap concert in St. Louis, and you see a chubby white guy in a tie and glasses doing the twist - better give my man some room!
The night began with the hard-working DJ Mahf on the turntables, mixing and mashing-up rap and pop songs to keep the early birds entertained. Mahf would stay onstage to back up the first two openers. Ex-Earthworm Mathias warmed up the crowd with the assistance of Ms. Vizion, playing a short set of '90s-style hip hop taken largely from 2010's Devils, Pirates & Rebels.
Fresh off the release of his latest album BETTERMAKEROOM, Steddy P. followed up with a set that included a live guitar, which added a rap/rock touch to P's often sample-heavy music. For example; the familiar sample used on the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" was unrecognizable on P's "What We're Fighting For." Other songs didn't feel quite as altered, like "Local Heroes," where the growling bass and spastic flow were left intact.
Local Grammy winner Murphy Lee brought a couple of guests onstage for his performance, most notably East St. Louis rapper Fresco (formerly known as Gena), who has recently signed to with Jermaine Dupri's So So Def label. The Duo performed "Shot Caller Remix" after Murph hit a few of his bigger records like "Look at My Shoes," "Wat Da Hook Gon Be" and "Not a Stain on Me Remix."
The headliners opened up with "Sound Off" from their self-titled debut, each one taking the stage as it was time for his verse. The vocals tended to get a little muddy over the louder tracks, which was disappointing, because Slaughterhouse is all about the lyrics. This wasn't an issue for many fans, though, as a good portion already knew every word. Three of the four emcees performed their verses from last year's BET cipher, with the exception of Crooked I, who spit a long a capella which earned several "oooohs" from the audience.
The setlist was what many fans might expect; "Microphone," "Onslaught 2," and the new single "Hammer Dance" were all covered. Even some of the solo tracks were worked in, like Joell Ortiz' "Hip-Hop," Royce's "Above the Law," and "Pump it Up" and "Sober Up' from Joe Budden. What was probably most surprising was all the moments of levity brought on by the guys clowning around onstage - it gave the show good chemistry. Joell wore a fan's bra on his head during "Fast Lane," and at one point broke into Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgetting" (with the voice and everything). The show ended (after "Hammer Dance") with Joey and Royce doing the Kid 'N Play kick-step.