Being signed to Shady Records is a gift and a curse. In becoming affiliated with possibly the most popular emcee in the history of Hip Hop, Slaughterhouse has increased its visibility tenfold. But, as artists like Obie Trice, Stat Quo, Bobby Creekwater, and even D12 to a lesser extent know, things aren’t always rosy at the house that Shady built. Seemingly closing itself off from outside artists, meddling from Jimmy Iovine, and heavy-handed involvement from Slim himself, it’s a story fans have seen play out many times (if the artist’s album even dropped, that is). But Slaughterhouse is a different animal, it seems. Unlike the aforementioned artists, Royce Da 5’9, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked I have each had critically, if not commercially, successful careers. Each has gone through label woes, and none of them are in need of creative nurturing. In other words, Slaughterhouse is in a prime position to take advantage of the things Shady Records has to offer on welcome to: OUR HOUSE and not succumb to any of its pitfalls.

After an eerie intro, the Eminem-Slaughter connection pops off on “Our House,” a no-frills cut (except a moody, full chorus courtesy of Skylar Grey) that puts on full display Slaughterhouse’s bread and butter—otherworldly lyricism. From the start, Royce tells fans why they’re here: “I just want to be the illest emcee / The same time be as real as can be / Mayhem, sickness, murder, horror / These are the kind of words that describe my aura / G Rap, Ras Kass, Kurupt, Redman / I am cut from that cloth, rhyme about me? You a dead man / …I’m trying to be the sickest nigga dead or alive / And if I happen to fall short, it’s been one hell of a ride.” “Coffin” and “Throw That” are skippable, with the former featuring a tired Busta Rhymes failing to sound genuinely riled up and the latter comprised of forgettable sex talk. The project picks up steam again with “Hammer Dance,” clever from its title on down to every bar. “Throw It Away” comes out of left field, and it’s a pleasant surprise. The Mr. Porter beat is a straight banger that was tailor-made for Swizz Beatz’ absurdly entertaining brand of chant-choruses. Even someone who’s been charting Porter’s quiet rise to one of Hip Hop’s more sought-after producers will be impressed by this one. Skyler Grey’s shtick gets a little old on “Rescue Me,” (i.e., “I Need a Doctor” 2.0), and the rest of the album plays out pretty much as expected: some heartfelt cuts (“Goodbye”), some ballin’ on wax (“Park it Sideways”), and a lot more dense lyricism.

After 80 minutes and 38 seconds are up, what have listeners learned about Slaughterhouse? That they’re probably the strongest-rhyming collective in Hip Hop today, and likely belong in that “all-time” conversation—as skilled emcees. But everyone already knew that. With welcome to: OUR HOUSE, Slaughterhouse has somehow managed to improve upon its already-absurd skill set. The delivery is clearer, the bars flow tighter—perhaps being challenged by Eminem in the studio daily has that effect on emcees that hate to be outshined. But unfortunately, listeners will be hard-pressed to find evolution otherwise. Anyone who’s heard “Microphone” or any number of other SH cuts—not to mention its members’ solo catalogues—know the damage Royce, Budden, Crooked, and Joell can do on a mic. Unfortunately, OUR HOUSE feels like a thrown-together collection of (extremely) dope posse cuts. The album lacks direction, and its aesthetic (both lyrical imagery and musical) seems a little overly influenced by Shady. Ultimately, there are countless bars worth hitting rewind for, but Slaughterhouse is capable of so much more. Songs like “Move On” and “Rain Drops” from previous projects are proof. When Slaughterhouse commits themselves to being artists—not just lyrical acrobats—then the Hip Hop game will truly feel the group’s impact.