Friday, August 21, 2009

Laughter House

David D. of The Smoking Section just wrote an interesting piece in which he basically pointed the proverbial finger at the online hip hop community for failing to step up to the plate to pick up Slaughterhouse’s debut album at record stores. The main premise of his article is that money equals power (to music execs that is), and that our abandonment of Slaughterhouse (on a financial level) crystallizes the argument that internet hype may not after all be the barometer by which the industry estimates success. He’s got a point. But on the flip side of that coin, I have a few points of my own – namely ways in which Slaughterhouse, for lack of a better word, fucked up. A lot of it has to do with Joe Budden. I know that at this point I’m beginning to sound like A) a hater, and B) a broken record when discussing Joe Budden’s role in the hip hop world, but just hear me out. First and foremost, as I noted in a TRU Brain Trust post, Joe Budden is the weakest link of the group for various reasons. First of all, his on-again, off-again girlfriend’s ass has a bigger buzz than he does (word to Inspectah Deck), and honestly, I don’t feel like shelling out my hard-earned dough to a guy who’s already lucky enough to be hitting that. Again, call me a hater. Whatever. Next, and most importantly, is the fact that Budden has proven himself to be cut from the bitch-made cloth. He kicked off 2009 by “battling” Saigon (who just so happened to be releasing an album on the same label in the same time frame as Budden). Next, he dissed hip hop legend Grandmaster Mele Mel. And then he went after Wu-Tang members! Crazy! Now when I dropped that nerdy post last week, I was asked to drop some venn diagrams too. Here’s one:

Of course this is just an estimate, but I’d say a large chunk of the online hip hop community also consider themselves to be nerdy Wu-stans. How do I know? Because I’m a self-described nerdy Wu-stan. As I expressed on Twitter, Budden’s 2009 beefs, particularly with the Wu, deflated my anticipation for the album. I know I wasn’t the only one because I received A) retweets, and B) replies in agreement. I’m sure you know someone with a Wu-Tang beanie or t-shirt. I’m sure they didn’t buy Slaughterhouse’s debut album.

Another problem I have with Joe Budden is that he has horrible (really, really horrible) beat selection. I’m sure he was in charge of this during the Slaughterhouse process because one of the album’s tracks sounds nearly identical (with the same corny-ass Christmas interpolation and everything) to the intro track on Padded Room (another album with yawn-inducing beats). For some reason, his beats always seem to need to have some rock element attached to them. Totally unnecessary. And repetitive. Slaughterhouse’s album would have benefited greatly by more organic boom bap soundscapes. Just my thoughts.

So now that you know how I feel about Budden, let’s discuss the group in a broader sense: First of all, their lead single was corny as fuck. I mean, the verses were alright and all, but the chorus was transparently poised to reach pop-oriented audiences. Not a good look. Then Crooked I got a misspelled tattoo. Not a good look. Then the album leaked over a week in advance. Reaaalllly not a good look!

If you’re like me, you downloaded the leaked copy. You played it. You either really liked it, or you felt lukewarm about it. Either way, by the time the release date came around, the album had already been out for so long that it wasn’t even getting heavy spins in your rotation anymore (if you even bothered to play it more than once). Right? Right! So… blame it on the album leak; blame it on group members’ (i.e. Joe Budden) retarded antics; blame it on the general mediocrity of the album; blame it on the online hip hop community’s recession-era wallet-consciousness. David describes Slaughterhouse as a blogger’s wet dream. He’s right. But maybe that’s what’s so unappealing about it. It feels fabricated, manufactured. It feels like a ploy. Give me something more out of the box and spontaneous. Locking four monster emcees in a room to rip up the mic is great; for a mixtape. For an album? That just won’t get the same kind of love. It doesn’t even matter which genre we’re talking about. An Audioslave album is great. A Rage Against the Machine or Soundgarden album is epic. But let’s stick to hip hop: historically, which super-group sold really well? eMC? Nope. 213? Nuh-uh. The Firm? Don’t make me laugh. Maaaaybe Westside Connection. But as a general rule, I think it’s well established that rap supergroups never really bloom into anything more than a one shot album deal.

Still, I have one more bone to pick with David D.’s point of view, and here’s the most important part of my argument:

Pushing 18,000 units is a blessing in 2009. Little Brother, a group which I believe is a bit overrated (though I still enjoy their music), released their album Getback in 2007. Hyped by blogs the web over, LB only managed to move a little over 9,000 albums in their opening week! It took them an entire month to get to 18,000! I shit you not! How about Asher Roth earlier this year? Sure, he made a killing in comparison, but his numbers were so underwhelming that it’s no wonder why his voice has been all but completely wiped off the radio to this point. So again, Slaughterhouse must recognize that they’re blessed to be pushing those numbers. And critics of the online fan base who failed to buy the CD in its opening week must understand that a group like Slaughterhouse isn’t built to make money off record sales. They do it by touring the country, going to Detroit to holler at Royce’s fan base, bouncing over to Jersey to kick it with Budden’s soldiers, riding to the birthplace of hip hop to speak to Joell’s fans, and of course going back to Cali to let Crooked I fans and dub-raisers get rowdy.

Folks who know me know that I’m an avid listener of Adam Carolla’s podcast (what’s up, Bol). He went from a decent audience on a radio show with early hours to having one of the biggest podcasts and subscriber bases in the world – all in just a few months! So here’s how I see it: rappers, just follow the Adam Carolla model and you’ll be alright, ya got me? Better yet, we can call it the N.W.A. model (perhaps more apt for Slautherhouse). At the end of the day, I could give a fuck less what record execs think. I could give a fuck less, in the age of iPods, if a release is packaged as an album, a mixtape, an EP, a “digital package” or whatever. As long as the music is good, and you’ve got a firm reputation on the internet and the streets (still very, very important… sorry poindexters) you’re a-okay. That, or you could ditch Joe Budden and pick up, oh, I dunno, someone like Freeway, Saigon, or Termanology instead. Think about it.

P.S. Wu-Tang Clan still ain't nuthin' ta fuck wit'!