Review Summary: Welcome to the Slaughtahouse
As The Golden Age of hip-hop faded in relevance and gave way for the rise of West Coast gangsta rap, many veterans were worried. With its hedonistic themes and glorifications of gang-violence, the music coming from the West Coast glorified the destructive lifestyle that many veterans were vocally against. One of those concerned was an individual by the name of Duval Clear, otherwise known as Master Ace, was a bright and colorful character in his Marley Marl produced debut, Take a Look Around
. Ace was now in a tight spot, as more violent lyrics were taking up the spotlight while his peers were fading into the dust. Master Ace decided to change his image, shortening ‘Master’ to ‘Masta’, exchanging his fancy suit and hat for a hoodie and ball-cap , and with his newly formed posse ‘Masta Ace Incorporated’(which is really just Ace, ironically) released the 1993 album Slaughtahouse
. But, Ace is not trend-hopping here; instead, he points out the absurdity of fads, the dangers of living in a gangster's paradise, and the true, perilous nature of California's seemingly-inviting shores.
’s tone is consistently dark and menacing. While there are other descriptors that fit from song to song including paranoid, hostile, witty, and playful, there is always a sense of danger present.
The production, like the G-Funk of the West Coast, is heavy in funk and R&B samples. But while in the West Coast it was brighter and richer, the production here is much murkier and deeper, providing an image of the cold-cramped back alleys of New York as opposed to the sunny beaches of LA. This production aesthetic remains consistent throughout, helping connect the introspective words of Ace as he ponders about the everyday danger of simply walking from one point to another..
“I walk through the valley of no-man's land
Sayin’ peace, slappin’ fives and holdin’ up those two fingers
To the many nine millimeter automatic pistol toting young men
That roam everywhere
I wonder what will be the next small incident”
To the cartoonish portrayal of gangsta rap displayed in the first half of the title track by characters ‘MC Negro and the Ignant MC’..
Chainsaw in my holster
Barb-wire rope, and I'll hang ya like a poster
So when I grab my axe you better drop
Cause Imma swing, swing, swing and chop, chop, chop
The transitions are always smooth. Each song feels like it’s part of a greater picture.
The true highlight to this album, however, is Ace’s storytelling. He always is able to paint vivid pictures of people in the criminal underworld, whether it’s homicidal maniacs, drug dealers, or ordinary people just trying to get across their own neighborhoods without getting shot. The best example of this is “Jack B Nimble”, where Ace tells a darkly humorous tale of a man who is currently running from the cops. Ace here plays Jack’s inner thoughts, and his mocking voice emphasizes the hopelessness of Jack’s situation.
“Don't be mosin’, they're closin’ in kid
See what having that darker skin did
Now which way Jack, cause you need a breather
And a good lawyer, you won't get either”
In the end, Jack is hiding in the bathroom as cops start to burst the door open, Ace only then says that maybe it wasn’t a smart idea to report on the cops who were okay with the drugs Jack was selling, and cuts the song with an ironically cheerful “good luck Jack”.
While it may have been the violent themes of trendy hip-hop that inspired the music, the much bigger target on Ace’s list is the pointless black-on-black violence that constantly happens. In songs like “A Walk Thru The Valley”, “Late Model Sedan” and “The Big East”, Ace bemoans that not even black people like himself are safe in predominantly black neighborhoods.
“As I walk through Brooklyn, Compton or wherever,
I wonder why black folks don’t want to stick together
Talk about justice, and how little we get
Yet black men be killin’ black men for talking ***.”
was a turning point for Masta Ace. It introduced his modern name, socially conscious lyricism, and a style of storytelling that would become a defining feature of his rapping style. Slaughtahouse
, in one hand, is a satire of the West Coast hip-hop movement; but, in the other, it’s a detailed characterization of poor black neighborhoods. Ace takes on obvious targets like corrupt police, but also gives detailed imagery of the shady characters in the unforgiving world of gangs, gangstas, drugs, and cold-blooded murderers.