Five years after making his name as a member in Marley Marl's legendary Juice Crew (he was one of the featured MCs on the classic 1988 posse cut "The Symphony" from Marl's In Control, Vol. 1) and three years after recording his buoyant, artistically on-point (though commercially stillborn) debut album, Take a Look Around, with its memorable hit "Me and the Biz," battle-scarred Brooklyn underground star Masta Ace returned for his second album with a newly tweaked name and his own supporting crew (Masta Ace Inc.), a new sound and sharply honed style, and a cynical new outlook on the entire rap game. In fact, a disgusted new outlook might be a more appropriate characterization, as a controlled abhorrence oozes from every pore of SlaughtaHouse, lashing out not only at easy outside targets (bigoted police, for instance) but also at those shady characters inside the "SlaughtaHouse" whose violence is enacted physically (Ace himself places the part of a mugger on "Who U Jackin?") rather than lyrically, bringing the entire community down in the process. A loose concept album, it is at once an intense exposé and a roughneck paean to the hip-hop lifestyle that broke new ground by merging the grimy lyrical sensibility, scalpel-precise technique, and kitchen-sink beats of East Coast rap with the funk-dripping, anchor-thick low end of West Coast producers. The classic "Jeep Ass Niguh" was one of the quintessential cruising singles of the summer of 1993. Its unlisted remix, "Born to Roll," with its subsonic gangsta bass, is an equally thumping highlight and (with its sample borrowed from N.W.A's "Real Niggas Don't Die") can be seen as the most explicit bridge between East and West. But other hectic, relentless tracks like "The Big East," "Rollin' wit UmDada," and "Saturday Nite Live" are just as excellent, and Ace's crew -- particularly Bluez Brothers Lord Digga and Witchdoc -- really shines.
Review by Stanton Swihart