• Four rappers rapping about the unadulterated greatness of rap

    Slaughterhouse, 'Welcome To: Our House' (Shady/Interscope)

    How far can Eminem's endorsement take Slaughterhouse? That's the question surrounding the Shady debut from the rap quartet of Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Royce Da 5'9", and Crooked I. Can the co-sign and executive-producer input of a rap icon with more than 30 million units shifted transform the fortunes of a group consisting of hungry thirtysomething rappers with sour industry experiences, relying on raw rap talent to see them through? It's a problem Welcome To: Our House cleverly sidesteps. Instead of playing out like a study of Em's aptitude for casting superstars, the album instead passionately captures the spirit of his own come-up, with a persuasive thrust bringing to mind a real-life reenactment of 8 Mile. For Slaughterhouse, rapping promises salvation, a way to move on from their undesirable or unsatisfying prior lives. It's rap or die, bottom line.

  • Slaughterhouse / Photo by Getty Images

    Slaughterhouse on Eminem, Hot MILFs, Their Stinky Video

    "You from the fuckin' projects….You can kill a live person but you can't kill a chicken?" says Royce Da 5'9" before letting out a rowdy laugh. The rapper is sitting behind a conference table at Interscope Records' Manhattan office, ragging on his Slaughterhouse bandmate Joell Ortiz as they weigh up the idea whether any of the group could hack it working in an actual slaughterhouse. The bloody preparation of live animals is on their minds after the quartet, which also includes Crooked I and Joe Budden, decided to shoot a video for "Throw It Away" at an operational slaughterhouse in a run-down industrial section of Jamaica, Queens. That was two days ago; now this afternoon three-quarters of the squad (Budden skipped out during lunch) are looking back on the olfactory ordeal they endured at Jamaica Poultry in uproarious fashion.

  • Jneiro Jarel and Doom / Photo by Klaus Thymann

    A Revealing DOOM Q&A: Supervillain on Nas' Pool Parties, His Rap-Hating Mom

    The rapper formerly known as MF Doom is holed up with a pint in a pub in London. The elusive MC/producer is coy about his exact location — "There's two ambulances across from me now," is all he'll give up — but it seems the foggy British air is working wonders on his music. His latest album, Key to the Kuffs, credited to JJ Doom, was recorded in tandem with New Orleans-based producer Jneiro Jarel (best known for his 2009 Georgiavania long-player with Goodie Mob member Khujo), but there's a marked Anglophile infusion to this new project.

  • 50 Cent, '5 (Murder by Numbers)' (Self-Released)

    The world is now blessed with two 50 Cents. There's the Curtis Jackson who likes to talk about the money he's made from his business ventures, flirts with the ladies on The View, and tweets about his day-to-day life like he's following the script of some rapper-turned-suburban-dad sitcom. (His latest, best scene involved berating his kid for leaving a roller skate on the stairs in a slapstick bid at patricide.) Thriving on the social-media circuit, this 50 is entertaining, endearing, and not at all threatening; he may have been shot in the face, but that only goes to enhance his chipmunk-cheeked grin. It's also the version that's pretty popular right now, with nearly seven million Twitter followers RT'ing his every word. The other 50 Cent is the one who still attempts to make rap records, but with ever-decreasing commercial and critical returns.

  • Chief Keef at S.o.B.'s (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

    Chief Keef's NYC Debut Draws Gawkers Aplenty, But No Kanye

    Chicago's Chief Keef, possibly the most hyped rapper of the moment, spent the best part of his five-song New York City debut rapping while looking down at the floor. Hiding behind a pair of thick white-rimmed sunglasses with a cropped mop of short dreads, the 16-year-old MC periodically looked out to the crowd, but mostly bowed his head while shouting out his rudimentary raps. This coy lack of engagement might have be born out of necessity: Every inch of the stage was crammed full with cronies and cameramen, the entire front wave of the crowd consisted of gawkers with permanently raised camera phones, the rumor that Kanye West was going to show up probably brought out even more reporters than usual. The diminutive Keef had no where else to move, let alone hide.

  • Mystikal / Tommaso Boddi/Getty

    Mystikal Takes Manhattan: Pre-Jail Gig Haunted by His Past

    "I ain't going to jail yet!" Fourteen days before Mystikal will be locked up for three months over a parole violation, the New Orleans-raised rapper was spending his free time strutting the stage at Manhattan's S.O.B.'s club, gyrating his waist with a salacious swagger. Mystikal's original six-year jail term came after he plead guilty to sexual battery; his new violation comes from a domestic abuse arrest back in February. As he prowled around with sweat cascading down his forehead, he broke free from his raps to holler to a girl in the crowd, "I fucks with you too." His belt proclaimed the word "Explicit" tied around his thrusting hips.

  • B.o.B, 'Strange Clouds' (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

    B.o.B is a pop star. He has pop pals. He has pop production. He has platinum pop singles, thanks to their poppy hooks and poppy sheen. And he has fans that, in another era, would be regarded as pop-crazed teeny-boppers. Which wouldn't be remarkable, except that B.o.B. is also a rapper who graduated from underground mixtapes to pop stardom without triggering too much of hip-hop's traditional career-ending sellout accusations — a feat he's pulled off by embracing the pop world so openly that criticism seems churlish. And so album two from the 23-year-old Atlantan stamps bold his commitment to the pop cause while remaining convincing as a modern rap album. It's hip-pop, but not as we used to deride it. Last time around, with his 2010 gold-certified debut The Adventures of Bobby Ray, B.o.B.

  • Big K.R.I.T. / bigkritVEVO

    Big K.R.I.T., '4evaNaDay' (self-released)

    "The Cautionary Tale of Lavell Crump" is a fable Big K.R.I.T., Mississippi's newest bright young hope, would do well to study. Perhaps you've heard of Crump, a/k/a rapper/producer David Banner, who's something of K.R.I.T.'s crooked-letter-state predecessor, having enjoyed a brief bout of mainstream buzz in 2003 with "Cadillacs on 22s," an unlikely rap semi-hit swaddled in acoustic guitar. But while many of his cohorts and collaborators soon rode Southern rap's breakout wave to stardom, Banner himself came up a little short. Partly because, as the story goes, successful Southern hip-hop became synonymous with trap-based drug raps and increasingly formulaic beats; something of a contrarian, Banner refused to conform to such stereotypes, and instead penned provocative political songs, tender laments on life in the 'Sip state, and viscerally violent threat-raps over rangy beats.

  • 111221-digable-planets.png

    New Refutations: Is This Digable Planets Reunion Happening or What?

    Digable Planets, the Brooklyn crew whose jazz-influenced hip-hop scored no shortage of critical accolades in the '90s, is set to reunite for a tour and new album, their first since 1994's Blowout Comb. However, depending on who you believe, the reunion will either be the triumphant return of three boho rap icons, a compromised project without all the original members, or something that won't happen at all. A press release from November of this year bandied around the claim that the group's founding rappers, Butterfly, Doodlebug and Ladybug Mecca, would be teaming up onstage for a couple of shows in New York and Los Angeles in tandem with the rap group U.G.O. Crew.

  • Asher Roth, 'Pabst and Jazz' (Self-released)

    "First of all, don't ever say a fuckin' thing about the homie / Call a favor in and leave your dyke mother very lonely." That threat comes courtesy of Action Bronson, an uncompromising New York City rapper who appears on "Choices" -- and helps signal the possible rehabilitation of preppy-styled white rapper Asher Roth. While Roth's 2009 major-label debut, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, was torpedoed by overriding tweeness (songs about larking around on go-karts!), this mixtape project is parsed in darker tones, with Blended Beats' dusty loops and deep bass lines. Far from suburban, Pabst & Jazz pitches for the underground.

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