H.A.R.D. – “Harbor City” review

This is the sophomore album from hardcore hip hop super-duo H.A.R.D. a.k.a. the Housing Authority Rap District. Consisting of Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED, both these guys had notorious label issues at the start of their careers only to see success as members of the supergroup Slaughterhouse along with Royce da 5’9” & Joe Budden from the late 2000s up until the mid-2010s. The quartet had quietly disbanded in 2016 after Joe’s retirement from making music even though it wasn’t confirmed until 2 years later, but the other 3 members have been keeping themselves busy ever since. H.A.R.D. introduced themselves a couple months after the pandemic hit with an incredible eponymous debut EP followed by their full-length debut The Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse earlier this spring. But as the 3rd quarter of the year draws to a close in a couple weeks, Crook & Joell are taking the world through Harbor City.

After the “Rookie’s 1st Dead Body” intro, the first song “Heat Wave” kicks off the album with a gospel-tinged instrumental to get into their hardcore bag whereas “Welcome to Harbor City” takes a more airier route thanks to DJ Silk talking about the titular California location. “Energy” works in a deadpan beat to describe how they walked out of the projects, but then “Drip Club” fuses a piano & a hi-hat for a party anthem.

Meanwhile on “Holy Water”, we have H.A.R.D. officer a flute-heavy trap instrumental talking about having permission to take a higher road leading into AZ tagging along for “Vibrate Higher” over some crooning boom bap production provided by The Heatmakerz dodging all the bullshit. “Brooklyn” is a rock-flavored Joell solo cut paying tribute to one of the biggest cities in NY & after the “BK LB Blend” interlude, “Community Center” blends some strings & congo drums reflecting on the days where you used to find them.

“Long Beach Blvd.” is of course a rugged KXNG CROOKED solo joint talking about his neck of the woods while “Pawnshop Jewelry” shoots for a jazzier aesthetic bragging that they have a waterfall full of diamonds. After the “Officer Pirelli Schools the Rookie” interlude, “911” has a more chaotic vibe airing out the biggest gang in America while “1-800-Get-Hard” & “Stop Playin’ with Kim” are 2 skits going up back-to-back with each other.Continuing from there with “Don’t Forget About Her”, H.A.R.D. jumps on top of a high-pitched sample vividly describing a woman who’s unforgettable while “Dead Body” following the “Nahdeadassyo” interlude ghoulishly paints the image of a corpse floating besides themselves.

After the “Pirelli Doesn’t Like Us!” interlude, “Underground” is a soulful Yaowa solo cut talking about getting what you gotta get & staying clear while the track “Ocean Terminal” with Lin-Manuel Miranda dives into calmer yet melodic territory providing inspirational lyricism. And prior to the “Who Shot Ya?” outro, “Game Over” is a gully finisher calling for everyone to quit snitching on themselves.

Now if you loved H.A.R.D.’s self-titled EP & their full-length debut like I did as someone who was a big fan of Slaughterhouse back in my teen years, then you’re gonna wanna check Harbor City out because it’s their 3rd consecutive banger together. I think the production on here is a bit better than Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse, but I do admire that they took it back to the basics of self-titled as far as lyricism goes & I like how they bring in more features than they did on their earlier work. Also, I feel like the amount of “commercials” & “dialogues” were a bit excessive.

Score: 4/5

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H.A.R.D. – “The Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse” review

H.A.R.D. is a hip hop super-duo consisting of Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED. Both of whom have had notorious label issues at the start of their careers, but would go on to see success as members of the supergroup Slaughterhouse along with Royce da 5’9” & Joe Budden from the late 2000s up until the mid-2010s. The quartet had quietly disbanded in 2016 after Joe’s retirement from making music even though it wasn’t confirmed until 2 years later, but the other 3 members have been keeping themselves busy ever since. H.A.R.D. introduced themselves a couple months after the pandemic hit with an incredible eponymous debut EP & with the 2 year anniversary of that approaching in the spring, they’re coming back in the form of a debut album.

After the “Birth” intro, the first song “Vacancy” is a gospel-laced opener produced by The Heatmakerz talking about putting the business in the back & get back in business whereas “Ain’t Nobody Mad” follows it up with an organ provided by DJ Silk addressing those who be asking them why they still be talking about that bullshit. “Backstage” takes a more soulful route wishing real life was like being in a green room just before “Flood Waters” mixes some sputtering drums with pianos talking about how paradise ain’t what it used to be.

Meanwhile on “Fukglasshouse”, we have H.A.R.D. pretty much shooting down any remaining hope of Glass House seeing the light of day over a catastrophic trap beat from DJ Pain 1 leading into a dope sequel to “Brother’s Keeper” off Yaowa’s 3rd album House Slippers. “Almighty” weaves some horns in to get on their battle rap shit, but then “Smoke” comes through with a more calmer sound talking about not doing all the industry functions.

“Coastin’” has a more tenser sound calling out someone who ain’t down to ride while the song “Still in My Feelings” is a worthy sequel to “In My Feelings” off Joell’s latest solo effort Autograph. The penultimate track “Look Mama” serves as a touching dedication to both of their mothers & lastly, “Sorry” closes out the album with a chipmunk soul sample apologizing to everyone for the way Slaughterhouse ended.

I think the self-titled EP has better production, but Joell & Crook come harder on here lyrically. Coming from someone who was once a big fan of Slaughterhouse, it’s a little fucked up that they didn’t tell Royce or Joe about it until it was announced but I can’t deny how interesting it is to hear these guys looking back on their time in the group.

Score: 4/5

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H.A.R.D. – Self-Titled review

This is the brand new collaborative EP from Brooklyn & Long Beach veterans Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED. Both of whom have had notorious label issues at the start of their careers, but would go on to see success as members of the supergroup Slaughterhouse along with Royce da 5’9” & Joe Budden from the late 2000s up until the mid-2010s. The quartet had quietly disbanded in 2016 after Joe’s retirement from making music, but it wasn’t confirmed until 2 years later. However after the 3 remaining members got back together on “I Will” off of Eminem’s latest album MUSIC TO BE MURDERƎD BY, Yaowa & Crook are teaming up on H.A.R.D. (Housing Authority Rap District).

The title track finds the duo talk about being humble for too long over a Heatmakerz instrumental with some beautiful background vocals whereas the next song “Get Ya Money” talks about how there’s 6,000,000 ways to make bread over a boom bap beat from Erick Sermon. The track “Caddy Bump (LBC)” is a Crook solo joint about growing up in the eastside with a ghostly instrumental from !llmind while the song “Catchin’ Bodies” sees the 2 getting back together for some vicious battle bars over a grand instrumental from Apollo Brown.

The track “Lose My Mind” talks about growing up where they come from over a lone acoustic instrumental while the song “Wolves (BRKLYN)” is a solo Joell joint where he totally airs someone out over bloodcurdling beat from the J.U.ST.I.C.E. League. The penultimate track “Lovely” talks about waking up to the same thing over a shadowy beat & then the EP finishes with “Memorial Day”, where Crook & Yaowa pay tribute to those who’ve passed away this year.

If this is the closest we’ll ever get to a new Slaughterhouse project then coming from someone who used to be a huge fan of the supergroup back in the day, then I’d be totally ok with it. The production is grimy as Hell & the chemistry between both MCs is fantastic as well. 

Score: 4/5

KXNG CROOKED – “Gravitas” review

 

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KXNG CROOKED is a West Coast veteran from Long Beach, California that got his start signing to the infamous Death Row Records in the early 2000’s. Eventually, he left the label in 2004 after they shelved his debut & released a handful of mixtapes that helped grow his profile. This was enhanced by his membership in the now defunct supergroup Slaughterhouse, who would go onto release their 2009 self-titled debut with E1 Music as well as their 2012 sophomore album welcome to: OUR HOUSE with Shady Records before imploding on themselves in 2015. He has gone on to release 4 studio albums since then & for this new one, Bronze Nazareth has been enlisted to produce it in it’s entirety.

The “Emperor’s Arrival” intro finds Crook comparing himself to royalty over some triumphant horns while the next song “Outer Limits” with Hus Kingpin & Killah Priest sees 3 flexing their pen-game over a grimy boom bap beat. The track “From Slavechains to Handcuffs” with Bishop Lamont, Compton Menance & Ras Kass sees the 4 getting conscious over a boom bap over an alluring sample & after the “Still” interlude, the song “I Can Still Remember…” talks about the struggles of the hood over an orchestral instrumental with an intense drum loop. The track “Westside Willie” with P.U.R.E. & Planet Asia sees the 3 interpolating the 1999 Nas joint “Hate Me Now” over an instrumental that enhances the overall charisma while the song ” Change Ur Beliefs” with Bronze & the late Kevlaar 7 sees the 3 getting triumphant over a blissful beat.

After the  “Precious Moments” interlude with Snoop Dogg, the song “French Connection” with Bronze, La the Darkman & TriState sees the 4 getting mafioso over a vintage soul sample. The track “Soul Drenched” talks about having his 3rd eye open over a soulful beat & then after the “Get Me Rich” outro, we are treated to 3 decent remixes to 3 different songs that’ve been previously released. First one being Ghostface Killah’s “Buckingham Palace” off that Lost Tapes album he did with Big Ghost Ltd. that came out last October, second one being “King Kong” off of Forever MC’s self-titled compilation with It’s Different from last March & then “Fresh from the Morgue” off of Bronze’s 2011 sophomore album School for the Blindman.

This is a solid effort from Crook overall. There’s way too many features & I can do without the remixes, but Crook reaffirms his status as of the illest MCs to come out of the LBC whereas Bronze Nazareth accompanies him with rich & colorful production.

Score: 3.5/5

Slaughterhouse – “welcome to: OUR HOUSE”’ review


After signing to Shady Records & Interscope just a year prior, Slaughterhouse is finally releasing their long-awaited sophomore album/major label debut. The album officially starts off with a 76 second skit where they tell you that there’s no fake MCs aloud, but then things don’t officially start popping until the first song “Our House”. Here, the supergroup teams up with Shady founder Eminem to talk about their desires of being the greatest to ever do it over an ominous instrumental, but my only complaint about this song is that the Skylar Grey hook is absolutely God awful. The next track “Coffin” aggressively spits about murdering wack MCs over a chaotic instrumental from Hit-Boy & the Busta Rhymes hook is so energetic, that it actually makes me sad that he doesn’t have a verse on here. The song “Throw That” is conceptually about flirting with strippers, but the Eminem hook is meh & the beat is just average at best. The track “Hammer Dance” contains more murderous bars & the araabMUZIK instrumental has this unexpected KoЯn sample in it, but it was simultaneously really cool. The song “Get Up” has an motivational tone to it lyrically & the rap rock production from No I.D. is pretty catchy as well. The track “My Life” sees the 4 MCs bragging about fame over an radio friendly instrumental & the Cee-Lo Green hook was average at best. The song “Flip a Bird” talks about selling drugs, but the vocal sample that you’ll hear during each verse & the hook kinda gets annoying after a while. The track “Throw It Away” is a decent club anthem with a hard hitting beat from D12 member mR. pOrTeR & to be quite honest, the Swizz Beatz hook on here actually doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. The song “Rescue Me” vents about each member trying to get it together & the beat on here is ok, but the Skylar Grey hook on here is as equally terrible as the one on “Our House”. The track “Frat House” is another club banger, except this one is pretty bad. However, the way Joe Budden & Joell Ortiz go back & forth during the final verse wasn’t too bad except for the lyrics. The song “Goodbye” sees everyone minus Royce da 5’9” rapping about Joe’s girl having a miscarriage along with the deaths of Crooked I’s grandfather & Joell’s grandmother over a sugary instrumental from Boi-1da. While it is sincerely delivered, the hook is painfully corny. The track “Park It Sideways” is a comedic jab at all of the wack MCs out there, but the beat really sounds like it could’ve been on a Lil Wayne album. The song “Die” rapidly goes in about popping a cap in your ass & the beat from mR. pOrTeR on here is a lot more hard hitting than the other song he did. The standard edition closer “Our Way” talks about making it which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the instrumental on here is very bland. The first bonus track “Asylum” has a serial killer vibe to it lyrically & as for Eminem’s production, there’s not a whole lot to it during the drums throughout & the guitar that comes in solely during the hook. The next bonus track “Walk of Shame” talks about 4 separate 1-night stands between each member, but the beat is super nondescript & the auto-tuned hook from Royce is super cringey. “The Other Side” is basically everyone minus Crooked insightfully talking about being human despite fame along with a gold digger & not being perfect over uplifting instrumental from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League & the final bonus track “Place to Be” sees the supergroup hooks up with B.o.B to talk about being somewhere far away from the bullshit over an awkward club instrumental, but the way everyone got together for the last verse was very creative. There are a few highlights on here & as much as I love Slaughterhouse, this was disappointing. The lyrics are decent, but it sounded way more commercial than it should’ve from the production to the hooks. I get trying to make a commercial album, but the whole pop rap sound doesn’t fit Slaughterhouse’s style at all. Just take a couple joints & stick with the prelude mixtape On the House

Score: 2/5

Slaughterhouse – Self-titled EP review

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Over a year & a half has passed after the release of their fantastic self-titled debut album & with the announcement of them signing to Shady Records & Interscope just a month prior, Slaughterhouse is releasing another self-titled project albeit it’s their 1st EP. The EP opens with “Back on the Scene”, where the supergroup talks about their triumphant return over an abrasive rap rock instrumental from M-Phazes. The next song “Sun Doobie” sees them getting hardcore on wack rappers over a piano boom bap beat from D12 member mR. pOrTeR. The track “Everybody Down” has a hard hitting beat from Black Milk & if you couldn’t tell by the title, the supergroup aggressively spits about sticking you up. The next song is actually a remix of “Put Some Money on It” off of Joell Ortiz’s sophomore album Free Agent & honestly, I think the additional verses make it even better. The penultimate track is a remix of “Fight Club”, which was the bonus track off their self-titled album. However, I think this new instrumental (from the same dude who produced the original oddly enough) fits the supergroup’s confrontational bars a lot more than the original. The EP closes out with “Move On”, where everyone tells the listeners to let go of a significant moment in each member’s past over some somber set of pianos & the hook is pretty catchy as well. Overall, this was almost as great as their self-titled album was. The production & verses are as equally hardcore, but I feel like the 2 remixes should’ve been released prior to this

Score: 3.5/5

Slaughterhouse – “House Rules” review

Almost 2 years after their excessively commercial sounding sophomore album welcome to: OUR HOUSE, Slaughterhouse is returning with their 2nd mixtape to promote their upcoming 3rd album Glass House. The self-titled track (which kicks the tape off) has no specific topic as said by Royce da 5’9” midway through his verse, but everyone sounds happy to be together again & the instrumental has this uplifting atmosphere to it. The next track “SayDatThen” is basically about speaking your mind over an hardcore boom bap instrumental from Nottz & I absolutely love the story that Joe Budden tells during his verse of the track. The !llmind interlude is actually KXNG CROOKED & Joell Ortiz respectively rapping 2 long verses over a nice organ loop provided by the song’s producer !llmind. The next track “Trade It All” is a Joe Budden solo cut & you can just tell that he was channeling everything into the 3 insightful verses he delivers over a wailing guitar. The next song “Keep It 100” is a Royce solo cut & while the creepy vocal sample hanging in the background is decent, Royce’s bars about honesty are just as sincere as the last song was. The track “Offshore” may be almost 10 minutes long, but all 4 members individually vent about shit they’ve been thinking about fantastically & the orchestral sounding instrumental sounds very rich & organic. The CROOKED solo cut “Struggle” sees him reflecting on the days when he was living rough & the eerie instrumental enhances the vivid storytelling. The Joell Ortiz solo cut “Life in the City” has a cool rap rock instrumental from The Heatmakerz & Yaowa’s confrontational bars fit the sound like a glove. The penultimate track “I Ain’t Bullshittin’” doesn’t have Budden on it at all, but that doesn’t stop the other 3 MCs from delivering abrasive verses about haters over a decent instrumental from araabMUZIK. The tape closes out with “I Don’t Know”, where everyone minus CROOKED spits about the streets over a gritty beat from Harry Fraud. While I don’t think we’re ever gonna get Glass House at this point, I find this to be the supergroup’s best release since their self-titled EP back in 2011. Primarily because Slaughterhouse returns to their hardcore roots after the pop rap sound that was all over welcome to: OUR HOUSE didn’t suit them at all. I also found the 4 solo tracks from each member was a great way to introduce themselves to anyone who’s hearing them for the first time. So if Shady Records DOES end up releasing Glass House, THIS is how it should sound

Score: 3.5/5