Hip hop quartet Slaughterhouse specializes in verbally painting lyrical pictures of vicious, sadistic acts of cruelty and violence. Concerning their first two studio albums (Slaughterhouse and Welcome To: Our House), they (Crooked I, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and Royce Da 5’9”) do not very often veer to subjects related to street life, drug sales, and sexual escapades, but they still do sometimes, just not very frequently. Their main attraction is largely the words of crazy, irresponsible inhumanities about which they are best at rapping. Crooked I aka Dominick Wickliffe, who hails from Long Beach, California, takes matters into his own hands with his debut solo studio album, Apex Predator. On the album he keeps some Slaughterhouse signatures, but also takes on capo/street boss themes.
Crooked I is not new on the scene. Before taking part in the joint venture that is Slaughterhouse, he fell under the domain of multiple labels including Death Row, started his successful online Hip Hop Weekly series, and released some mix-tapes and independent albums. Apex Predator in particular is released through the Planet COB label.
Overall Crooked I is nice with his lyrics, and the beats have some giddy momentum moving the project along. Conversely, however, these beats are synth heavy and are of second priority to the lyrics, except for that on “Sumthin From Nuthin” with its organic sounds of Crooked I slowly beatboxing for the entire song. A diverse array of producers are employed here (including Mr. Porter, StreetRunner, and Tabu) lending coalescence and sound quality control. Lyrically Crooked I slips into street braggadocio here and there with the exception of “Nobody Cares,” “A Lady Fell In Love,” and the aforementioned “Sumthin From Nuthin.” For “Nobody Cares” he raps about saving our children from poverty rapping, “You could be fighting hunger / not the Gandhi type hunger strike for something right / I mean fighting for the type of hunger a little girl in the third world fights everyday…” In “A Lady Fell In Love” Crooked I tells a story of an ingenuous woman who falls in love with the wrong guy and in “Sumthin From Nuthin” details his meager beginnings and early setbacks. Additionally he indulges in his raunchy side and raps about his love for nice cars, the ladies, and money making in most of the tracks. He does bring out his gritty, grimy, Slaughterhouse persona, especially in “YODO,” or “You Only Die Once,” where he graphically and gruesomely warns that a life of violence or extravagance can lead to a very painful downfall. Special guest appearances include K-Young, Tena Jones, and Tech N9ne.
Apex Predator succeeds where it needs to. Crooked I’s centerpiece is about lyrics and not so much about style, and in that capacity this album flourishes. Crooked I is a rapper’s rapper so if you’re all about the poetry, this is surely an entertaining listen.