Working with the respected likes of Dr. Dre and Eminem, Obie Trice is on his third studio album, Bottoms Up. The album has been under wraps for nearly six years, and it’s easy to see why; it’s loaded with 17 tracks that sound all too similar, uncreative, and old. Bare in mind his skilled lyricism, and solid production is still what propels the album forward and makes the album a worthwhile listen. Perhaps if the album was released four years earlier, it would be a much more impressive effort.
The first hint to what to expect from the album is evident in the cover. It’s dark, cliché, but still appealing. Ever since Nas popularized the baby on an album cover, it kind of ruined it for other artists to do the same. Just like the cover, the album is repetitive and overdone. Boasting at 17 tracks, it seems like Trice just threw together a conglomerate of unfinished and repetitive ideas that don’t necessarily take fruition. Although the album is the most light-hearted works of Trice, it is still ridden with dark tones that are evident in his lyrics, and haunting production. But overall the album is a satisfactory effort. It may not be someone’s next favorite album, but definitely has some tracks that are worth listening to.
The album first opens up with, “Intro,” a humble ode and thank you to all of Trice’s supporters like Shady Records, his label mates, and fans. However it is not Trice’s lyrics that are the attention grabber it is Dr.Dre’s production. Granted, it’s not Dre’s best work, but the piano chords are simple, repetitive, and addictive. And unfortunately, Trice’s lackluster flow doesn’t do it justice. Instead of using his aggressive, hard hitting rap lines, his delivery is far too simplistic.
Although Dr Dre sets the bar high in terms of production, once the album progresses it simmers down to a small spark. The repetitive production of syncopated hand claps, palpating bass drums, and minimal piano samples all mesh the songs together, leaving the album as a rushed production. It seems that after six long years, Trice just gathered a few tracks together as an effort to finally put something out. It leaves the listener sifting through remnants of tracks in search of the next best song. However, the album is predictable and the listener gets what they expect from any good hiphop artist; aggressive hooks marked with a consistent flow, and adequate production with cohesive ideas. Trice isn’t taking risks and it works for him.
However there are a few songs that do shine not only instrumentally, but also lyrically. Eminem’s haunting delivery (with his staple Slim Shady accent) and Satik Selektah’s reggae influenced beat, make “Richard” one of the best songs on the album. The boastful nature, but whimsical delivery in the lyrics, “Just call me Richard, cause I’m a dick,” make the song’s concept hilarious, and fun. The light nature of the album is a breath of fresh air from the all too serious and almost pretentious approach most rappers take in their lyricism.
Bottoms Up is all in all an adequate project. It’s not subpar but neither is it innovative. But to be honest, it probably shouldn’t be. Even if it boasts the production from acclaimed producers, the label switch from Shady Records and six-year time span could have served as the culprits for a lackluster record.
“Obie Trice, real name, no gimmick”. Ever since those words were introduced on Eminem’s mainstream hit “Without Me” the Hip-Hop community has patiently waited for Obie Trice’s debut. The Detroit native is Eminem’s latest artist to be released on the newly incorporated Shady Records, and is an emcee that brings an intense street presence to the label. Obie is a gritty, hard-core emcee who represents the slums of Detroit he was raised in. And while Em has tried to push Obie into the mainstream light, Obie is not an emcee with a lot of superstar qualities and this is never more evident than on his debut album “Cheers”.
Obie Trice is an emcee with talent; however, it is not the type of talent that translates into mainstream or commercial appeal. Obie is an emcee for the streets and when he sticks to that persona on his debut “Cheers” the results end up positive. However, it is when Obie sways away from that when he runs into trouble, as he is not an emcee that can really produce catchy or superstar like quality tracks. Proof of this comes from a variety of the missteps featured on “Cheers”. The lead single “Got Some Teeth” is a forced attempt to recreate your usual catchy pop hit that Eminem produces as his first single for every album. However, this time around the formula fails miserably, as the cookie cutter production by Eminem sounds all too misplaced with Obie’s rugged flow and street persona. The song’s concept is also questionable, as it comes off as immature, corny and bland.
Another weak attempt at a big hit is the Timbaland produced “Bad Bitch” which unfortunately continues the streak of horrendously produced Timbo tracks given to outside artists. Speaking of lurid production, D-12’s Kon Artis continues to be one of the industries worst producers as he once again proves on the generic bounce sounds of “Spread Yo Shit”. Why the Shady/Aftermath camp continues to allow Denaun Porter to produce for every album released is still a mystery. Other tracks that falter due to lackluster production are the Eminem produced “Hands On You” and your typical groupie tales of “Hoodrats”, which is co-produced by Emile & Eminem.
While a good portion of “Cheers” is filled with your typical filler material such as “Never Forget Ya”, “Follow My Life” & “Cheers”, there are some outstanding moments that actually show the talent and potential Obie possess. The most notable of these is the amazingly produced “Don’t Come Down”, which is an epic tale of Obie’s relationship with his mother, as well as his struggles surviving the rough streets of Detroit. The powerful vocal sample will instantly engulf the listener and is sure to send chills down their spine. Lyrically Obie delivers one of his best performances, as he paints a vivid picture of struggle, pain and resiliency.
While no other tracks mirror the power of “Don’t Come Down”, there are a handful of standout songs in which great production carries Obie over the top. A majority of the good production on the album comes from the doctor Andre Young himself, who easily outshines Eminem’s production efforts on the album. “OH” featuring Busta Rhymes, is a sure fire hit for Obie with a vintage Dre & Mike Elizondo keyboard melody and haunting g funk sound. The weak storytelling tales of “The Set Up” is another solid Dre effort, no matter Obie’s lackluster ability to paint a captivating story. “Look Into My Eyes” is another haunting West Coast beat from Dre that stands out due to a very catchy Nate Dogg hook. The most controversial track on the album is the Murda Inc diss track “Shit Hits The Fan”, which features Dr. Dre & Eminem. The hardest punches thrown in the fiery diss track come from Dre’s ghostwriter, as the doctors’ verse takes some hard shots at Ja Rule.
Besides Dre’s influence on the album, the overwhelming amount of guest appearances is the only other shining moment. Obie is an emcee that definitely needs guest appearances cluttered throughout his albums, as he can clearly not hold down an entire joint by himself. Eminem makes a whopping 5 appearances on the album, delivering standout verses each time. One of the better offerings comes on “Lady”, where Em and Obie poke fun at the opposite sex. Eminem especially steals the show with such comedic lines as “you’ll be stuck with me for the rest of your life. Cause if I get attached to you, we’ll be joined at the hip. I’ll be so latched to you you’ll be walkin’ out the house and I’ll run up and tackle you. Chain your ass up to the bed and shackle you. You don’t think you’re leaving’ this house in that, do you? Not till I brand my name in your ass and tattoo you. And have you walking’ out this bitch in turtleneck sweaters, scarves and full leathers in 90 degree weather”. The other notable guest appearances come from the mixtape hit “We All Die Someday”, which is another effort in a long line of diss tracks. The kid Lloyd Banks spits his usual fire, as does Em, who amazes the listener with his sick wordplay and flow. But the biggest surprise is 50’s verse, which is reminiscent of his earlier days.
With “Cheers” Obie proves that with some help he can be an entertaining emcee who can provide memorable experiences. However, he also proves that without that help he is nothing more than an above average emcee. Obie doesn’t posses a standout quality that will enable him to succeed for years to come. His affiliations with other great rappers and producers is enough for him to get by now, but in the future hardly anyone will be talking about Obie’s own performance on his debut album.
From being Detroit’s “Well Known Asshole” back in the late 90’s, to being signed to Shady Records at the turn of the new century, things looked good for Obie Trice. In 2003 he released “Cheers,” which gained him worldwide exposure and a couple of hits. Earlier in the year, just as 2006 began, Obie Trice suffered a near fatal shooting. He recovered quickly and simply acted as if nothing happened, picking up right where he left off.
His follow up (“Second Round’s On Me) which we’ve been waiting for has been delayed a few times, but is finally making it’s way to shelves this month.
MVRemix: How do you view yourself?
Obie Trice: I mean I see myself as an artist, as well as seeing myself as someone who grows through the times. With each album and whatever I’ve got to go through though, I go through it as an artist.
MVRemix: Is the reputation of Detroit just? In terms of the violent context in which people talk about the city?
Obie Trice: Um.. [pauses] I see both. I see both; it’s not as bad in certain areas and it is. I can agree with somebody saying it’s not easy ’cause I was there, and I can understand when people say that it’s not as bad. So both situations I can understand.
MVRemix: How do you see the city?
Obie Trice: Once again, it’s the same thing – it’s both ways. Sometimes I’m relaxing and I’ll get a phone call, “Obie, you heard?” “Nah, I ain’t hear – what, what?” “Such and Such just got killed.” It’s a time to just chill, it’s fun and weather is nice. You know, sometimes it’s good day, like an Ice Cube day.
MVRemix: Its been eight months since you experienced your new years shooting incident, how has your life changed since that event?
Obie Trice: I don’t do the same things I used to do. I don’t go to the same places I used to go. I’m real observant about where I go and how I carry myself… I’m a little more cautious than I was.
MVRemix: Has that changed your attitude towards your lyrics?
Obie Trice: The attitude towards my lyrics has not changed, I mean I have made new songs since the incident that’s goin’ on my album. When that incident happened I had an offensive defensability goin’ on about myself, I felt a sense of paranoia. A lot of emcees have emotions goin’ on. At the time I made “Cry Now” to get all the angst feelings out of me, so I feel like friends who’re always seeing you gettin’ you shot outside of your home town – if that was the case. It’s just a feeling.
MVRemix: What was your first drink and how did you get your hands on it?
Obie Trice: My first drink? Moonshine, that was my first drink.
MVRemix: How did you get your hands on that?
Obie Trice: I was at the school with my brother, he was at Western Michigan University, so that’s how I got it. That’s not me now, I’m trying to sway away from this whole drinking. You know I don’t drink like I used to. But I wanna keep my albums in the same theme. The third one might be “Bottom’s Up” and the fourth one might be “Bar Shots,” you know? Just keep the whole theme in my career. At the end of my career, I might be a Moorman or something.
MVRemix: During your drinking days, did you often opt to buy rounds, or did you try to pretend that it’s not your turn?
Obie Trice: I’d steer away from it!
MVRemix: How does “Second Round’s On Me” compare to “Cheers”?
Obie Trice: “Second Round’s On Me” compares to “Cheers” – there’s no comparison.
MVRemix: So how do they contrast then?
Obie Trice: They don’t compare other than the title. You shouldn’t go into “Second Round’s On Me” expecting “Cheers” – not the same ingredients, it’s another album. It’s Obie just being Obie.
MVRemix: How many tracks has the tracklisting gone through? How many songs have been recorded?
Obie Trice: Man, I’d say over 80 songs. 18 songs have been made to go on this album, but I plan to come back with another album maybe late next year. There can never be as long a wait as there was with this second album.
MVRemix: Which song took the longest to complete and why?
Obie Trice: The longest song that I took to complete was the “Obie Story,” the last song on the album. For that you get a vivid outcome.
MVRemix: How did you first hook up with Akon?
Obie Trice: I hooked up with Akon in the Bahamas. He came up to me like, “Yo, you’re Obie man. I got songs that been stashed away for you, I been waitin’ to work with you!” He told me that, I said, “Bet, lets make it happen.” He gives me the song and I bring him in the studio and he politicin’ with Em[inem] and they knockin’ out joints. So you know, I made that happen! Me!
MVRemix: Perfect. Did you just record the one? Or do you have a variety of collaborations with him?
Obie Trice: We recorded that one song, that “Snitch” song.
MVRemix: The first time I heard you was through the Internet with “Well Known Asshole,” before you got signed to Shady Records. What are your thoughts on the Internet and music and the whole MP3 generation which now exists?
Obie Trice: I think the internet sucks man, I’m not internet savvy like that. I think the internet sucks because – take a person like Johnny Cash, he’s dead. He’s selling 85,000 records his first week – he’s number one – that’s crazy! That’s all due to internet fucks. All this technology – in a minute music is just gonna be like music. A guy ain’t gonna be able to just get wealthy off music. That’s against it, that’s like you take a confident new dude playing basketball – he comes from shit ass, dookie, turd ass, boo boo slums, grimey ass cockroaches, roaches and motherfuckin’ rats and he’s a hell of a basketball player, and when he gets drafted he deserves to get paid those dollars. So I just hate… I’m just not an advocate of the internet. Maybe if I was a blue collar worker or somethin’, nickel and dimin’ and I ain’t have the money to buy somebody’s record, okay then. But fuck that! I’m an artist and I’m biased. Buy my record!
MVRemix: Because of your position on a major label, do you buy records or are most of them promo’s that you get for free?
Obie Trice: I don’t get shit for free, I buy my records. I go out and buy my records. I bought Busta Rhymes’ album. I went out and bought T.I.’s “The King” album. I go out and buy records. I don’t get shit for free, promo’s or like. They probably have them at the label, but it ain’t like nobody’s sendin’ me all this free shit. I’m a good guy, I stand in line and I buy it myself.
MVRemix: What’s your favourite record that people wouldn’t expect you to own?
Obie Trice: A record that you wouldn’t expect me to own… [ponders] The one where the guy says [singing] “I believe in miracles!” You know that song, you know what I’m talkin’ about? [singing] “I believe in miracles!” That’s a record you probably wouldn’t expect Obie to own but I buy some shit like that.
MVRemix: And going on from that, what was the last album that you played solid for a good couple of months?
Obie Trice: The last album would have to be “The Black Album.”
MVRemix: Do you have any more videos planned for the album as of yet?
Obie Trice: I just finished a video for “Jamaican Girls.”
MVRemix: Can you tell me a bit about that video?
Obie Trice: The video; me, a bunch of bitches, Jamaican type ambience. I’m doin’ my thing, killin’ the mic, how I do.
MVRemix: Where was it shot?
Obie Trice: It was shot in L.A. though [chuckles]. Shot in Malibu.
MVRemix: So it has a nice tropical look to it?
Obie Trice: Yeah, it has a nice tropical look. MVRemix: A la “Fight Club,” “If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight”?
Obie Trice: [ponders] I would wanna fight… It’s gotta be a celebrity?
MVRemix: Someone in the public eye…
Obie Trice: It’d probably be the producers of MTV or the producers of that… What’s the name of it? The producers of the show where they be tryin’ to get chose to go out with the girl… They sit on the bus tryin’ to get chose, go out to try and be with some chick… I would fight the producers of that show because they put real… MTV is overboard man, like they put real flaming gay motherfuckers. You know I ain’t got no thing with gay people, but at the same time – you won’t play a “Snitch” video? You won’t play a “Snitch” video but you will go against God’s will and put gay people on TV and flaming like that? I don’t get into that. So I would fight the producers that play that, ’cause they won’t play “Snitch.” Like what’s wrong with playin’ my video? MTV has always been overboard, like an overboard channel, at the same time I’m just sayin’ “Don’t snitch.” There’s nothin’ hard about it. Shut the fuck up tellin’ on people.
MVRemix: You’ve played a part in “Life Goes On” – do you have any other films or TV in the works?
Obie Trice: We lookin’ at a couple of scripts right now, a couple of things. I did a little thing on “C.S.I.” and on “Life Goes On.” There’s a couple of things that I got. I’m really trying to focus on this music. MVRemix: If you had to compare the album to a designer label or luxury car, what would it be and why?
Obie Trice: I would say “Second Round’s On Me” is like a Phantom. Because it ghostly approaches you, like one of those new albums that you hear but you can’t hear just one time. You’ve got to listen to it.
After releasing the severely under-rated “Cheers,” Obie Trice is well on his way to release his sophomore album “Second Round’s On Me” through Shady Records/Aftermath.
Originally scheduled from Summer 2005, the album looks likely to see its release in ’06.
These are the transcripts of an interview with Obie Trice, conducted July 24th, 2005 on DJ Hyphen & J. Moore’s “Sunday Night Sound Session” on Seattle’s KUBE 93.3 FM.
MVRemix: How long have you been out here? A couple of days?
Obie Trice: Yeah, I’ve been here about two days. I went out to “Mr. Lucky’s” the first night then… Where’d we go last night? We went to “Down Under.”
MVRemix: I know there was a big bus accident. Were you involved with that in any way?
Obie Trice: That was my bus, but I just happened to catch a flight from Denver to Chicago. That’s my bus but I didn’t wanna ride that 17 hour ride on a bus so I flew. It’s just by the grace of God that I wasn’t on there. If more people were on it would have probably been a tragedy, you know what I’m sayin’? So it was not as packed. I took two other people with me to fly, so the bus wasn’t as packed as it would usually be. It’s just a blessing, and a blessing that nobody got killed. You know dude broke his neck, Alchemist, his ribs – he punctured his lung.
MVRemix: Big shouts to Alchemist, I really was looking forward to seeing him on stage but of course first and foremost health is the most important thing. Speakin’ of Alch[emist], does he have any production on your up and coming album “Second Round’s On Me”?
Obie Trice: Yeah, we did a couple of songs. He did a song that I did with Jaguar Wright. Doin’ with Al that’s the direction you gon’ go in, he been in the game for years. He is true Hip Hop; the definition of Hip Hop is Alchemist.
MVRemix: Is that kind of funny to you? Because I’m not trying to get into Alchemist’s business but I know he’s from a nice kind of area in L.A., but obviously he’s gotten the respect from everybody he’s worked with. But he just seems like a real dude, I met him once and he was a real cool dude, he just seems real.
Obie Trice: Yeah, Alchemist is just a regular person like me or you. We all just regular real cats and it’s just a occupation, you know what I’m sayin’? So we just tryin’ to get this paper up and do big things.
MVRemix: Does the album have a date? I know there’s rumours flying around about in the fall, in the winter…
Obie Trice: We tryin’ to get it out the end of the summer, that’s what we wanna do. Like late August, somethin’ like that. That’s what I’m tryin’ to do, that’s what I’m pushin’ for. We just mixin’ with this tour goin’ on, we gotta sit down when we get home – we’ve got like two or three weeks at home before we go overseas. So we want to get it together then and set up a master.
MVRemix: That’s hot. You were telling me a minute ago that you’ve got a single with Stat Quo, can you talk about that for a second?
Obie Trice: Yeah, Stat came to Detroit. Denaun Porter from D-12, he made the beat and we just got in the studio and knocked it out. It’s a wrap for that song, it’s my first collaboration with Stat Quo and it turned out to be a hit. So I just feel good about it, it’s goin’ down.