Obie Trice, real name, no gimmicks !

Obie Trice, real name, no gimmicks !

“Cheers”, the Detroit rapper’s humble performance

Shady / Interscope, 2003

“From the Detroit underground to Dr. Dre and Eminem’s roster”

As Dr. Dre once again begins to seize the power of mainstream Hip Hop by taking the top spots in the charts, the Compton producer’s empire will be much more global this time. His first power grab was rather typically West Coast with G-Funk. After a slight absence since his departure from Death Row in the mid-90’s to found Aftermath, Dr. Dre was actually building something to come back even bigger. 2001 will storm the charts in 1999 with a still gangsta and West Coast style, but less marked than before. Of course, Dre wasn’t the only one at the time to top the charts, others like DMX, Jay-Z and slightly later Ja Rule would have their share of success on their side. 

However, this time the empire of Dr. Dre will not only be on the West Coast. His new protégé from Detroit, Eminem, will also take Hip Hop by storm from 1999. 50 Cent will follow in the early 2000s with his group, the G-Unit. Each one will found its small house under Interscope and affiliated with Aftermath, Shady Records for Eminem and G-Unit Records for 50 Cent. Three brands finally very powerful in the early 2000s, so much so that they will bring down the competing stable led by Ivr Gotti and starring Ja Rule, the Murder Inc. The empire built by Dr. Dre is no longer only established in Los Angeles, but becomes much more global with a conquest of Detroit with Eminem and the D12 and New York with 50 Cent and the G-Unit.

Spotted by Eminem, the young rapper from Detroit, Obie Trice, began to make his mark in the early 2000s in the middle of this triptych led by Dr. Dre. After a few appearances on Eminem’s albums, he signed a contract with the latter on Shady. However, he will have to wait patiently his turn and will pass after 50 Cent and his Get Rich or Die Tryin. Finally, Obie Trice ends up releasing Cheers in September 2003, in the middle of all the achievements of the three houses together, 8 Mile, The Eminem Show, Get Rich or Die Tryin and Beg For Mercy. Obie has to manage to make a place for himself among all the successful releases of his allies, but in return he also benefits from the visibility and the support of his crew which is at the top of its form at this time.

“The humility of an average man with no pretensions”

In a style less gangsta than 50 Cent and less boisterous than Eminem, Obie Trice shows himself in a sense more street, more humble and more sincere, finally much less ostentatious than the usual style of the three houses together. His humility must be praised, considering himself as an “average man”, without pretention and without frills, he remains himself, his famous catchphrase shows it “Obie Trice, real name, no gimmicks”. The opening track Average Man perfectly describes the state of mind of the Detroit rapper. He modestly congratulates himself on his success on Cheers, not forgetting the childhood friends he grew up with on the streets of his hometown. In fact, Obie Trice still maintains his street cred without being fundamentally gangsta.

Cheers offers a good mix between more humorous tracks like Got Some Teeth or Hoodrats, more street songs with uncomplicated neighborhood stories and more introspective passages like on Average Man, Oh or The Set up. Between the sincere praises to his mother on Don’t Come Down and Follow my Life, more misogynistic tracks are added like Bad Bitch or Look In My Eyes. Obie finally comes out very well with a sincere vision and rhymes full of spirit, even if we feel some more teaser tracks, it still works well. 

Obie Trice’s lyrical qualities are quite good and his stature of a modest man who has nothing to hide gives him a certain appeal, even if we won’t necessarily remember him among a hundred rappers. His performance at the microphone is honorable although his flow can be tiring on the length, the various guests come to break a certain monotony.

“The support of a team on the rise”

While Obie has some definite qualities to succeed, his team allows him to undeniably shine. The whole team is there to support him with both quality production rooted in the Aftermath/Shady/G-Unit era, and renowned guests. Eminem ensures without surprise a major part of the production accompanied by Luis Resto. Dr. Dre also offers him four quality productions, and Timbaland, Mr. Porter and Fredwreck complete the tracklist with one production each. The usual guests of this team also come to lend a hand with two choruses of Nate Dogg, one of Busta Rhymes and verses of the members of the G-Unit, the D12, without forgetting Eminem and Dr. Dre.

Once you say that, you assume that the album works wonderfully, and it does. We find ourselves in an Eminemian style enhanced by a few tweaks from Dr. Dre. We go from a disturbing keyboard hammering on Average Man, a more relaxed production on Got Some Teeth to a soulful little ballad a la Kanye West with a child’s heart sung on the chorus on Don’t Come Down. Timbaland offers a more electro-psychedelic production on Bad Bitch with a chorus from Nate. On his side, Fredwreck offers low guitars on Follow My Life and Mr. Porter comes back to a comical funky track with Spread Yo Shit accompanied by Kon Artis from D12. We All Die One Day offers a gangsta track that could have easily been on Get Rich or Die Tryin.

The compositions concocted by Dr. Dre are still in the theme and still work well in a style that is finally usual for him at this period. The piano keys of Oh with Busta Rhymes, the trembling synth of Shit Hit The Fan or the muffled noises of The Set Up are all inherent to the trademark of the producer of Compton. 

More surprisingly for an Obie Trice album, there are several diss tracks. In fact, it even attacks a lot. Ja Rule gets blasted by Dre on Shit Hit The Fan, We All Die One Day attacks Benzino and Irv Gotti, and the Outro directly attacks R. Kelly and the Muder Inc. team. Even if the lines don’t always come directly from Obie Trice, the number of diss-tracks is still quite high for an artist who seems to be apparently more distant from conflicts.

The album presents a nice homogeneity while ensuring a good variability, we do not get bored. Obie was blessed to have Eminem as executive producer as well as a pair of prestigious guests for his debut album, although his personal performance must also be commended on both the lyrics and the flow. Cheers is an album that falls within the glory days of an empire that ruled Hip Hop for a few years. Although less known than other achievements, Cheers does not have to blush at its competitors. We toast with him willingly and get a refill. Cheers.

By Grégoire Zasa

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