Review Summary: I walk the blocks in anger/Your family's in danger/Young black male/Livin' in hell
While the city of Detroit has been decimated by a 15% unemployment rate, being a top crime city in the United States (1st in murder, 2nd in violent crime, 4th in robbery, and 12th in forcible rape in 2006) and the sputtering auto industry, Detroit rap has never been more alive and well. Perhaps the second best rap city, just behind Atlanta, Detroit is consistent within its rap industry. From the hollow mainstream, such as Eminem; to the underground favorites like Royce da 5’9 and Guilty Simpson; to horrorcore heavyweight King Gordy; to hardcore rap like Twiztid and Insane Clown Posse, Detroit sports a wide variety of solid artists. Now, after quietly leaving Shady Records, Obie Trice releases Special Reserve, a 37 minute long, 11 track CD with songs made in 1998 and 1999, which is considered to be a prequel to his upcoming album, Bottom’s Up. It serves well for not only promotional purposes, but for listening purposes too.
Produced entirely by MoSS, Special Reserve sports a wide variety of regional influences. Midwest rap usually welcomes an infusion of two other regional styles and will willingly claim that as its style, no matter the variants. Special Reserve reinforces this typicality, as the beats are a hybrid of East coast themes with some Southern elements, as seen on Cool Cats with Jamaican dancehall undertones, frequent brass, funk elements, and heavy bass and on You’ve Been Slain with triangles, creeping synths, drumline drums in the background, buzzing synths, and heavy bass. This isn’t surprising, considering MoSS is from the south, and most Detroit rappers are more East coast than anything. So there were some obvious compromises from both parties. Regardless, the beats meld with Obie’s rapping style.
Because this was recorded in 1998-1999, there is a sort of tradeoff that occurs. While we hear a more youthful, energized Obie Trice, his lyrics aren’t good at all. Psych. Obie drops hilarious punchlines left and right all the while being arrogant, “I’m like Iron Mike when he first appeared/I’m like Michael Jordan at the prime of his career,” disgusted by ‘fake’ n**gas, “You faker than a chick with implants in her boobs and booty,” and a story teller of the toughness of street life, “And the block ain’t fair/Like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” And even though this fails sometimes – he rhymes street dreams three times in a row on 4 Stories - he has his energized, uptempo flow and his youthful voice with the Detroit accent to pick him up. His flow isn’t anything like other Midwest rappers that are known for speed (see Bone-Thugz-n-Harmony, Tech N9Ne, Twista) but he streams his words steadily at a fairly quick pace and syncs it up with his beats well, and his 22 year old voice sounds way better than his late twenties-early thirties voice, plain and simple.
Being somewhat characteristic of a Midwest album in some areas (beats, lyrics) uncharacteristic in others (flow) and non-specific in others (voice) This album is solid throughout, and could make it into any rap fan’s listening rotation, that is, until Bottom’s Up drops in 2010.