Review Summary: "Obie Trice: Real names…" Em’s “Without Me” is how many of us met Detroit rapper Obie Trice. If you never investigated the hype, that's unfortunate. Simply put, "Cheers" is among the greatest rap albums of all time—and you may have missed it
In the world of casual rap fans, there are three prevailing doctrines under which just about everybody falls. Group #1 consists of those who are in it for the party. These are the guys who will say things like ‘T-Pain really isn’t so bad, y'know, as long as he’s just featured on a track’ or ‘Lil’ Wayne is actually really talented, because seriously, nobody flows like him.’ Their musical whims generally fall within other subgenres under the pop-music umbrella (ella-ella-eh-eh-eh…). They vibe to anything with a decent beat that makes the club circuit. Group #2, on the other hand, listens to rap so they can talk about. Introspective lyricists craft poetic verses that demand a thorough scrutiny...an appreciation of the art form! Generally, beats are secondary to lyrical delivery, and although they won't admit it, image is everything. If the mc’s ‘indie’ feel is compromised (e.g., Asher Roth or 3Oh!3) these listeners will jump ship. We’ll see where fans slot Lupe and Cudi when they release their own “808s and Heartbreak” or “Finding Forever.”
Thankfully, Obie Trice
fits the palate of Group #3, a dying breed. Group #3 is characterized by the ability to separate the artist’s ludicrous public persona from his musical contributions, and to enjoy both in turn. Group #3 is populated by those who will call the Marshall Mathers LP
a masterpiece, despite admitting that Eminem’s theatrics are (literally) insane. They can tell the difference between early Eminem and Relapse
-era hijinks, despite Em's antics enduring a decade or so of plays. They dabbled in Limp Bizkit or ICP (usually one or the other, not both), and lol’d along with G-Unit’s rise, fall, rage and grace. They still refer to ‘Diddy’ as ‘Puffy,’ and they have seen all the movies starring DMX (but prefer the skits that permeate his discography).
, produced by Eminem in 2003, is a fantastic blend of all these dynamics. Full-force "gangstaa" rap with a little situational comedy mixed in, the album walks the line between the two and does so perfectly. Anybody who argues that Eminem is a lousy producer has not given these beats a chance (if this is you, you should...).
The LP opener, “Average Man,” appears to establish Obie as a prototypical thug. Simply put, he will F****** rob you. The approach is pretty direct, and comes across clearly enough through the gratuitous use of gunshots and sirens, musically intertwined within the song to help build up its hooks. As the track concludes, we begin to feel self-conscious about spinning such thick gangsta sh*t in mom’s Camry. I mean, the song is uncompromising and awesome, but I'm also extremely
This is where you realize that something more is going on here. The goofy piano play begins, and Obie declares “We ain’t here to mourn; we here to celebrate.”
Quite honestly, “Cheers” is the best anthem of self-celebration in the modern rap era. There’s something majestic about old school pianos and horns, juxtaposed with the free flowing liquor, that makes the atmosphere recognizable. It’s up there with “Juicy,” and has the same effect. The song makes you feel like you earned the good mood it instantly put you in.
What makes Cheers
so special is the interplay between comedic narrative and gangster arrogance. The album’s only successful single, “Got Some Teeth,” picks up the title track's celebratory vibe nicely, and translates it into hilarity. As an ode to beer-goggles, everything about this song works perfectly. From the tipsy clarinet play that opens the track to Obie’s staggered intro bumbling that follows immediately after (and if you’ve ever pregamed too hard for your own good, you’ll know exactly what I mean by this). As the verses start, Obie sobers up quick and delivers what seems like a homage to Hedberg. It’s dry, funny, and totally worth a YouTube search (right now).
The album also gets major points for maximizing its contributions from featured guests. “The Setup” one of two tracks featuring Nate Dogg, perfectly utilizes the genre icon to narrate a noir thriller about an unfaithful female. “Bad Bitch” keeps Timbalands vocals short and sweet as he snappily wails through the club choruses. Busta’s chorus on “Oh!” is characterized by a similar vocal style, but the song’s tempo allows for a little more experimentation. On all these tracks, Obie’s ability to switch styles and sub-genres really allows his battle-roots to shine. “*** Hits the Fan,” which is (very obviously, upon first listen) produced by Dr. Dre, features the Doc alongside Eminem and plays like a track off 2001
. His verse is reminiscent of his first verse in “Forgot About Dre,” and evokes a similar nostalgia in 2010.
“We All Die One Day” might be the album’s most notable surprise, if only for the track’s final act. The song features Eminem, 50 Cent, and Tony Yayo on the verses, broken-up by an uninspired Lloyd Banks chorus. Predictably, Eminem outshines Obie on his own record (seasoned Em fans know he has the nasty habit of doing this) as he drops a monster third verse. The kicker here, however, is that 50 Cent actually owns the track. Yeah, you read that correctly. Let’s face it, if the track’s disposition is ruled by an exaggerated, alpha-male-gangster egotism, Curtis is going to be in his element. Eminem serves it up with a perfect balance agitation and gusto (think his work on D12’s albums), which 50 then picks up and finishes with a playful ingenuity. It is insanely fun.
In light of my analysis above, Group #1 may dig “Bad Bitch” and “Hoodrats.” Group #2 will sneer. Group #3 (my brethren) will memorize the sh*t out of this record. At least that's what happened to me.
“First I’m a man. Second I’m 5’8’’ where size and weight won’t give a n*gga the upper hand. Cuz when I (*GUNSHOT*) I get a ‘sup like Barry Sand... Sit on the can, you never ran like Barry Sand’”