Traditionally the second album is a difficult hurdle to jump, but just being alive for its release has been Obie Trice’s biggest achievement. On the record itself he’s not making it easy for himself either, as by the end of the intro his girlfriend has thrown him out for something “wrapped in a plastic bag” (any ideas?!). By the third song the weapons are drawn and he’s rapping, “nigger I’m violent, cos I’m so tired of these riders tryin’ to touch Obie” over a production littered with gunshots.
This isn’t just empty speech, although it has to be said there’s a lot of hot air on this album. Rather, he speaks from personal experience, in this case being shot in the head on a Detroit freeway late last year. The bullet remains in his head, lodged in the skull – and is there for all to see in X-ray form on the CD inlay. Having finished recording – and cheated death – a further delay to release was experienced with the shooting of Eminem‘s best friend, D-12‘s Proof. With Detroit once again the centre of this violence, small wonder Trice vows to arm himself wherever he goes.
It’s fair to observe that subtlety is in short supply as Obie proceeds to tell his tale over heavy, often guitar-led production and bombastic hip hop beats. “Music’s my outlet” he proclaims, although it doesn’t stop him from being preoccupied with times of oppression and strife. Oppression of his past, and the strife of his present, the threat of violence remains lodged like the bullet in his mind.
The often tiresome posturing gives itself away in the self contained song titles (Ballad Of Obie Trice, Obie Story) but the album actually starts to improve the longer it goes on. Trouble is, it goes on for a long time, so it turns out the middle section is the place to be.
Akon, seemingly locked up once more, supplies guest vocals on the paranoid Snitch (“tuck your chain in cos he might rob ya”). Cry Now is built on an endearing sample from the Bobby Blue Band. Jamaican Girl goes all Latin to good effect, a sultry summer vocal from Brick & Lace a highlight, if predictably Obie-directed. Finally All Of My Life gets some belated G-funk going, with accomplice Nate Dogg.
If you’re still with him after a plethora of gunshots Obie serves up his biggest guest stars late on, a relatively routine rap from Eminem polishing up There They Go, and a sung contribution from 50 Cent dressing the slower bossa of Everywhere I Go. Eminem is credited as executive producer, though his trademark black humour and inventiveness with samples are conspicuous by their absence.
As with other previously reviewed examples from The Game and Twista this is far too long, and comparisons with the two prove instructive as The Game has more memorable tunes and Twista more rhythmic funk. If G-Unit is your bag, however, you need look no further. Second Round’s on Obie – but run for cover, as I very much doubt it’s drinks he’s referring to…