I’ve often thought of doing a list of the most under-appreciated albums of the 2000-09 decade, and if I did, Obie Trice’s “Cheers” would be on it. Cheers was slaughtered because it came out at the same time as “Get Rich or Die Trying.”
Unlike D12, which are basically Eminem’s backup band, Obie Trice has leading-man charisma, the ability to speed and slow his flow to match mood and attititude, and an understanding of the mechanisms of grammar, cadence, and vocabulary. All the skills of a master. And like a rap master, he’s released a posthumous album of new material. He also knew enough to break away from his master when Em’s skills began to fade, and dude became a paranoid recluse–rap’s JD Salinger. I don’t care what MTV says, Eminem’s 2009 releases sucked. There was nothing worth hearing on them. Nothing. Even Dre’s beats were faded and drab.
“Special Reserve” is a collection of Obie material that he recorded pre-2000 with Canada’s DJ Moss, who learned at the knee of DJ Premier, and is distributed on iTunes by Moss’s own vanity label. Yet it doesn’t sound like old demos. It’s cutting edge, lyrically and musically, and shows why this MC, and not 50 Cent, should have been the man to notice in 2003. Even before Obie got a shot to the dome, he was hardcore, underground and muscular. The albums shows remarkable versatility from such a young novice. Cuts worth special mention include “Got Hungry,” an autobio track, “On and On,” a club banger with tremendous beats, and the gangsta old-school track, “4 Stories.” But overall there are only a few tracks I felt like skipping. This is a terrific collection of songs from one of Detroit’s best.
Special Reserve is on 139th and Broadway, so it is independent, even if Trice’s upcoming 2010 release won’t be.