Second Round's on Me, like Detroit, has its highs and lows. It makes perfect sense at times, and struggles to find its way at others. But when it's right, it's stellar. The first two tracks sneak up, mostly because of Eminem's brooding production style. Synth bass and snapping kick drums drone under "Wake Up" and "Violent," and one pleads for a unified black community while the other exposes Obie's inner sadist. But it's a setup, because the record explodes on its third song, "Wanna Know." With its sample of Power of Zeus' "It Couldn't Be Me," the rap-rock hybrid is a candidate for jam of the year, and an anthem that rivals Jay-Z's "99 Problems." It's that good.
Trice weaves drama and intensity through songs like "Lay Down," the Akon-produced "Snitch," and "Ghetto," on which Trey Songz turns in the lone scene-stealing performance among all the album's guests. But Obie, as always stating his case simply and authentically, never disappears. "Four niggas in the whip/All four say they ain't fuckin' with Trice' shit/Somebody's lyin'" his unapologetic accusations are part of what make Second Round feel real.
No Shady-released album is without a few commercial pushes, but in Obie's case, none of them work. "Jamaican Girl" has been touted as a featured song; in truth, it's filler. (Why are reggae-tinged tracks so often boring when Americans make them?) 50 Cent then makes a lukewarm appearance on "Everywhere I Go," and "Ballad of Obie Trice" unfolds like a tepid version of Jay-Z's "Moment of Clarity" before thankfully ending quickly. Still, Second Round rounds out strongly. Detroit heavyweight Big Herk jumps on "There They Go," and again shows why he should be enjoying his own national success. He also preps you for "Obie Story," the artist's take on his own life. It's an impressive track that flows and changes with Obie's moods as he raps about growing from his happy childhood into a troubled adolescence. At 18 tracks, Second Round is three songs too long. But give the Trice credit. He guides his second opus without gimmicks, makes some poignant commentary along the way, and knocks the majority of it out of the park. It's worth the buy.
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail email@example.com.