With songs like "The Well Known Asshole" and "Give Me My Dat Back," Obie Trice's no frills flow and everyman sensibilities built a buzz and earned a deal with Eminem's Shady Records. But after two discs with the label — the gold-selling Cheers and Second Round's On Me — he split. As a preface to his next album Bottom's Up, he and beatmaker MoSS (who is signed to rap legend DJ Premier's "Works of Mart" production company) teamed up to release Special Reserve, a crop of unreleased songs that the duo recorded between 1997 and the early 2000s.
While Obie's previous efforts had select songs that pandered to radio, Obie's blue-collar approach has still remained his staple. Devoid of major label pressure, Special Reserve is essentially the Obie Trice that fans are used to — minus the filler. "Got Hungry" and "Dope, Jobs, Homeless (Alternate Version)" depict struggles of an unsigned emcee who slings drugs and works dead-end gigs to make ends meet. Likewise, "Cool Cats" sees him using street methods to deal with naysayers of his newfound success, while "4 Stories" chastises phony thugs. And MoSS' gritty, brawny east coast sensibilities work as a perfect fit for Obie's rough rhymes and hoarse voice.
The problem here is symptomatic of other older projects with one emcee and one producer: monotony. It's great hearing the hardnosed Obie Trice who Detroit fell in love with, but even though radio pandering isn't necessary, some variety — a girl song, more narrative-based material, or more original concepts — would have made Special Reserve a more engaging listen. And while MoSS is a certainly a skilled producer, it's easy to mix certain songs up with others. Still, this works as a marker for Obie's early career for now, complete with some dope beats and rhymes to boot.
William E. Ketchem writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.