“Obie Trice, real name, no gimmicks” once spat Trice, introduced to much of the world as the opening gambit on mentor Eminem’s international number one single ‘Without Me’. It was a statement of bold intent, potential and confidence.
Signing with “the White Boy”’s Shady Records and releasing his breakthrough album Cheers followed by the collaboration-heavy sequel Second Round’s On Me (an album informed by Trice’s shooting in Detroit and the murder of his close friend Proof), Trice seemed set to follow labelmate 50 Cent into both mainstream success and notoriety safely housed under Marshall Mathers’ wing.
Yet, somehow, six long years have passed – Trice departing from Shady/Interscope some time back – and now, after various promises of a release date that never delivered, the often-underrated Michigan native has dropped his third booze-themed opus. And while it has moments of great energy, toughness, lyrical smartness and a great old school atmosphere it’s a record that overcompensates for its gestation period in length and sometimes loses its way, especially when compared to its focused, furious predecessors.
While Cheers was the autobiography and Second Round.. a tale of tragedy, Bottoms Up sees Trice veering between the three totems of braggadocio (paired with aggression and a touch of paranoia), his love of money and finery and last but not least, women and his love/hate relationship with them.
We open with the first of many lyrical nods to his previous home (the shoutouts to Eminem, Dre, Interscope and Shady under their various monikers become a little wearisome, culminating in the otherwise hard and ominous ‘Hell Yea’’s sampling of ‘My Name Is’) and previous works on the title track, a piano jag that slips swiftly into track two, the first of the gangster rhymes, ‘Going No Where’. Trice’s rhymes are sharp, his flow strong and the brutality of lines like “Bitches in his bed, bullet in his head/I’m back fully loaded I’m ready to let off lead” are unquestionable.
Yet when Trice revisits this territory later on ‘Spill My Drink’ and the wah-wah of ‘My Time’ it’s less lean, more contrived and sadly less exciting.
Revenge track ‘Dear Lord’ is possibly the best of the early going here with its vicious gunshot sample beat and Trice’s rhymes sounding full-blooded and smart: “Trice ain’t all about running his mouth/He do that for a living”. The bouncing, rolling, big string sounds of ‘BME’ (named for his own new label) held together with ’70s cop show horn blasts are appealing, along with neat, layered lines like “It don’t take a hit to let ‘em know I’m bulletproof”, as is the near-psychotic paranoia of ‘Ups & Downs’ which tears open with the line “They backstab you with no malice, rat bastards” and just gets more furious from there as Trice looks around and sees that there’s no-one left for him to trust. It’s a great, vicious tune.
On the other hand the sex tracks don’t necessarily straddle the line between black humour and straight up offensiveness too well – when Trice is dropping lines like “Take you to the crib/Play with your esophagus/Get your nose snotty/Eyes watery…I’m gonna put it in your brain” on ‘Spend The Day’ without even a hint of playfulness or a sly musical grin you may start to wonder if he should steer clear of this type of material.
The same goes for the straight-out meanness of ‘Secrets’ with its twin messages of “Your bitch got dick on the side” and “Your wife is a slut” in which Obie plays Romeo to his friends’ wives, asking that his buddies “…don’t get mad at Obie, this is the harsh reality, your broads a a freak”. It’s so OTT as to veer into comedy but, again, it kinda sounds like there’s an element of honesty to it too.
The worst and most alienating track here is Trice’s paean to Gucci, Vitton and Prada, ‘Pretty’, a fairly worthless trawl through Obie’s designer vanity and love of money that comes across not as high rolling and smiling but more greedy and arrogant.
However there’s more to enjoy than not, even though the tail-end of the record, like so many hip hop albums before it, slackens badly with ‘My Time’ and ‘Crazy’. There’s still ‘Battle Cry’ with the fantastic “Oh Trice, back at it, I ain’t never came whack/All I ever gave’s crack, all I ever gave’s back/Ain’t a human being on this earth can say opposite that” displaying Trice’s capabilities as far as unconventional rhymes and verbal-tripwire walking go, and closer ‘Lebron On’ with its last-gasp skit on a popular ad campaign and a grinning payoff line.
That the most succulent and fresh track here is ‘Richard’, which features Eminem prominently, is a bit of a shame as it throws the rest of the hits here into the shade while accentuating the lesser qualities of the misses. Perhaps Trice, now cut adrift from the past, would do well to steer clear of Shady in the future, maybe temper his more savage rhymes with a little more humour and carve out his own unique playground in the rap world.