What Happened To Obie Trice?
While every genre of music has its fair share of one-hit wonders, no other art form has the ability to hoist someone up on the culture’s collective shoulders before unceremoniously dropping them back to earth quite like hip-hop. Whether through a hit album or a sudden run of momentum that makes people think that maybe, just maybe, they could be witnessing the rise of a new force in hip-hop in real-time, there are certain artists who capture the spirit of the times and can do no wrong in the eyes of the consumer base.
Once positioned as a mainstay who had all of the tools, talent, and charisma to etch his name in the history books, Obie Trice’s early successes as one of the leading lights of Shady Records have since given way to a prolonged and agonizing period defined by both independence and a gradual slide towards obscurity.
Meaning that now, his name is more commonly seen in the news cycle due to some infraction in his personal life rather than anticipation over a new project from the 44-year-old MC.
Presently held in a Michigan County Jail on a $10,000 bond after it was alleged that he’d made threatening calls to his ex-girlfriend, the rapper’s journey from the toast of the game back to a resilient stalwart of the underground is one of many stories of this ilk which leave fans wondering where and why it all derailed.
And for Obie, there isn’t a singular cause for his fading fortunes, but a whole host of adverse circumstances and seemingly inconsequential decisions which would have a massive impact on his ability to retain his place in the pack. Like the vast majority of MCs, Obie’s hip-hop career arose from humble beginnings and by way of a DIY approach.
“I had put out some independent music a long time ago, some vinyl records. ‘Mr. Trice,’ ‘Dope, Job, Homeless,’ ‘Gimmie My DAT Back,’ ‘Well Known Asshole,'” he reflected during a 2020 interview with HNHH. “All these songs I put out back then kinda gave me a push in Detroit. I was known here in the city. During that time, Marshall was getting on with his career. He got a whiff of me and he got it popping from there.”
Obie Trice and Eminem, 2002 – Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images
A familiar face at the sort of inner-city hip-hop hotspots that would be recreated in 8 Mile, Obie’s initial encounters with Em were so impromptu that at the time, it didn’t register as anything seismic. However, with the benefit of hindsight, Obie recognized the positive effect that fostering a relationship with Shady had on his life.
“It was a hot summer day and Eminem had just dropped The Marshall Mathers LP and I shot out there from the hood, jumped in the Regal, shot up there to the studio and spit for him from the passenger side of his car and gave him a CD and he was like, ‘Aight, I’ll holla,'” he recalled to Baller Status back in the day.
“I really didn’t think nothing of it. At that time in my life, my whole thought process was all fu**ed up. I ain’t really seen the future with what I was going through. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God I just met Eminem.’ I really didn’t see the vision that I could be saved or found like that until I got the phone call that they were ready for me. He changed my life around. He definitely changed my change in my pocket.”
After signing to Shady in 2002, Em took it upon himself to preface Obie’s arrival in the mainstream as best as he could by providing opportunities for him to spit on high-profile projects. After the “Obie Trice” skit on D12’s Devil’s Night, Obie’s“Real Name No Gimmicks” tagline from his breakout single “Rap Name” would be inserted into the opening salvo of the global smash hit and The Eminem Show lead single “Without Me.” Paired with stellar contributions to the label’s famed DJ Green Lantern-aided Invasion tape, his hyper-descriptive verse on “Drips” and a chance to rhyme alongside Em and DMX on “Go To Sleep” from The Cradle To The Grave OST, Obie had built up plenty of steam long before it was time to unveil his debut solo album, Cheers, in September of 2003.
Recorded and released within a chaotic timespan for the Shady camp, Obie has said that the end product contains the ambiance of that tumultuous period within every bar and beat. “When I was making that record, we still was doing shows and getting into situations where shit could have got real bad out there. Getting in fights, traveling everywhere. Getting into situations with different individuals in the industry. There was a lot going on when I was making Cheers.”
Led by iconic tracks such as “Got Some Teeth” “We All Die One Day” and “Lady”, the record catapulted Obie to number five on the Billboard charts and would eventually be certified as gold by the RIAA. With that, Obie was living the lavish lifestyle of an Interscope-backed artist.
Although there would be three years in between the records, Obie was initially undaunted by the prospect of following Cheers, an album which he now routinely describes as “my classic.” “Nah, man, that don’t put no pressure on me,” he said in October of 2003. “I’m gonna do my own thing. Obie Trice is his own individual. I can only do what I can do – that’s bring good music. And hopefully it’ll take off from there.”
Armed with a distinctive flow and propensity for wordplay that made for enthralling listening at every turn, it was clear that Obie had big plans. And unlike many others, he didn’t intend to play second fiddle and has since claimed that he “bodied” Eminem every time they converged on a track together. But as life and label drama intervened in his creative process, Obie would soon learn that things weren’t as simple as he’d envisioned back when he was basking in the glow of Cheers’ success.
Alongside getting shot in his native Detroit– and gaining a bullet in his forehead which is lodged there to this day, an interview with Global Grind saw him discuss issues that hampered the creative process of his eventual sophomore album, Second Rounds On Me.
“I’ve been through a lot. A lot has been going on with me prior to the Shady thing. Even before Second Rounds On Me came out, a lot of things were going on. Sometimes things get to be overwhelming… Three months after [Obie got shot], Proof was killed. Just a lot of things, man.”
Released in August of 2006, Second Rounds On Me is a record in which he hoped to escape his mentor’s looming shadow.
“That was a record that I really kind of did myself and brought it to Eminem’s attention because I didn’t believe that he should be working on my album, D12’s album, 50 Cent and he’s an artist as well,” he informed DJ Vlad. “I just wanted to give him a break, but he kinda had to be involved in every project at the time.”
Where his debut album had shifted over 200,000 copies in its first week, his second record soldonly 74,000 and while this was by no means a flop, it did seem to suggest that his star power had dwindled to a certain degree. While it could be argued that three years was too big of a hiatus, what undoubtedly didn’t help matters is that along the way, he had gained the ire of one of music’s most powerful and resolutely headstrong figures in Jimmy Iovine.
“I missed the Big Boy show (Power 106 Los Angeles),” he said of where the issues with his label boss stemmed from. “The Interscope reps picked me up from the airport that night. I think it was a Thursday, I had to be on the show early Friday… and they took me out. These guys took me out. This is my first time in Cali, I’m from the hood… I’m on the radio. So, they took me out. We didn’t get in until 4:30, 5 in the morning and they wanted me up in about an hour and a half. I was outta there. Jimmy Iovine was like, ‘You can’t be missing the Big Boy show, you just can’t miss those things.’ Why would your people put me in that situation?. I wanted to put my records out quicker than they were released… but you know, they want Em to be involved all the time. [Interscope] wouldn’t open the budget.”
Scott Gries/Getty Images
Here, we can pinpoint where the seeds of Obie’s eventual departure from the majors were sown. While having Shady’s backing is one thing, you’ll never have the full promotional might of a record company conglomerate if you…