Artist: Obie Trice
Album: Bottoms Up
Label: Black Market Entertainment
“O-Trice, Back At It!” Six years after the release of Second Rounds On Me, Obie Trice is back with his third album, Bottoms Up, which keeps in line with his other alcohol-inspired album titles. Ten years ago Eminem memorably sampled the line “Obie Trice, real name, no gimmicks” from Obie Trice’s “Rap Name” on “Without Me.” Now, Obie maintains his “no gimmicks” attitude on this project and even brings the line back on “Ups & Downs.”
His past albums, Cheers and Second Rounds On Me, featured many collaborations and with only four features on this sixteen track album Obie Trice seems more comfortable showcasing his lyrics and flow on his own. The subject matter of the album is light and ranges from the type of woman Obie fantasizes about on “I Pretend” to the story of his career and relationships within the rap game.
Although Obie Trice split from Shady Records in 2008, Eminem has a strong presence on the album through samples, shout outs, production, and a feature. The project kicks off with a Dr. Dre produced introduction on which Obie spits a verse letting us know that on this album he is “simply spittin whats in O-Trice’s system.” He then thanks all those who have helped and supported his career so far. The intro is followed by the energetic “Going Nowhere.” Obie shows his confidence and lets us know he’s “in this to win this” over Eminem’s production. The first single off the project, “Battle Cry” features Adrian Rezza and was produced by his brother Lucas Rezza. It was released last summer. On the track, Obie reminisces about his critics and past albums. He starts each verse with his catchy battle cry of “O-Trice, Back At It” reminding us of his perseverance in the game. The second single “Spend The Day” features singer, Drey Skoni and was produced by Detroit rap/production trio NoSpeakerz, who produced a third of the album. The track tells the story of what its like for a woman to spend a day with Obie. “Spill My Drink” is a catchy track on which Obie mentions his album delays and who has stuck by him through all this time.
On the highly anticipated Statik Selektah produced “Richard,” Obie and Slim take it back to “Shady 1.0” with alternating verses packed full of references about them being “dicks” with Eminem on the chorus. Obie comments on Interscope, as a label, and his issues with the industry on “Ups & Downs” and “Hell Yea.” He also addresses his relationships with Eminem and Dre accompanied by a few Dre and Em samples on “Hell Yea.” Trice and the late MC Breed represent for the Michigan rap scene on “Crazy.” “Lebron On” is the story of Obie’s career told through basketball metaphors and comparisons to Lebron. It discusses overcoming obstacles and being underrated and hated on. Obie ends the last track with a shout out to “the G-Unit he knows” and a request to follow him on twitter @RealObieTrice.
A few tracks such as “BME Up” or “Secrets” would have been a good fit for a 50 Cent verse or chorus, but they are solid tracks anyway. There is an early 2000s classic feel to the album which maybe because he started the project so long ago. Obie’s verses are authentic and unaffected and uninfluenced by current music. The overall production of the album is solid and a good fit for Obie’s style. Many tracks have memorable witty lines and metaphors like “The way I hurt em with the ‘Ye, she call me Amber Rose.” Although some tracks are more memorable than others, the project is comprised of well-written verses, catchy choruses and diverse flow, and definitely worth a listen.
Album: Day After Tomorrow
Label: E1Music/Atlantic Records
Maino continues to tell his story with his sophomore album Day After Tomorrow. Serving as a follow-up to his 2009 debut If Tomorrow Comes, which narrated his upbringing in Bed-Stuy to becoming a rapper, this new album is set in the present and represents the positive and negative balance that comes with fame. For better or for worse, this album manages to differentiate itself from his previous album and casts Maino in a new light, while preserving his spot as a NY radio staple.
On many of the 16 tracks Maino’s verses are accompanied by singers on the choruses giving them an R&B feel. He chose to use mostly in-house producers including Blast Off Productions who did four of the sixteen tracks. The album opens with “Never Gon’ Stop.” The track makes the theme of Maino’s contemplation of the two sides of fame clear with lines like “why I’m feeling like it was simpler when we was poor.” On “Need a Way Out,” produced by and featuring Mista Raja, Maino tells his story from three stages of his life starting with his childhood in a poor home, then his stint in prison in the early 90s, and eventually becoming a rapper in where he questions, “looking in the mirror I’m a rapper now/ what’s supposed to happen now?”
Based on his lyrics, Maino feels that he has made it in the game but is still not completely satisfied with his current life. His lyrics are real, but he could have done a better job of showing the contrast between his past and current status. It’s a concept album and he stays true to his theme, but it does get a little repetitive. He exhibits confidence on “Messiah” on which he discusses trying to save hip-hop. While I agree with his thoughts on the state of hip-hop such as “too many characters, the game is like a TV show/I can’t believe I see rappers wearing women clothes,” he didn’t prove to me that he’ll be the one to save it. On the title track, “Day After Tomorrow,” and “Glad to Be Alive,” Maino expresses his appreciation and thanks for the success he has seen but reminds us that there are two sides to that success, showing that things have changed with lines like “what happened to the old Maino? People say they miss him.” “Heaven for a G” stays in the same vein thematically, as the song is about doubt and worry of what the future may hold for the Brooklyn-bred rapper.
Maino is clearly a talented songwriter, and it seems like he is aiming for the certified Platinum success of “All The Above” with singles such as “Let It Fly” featuring Roscoe Dash and “That Could Be Us” featuring Robbie Nova which was released in the fall. “Let It Fly” has a similar beat to the Roscoe Dash assisted hit “No Hands.” “Unstoppable” and “Heart Stop” also seemed to be aimed at getting radio play. “Heart Stop” includes a chorus sung by a girl who sounds a lot like Rihanna. The Buckwild-produced “Nino Brown” and the previously released “Cream” featuring T.I. and Meek Mill which samples a Rick Ross lyric from “MC Hammer” contain some hot lines and quotables. T.I.’s verse has me looking forward to hearing more on his upcoming project Trouble Man, whereas Maino’s verse is the least memorable on the track.
The album as a whole may have benefited from a few more features from well-known artists and a little more diversity in subject matter, which says a lot for Maino. This is sort of a conundrum for Maino because his confidence is clear, but at times he appears overshadowed, as seen on “Cream” when he trades verses with T.I. and Meek. In terms of production, it is solid, but lacking diversity and basically what you would expect from a Maino album. Overall, The Day After Tomorrow is a worthy effort by Maino, but more than likely only the hit singles the project has spawned such as “Let It Fly” will be remembered by the general public and not the album as a whole.
Album: God Save The King
Label: Man Bites Dog
Copywrite of the Columbus, Ohio crew MHz combines his battle rap style with his newfound Christian beliefs on his fourth studio album, God Save The King. Over the last 10 years Copy has released albums of varying success with critics and fans in The High Exhaulted (released in 2002 and re-released in 2010), Ultrasound: The Rebirth EP (2009), and The Life And Times Of Peter Nelson (2010.) On his most recent and most well-rounded release, Copywrite returns to his battle rap origins that he shied away from on The Life And Times of Peter Nelson, supplying tracks packed full of punch lines, metaphors, and quotables.