I had the chance to speak with Obie Trice the day that his album dropped last week, while he prepped for an album release party at SOB’s in NYC. Our interview was interrupted a few times by sound checks and once by undercover cops who caught one of Obie’s boys outside with a blunt. “It ain’t safe in the city, watch the
Below, Obie talks about his current relationship with Eminem, how his career has similarities with Lebron’s, and his new label that seeks to give Midwesterners a platform.
Obie Trice. It’s a pleasure to meet you. “Somedays you’re the dog, somedays you’re the hydrant.” What are you today?
The dog. [Laughs.] The album came out today. Bottom’s Up was released today. It’s in stores, it’s on iTunes… It’s a nice day. We was at 97 in the Top 100 the other day. And right now we’re at #5. It’s the record release day, so it’s a good day for me.
What was your initial concept with naming all your albums relating to alcohol?
I like the spirits. I like drinking with me and my peoples.
[Obie is interrupted with news.]
The undercovers out here just scooped my man and them up. It’s crazy. Y’all got crazy undercovers out here, just walking? That’s crazy. That’s not in Detroit, man. My man’s just smoking a blunt outside and they just grabbed him.
Anything happen to him?
They had him stretched… right outside the door. But anyway, what was the next question?
What do you think you’ve learned in the last five, six years while you were on hiatus?
You know, this is definitely a business. I didn’t look at it the same way like I do now. I was tardy a lot of times. Somethings I didn’t show up to. I definitely understand that hip-hop’s a booming business and you gotta grasp the moment of it… a lot of that changed. I’m older, more reserved, settled. And I understand what this is for me. That’s definitely changed over the years.
What have you seen change musically and culturally?
The Internet. When I came into the game it wasn’t as big as it is now. And I’ve seen that the Internet is definitely a tool to get music and find out what’s going on more so than it used to be.
How does it feel coming back compared to the first time you came out? Or does it even feel like a comeback to you?
It is a comeback. You know, it’s been a long time. Hip-hop is always growing and doing different things. That’s one of the reasons I used the baby picture as my cover – because it’s a new beginning for me.
A lot of people wanna know, you’re off of Shady right now and you’re building Black Market Entertainment – what’s the relationship like between you and Shady?
We brothers, man. Forever. That’s my guy. We gonna always continue to do music. That’s never gonna change. When we did the song “Richard” not too long ago. It was real retrospective. We talked about a lot of the things that we used to get into and personal things that’s going on in his life at the moment and mine as well. Just like old times – just kicking it and creating.
Was it an easy transition – coming out of Shady and building BME?
Nah, it wasn’t easy at all. It was different. Having an indie and creating my own label is real monetary. You use a lot of money out your pocket to try to make this thing work. Whereas when I was on Shady, you didn’t see that. They recouped everything, but you didn’t see it coming out of your own physical funds. So it’s definitely different and definitely a transition.
How important is that relationship and musical connection between you and Eminem?
It’s real important. That’s my guy. Besides the music we’re friends. His daughter has played with my daughter. And we’ve been through a lot of personal things together. It’s more than just the music. He’s a good buddy of mine.
What’s your relationship between you and the people currently under Shady – Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf?
I don’t really know those guys, personally. I see Royce occasionally in Detroit. Over the year it’s [a mutual] ‘what’s up?’ It’s always a respect thing. But personally, I don’t know him either.
What kind of artists are you trying to recruit with BME?
Just artists who’s got a passion for the music, man, and [who] show integrity. I’m not trying to do something that everybody else is doing. I want to get artists that have their own way, their own personality no matter what type of upbringing and have a love for making music. And they gotta have a great work ethic.
How would you say this will differ from Young Money, Bad Boy, etc.?
I like Bad Boy and I like what Young Money is doing with their artists, but we just trying to create opportunities for people in the Midwest … in that region. That may not happen, we might recruit people from other places, but that’s mainly why we started this – to give artists an international look instead of a local look in those regions.
Now BME is under Universal, correct?
Shady is also under Universal. Do you think you’re going to see a lot of familiar faces when you’re handling business behind the scenes?
Maybe. I might just run into some cats.
What do you look forward to most being your own boss?
Just putting out my own music. Music that I have a say in putting out, instead of an A&R telling me what’s hot and what’s not and when I should release. I look forward to that.
When it comes to Detroit, a lot of talent has been coming from there recently. Danny Brown, Black Milk, Elzhi, etc. Do you foresee any collaborations with them?
I’m sure something will probably happen in the future. Nothing has been discussed so far, but for sure that could happen.
How long did it take to create the whole album?
Well, we started probably nine, ten months ago. One of the records on there is from a friend of mine, MC Breed. He’s like a Michigan icon. He passed away a few years ago. That’s probably the most dated song on there and it’s called “Crazy.” I used his verse that he gave me the verse right before he passed.
You said that –
[In response to someone updating him on news of his friend’s encounter with the police:] He good? They let him go? Wow. New York, New York, huh? [Laughs.]
When you’re in the studio with Dr. Dre or Eminem, what is that energy like? I know Dre did the intro.
Yeah, Dre did the into, but I wasn’t in the studio when Dre did the intro. He sent it to me. Being in there with him previously is overwhelming. You just feed off his energy. He’s a really energetic, make-it-happen type individual. I just go in there focused, do what I gotta do, and we drink Hennessy afterwards. It’s one of those things – where his drive … it’s like he wears it on him. It’s kind of unexplainable. It’s a no-nonsense type of situation and Marshall the same way. He’s very determined in there. He knows what he wants to do – same way with me. When I hear that music – how that music makes me feel makes me express myself. It’s a gangsta work ethic, man. Like how you passionate about what you do – the same thing goes into creating that record.
And you collaborated with Statik Selektah on “Richard.” How did that come about?
Well I was in New York a couple of months ago – and my man Dro, from Shady, was hanging out with me and he took me over there to Brookyln to holla at Statik. He played a few joints and he played the “Richard” joint and I was feeling it. I was like, ‘This the one. This shit is crazy.’ And what I did – I laid the verse there that night, but I had a plane to catch, so I laid the verse and I took it home and called Em and told him to jump on it. He was feeling it so then he jumped on it. And then we hooked up in the studio and completed it.
What other producers do you have on Bottom’s Up?
Eminem is producing on the album. Dr. Dre. These upcoming producers called NoSpeakerz from Detroit. there’s three of those guys, young guys. They dope producers. I got K & Square, they also from Detroit. I got a guy called Corey Cole – he from Detroit. I got the Rezza Brothers, they’re from Toronto. They’re two Italian guys. I met them on MySpace and they just dope. I felt they vibe. We did several songs together over the years –and they did my lead single “Battle Cry.” I got this guy named Phonix on the album, he’s from Cali. This guy named Geno XO – he from Detroit. For the most part it’s a lot of in-house producers on the album.
You have a track on the album called “Lebron On.” It sounds like a very hard and passionate song. What was the concept behind that?
“Lebron On” is just about this: I was on Shady for 7 years. Lebron was in Cleveland for 7 years. He decided to leave to do his own thing. I left and did my own thing. And the fans strayed away from me for that. Some only wanna hear me on Shady Records. They forget that I created my own thing over there. Eminem was my business partner and we helped each other with lyrics. That has happened. A lot of people turned the other cheek on my because I left Shady. So it’s just basically the situation with Lebron after he left Cleveland; they burned his jersey up and things like that. And in the same way, a lot of people didn’t stick around because of my transition.
So you’re saying pretty much that the fans didn’t respect the independence you had, similar to Lebron?
I was doing some research on Detroit, and there’s been 76 murders to date this year. Which is up 10% up from last year. I know you just had the Watch The Chrome mixtape just drop, so when Kanye says, “It’s time for us to stop and redefine black power,” I wanna know if you had any suggestion as to how to curb that aggression?
Well, I’m in it. I feel like the things that happens in those situations with murder is unnecessary. It’s definitely not cool, but I do also condone defending yourself in a situation that could ultimately take your life. And there’s a lot going on in Detroit. I feel like channeling that power, but at the same token, though, when you deal with urban situations, it’s hard to juggle that situation. It just depends on the social environments. It’s a good way to look at things, but it is what it is. Violence occurs. The evils is in people. I’m not the one that’s trying to murder an individual, but I’m going to make sure you don’t take me away from mine.
You left school when you were 17, right?
With the Trayvon Martin incident – he too was 17. So I would assume it was a pretty critical point in your life when you were 17. And with Proof’s untimely death and you being around that, and with you being a father – what’s Obie Trice’s reaction to that?
I was disgusted. It was disgusting for me. That was a real tragic situation, especially when you’re told that you don’t have to pursue this individual. American tradition and TV or whatever, John Wayne, that’s how they move. It’s just what they gave us. So I just think it was unfortunate. Shit like that happens. Florida – I know they’re laws is different, because my state isn’t like that. That was definitely something that touched me and touched the people around me.
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