Trying to appeal to his core fans and earn mainstream love has proved a daunting task for Obie Trice. Although his 2003 debut, Cheers, is certified platinum, it didn’t exactly make the Shady Records signee a breakout star. Obie’s shine was almost dimmed permanently when he was shot in the head on New Year’s Eve 2005 while driving on a highway in his hometown of Detroit. That near death experience coupled with the loss of his close friend and label mate, Proof, a few months later resulted in the dark tone of Trice’s sophomore LP, Second Round’s on Me. Released in August of ’06 to critical acclaim, the album unfortunately put up disappointing SoundScan numbers due to circumstances Obie says were outside of his control. His Akon-assisted lead single “Snitch” was banned by MTV because of it’s “stop snitching” message, and BET nixed the song due to Trice’s affiliation with Eminem, who had personal issues with the station at the time. With a few industry lessons learned and the dark days of the past year beginning to clear up, Mr. Real Name, No Gimmicks is in better spirits and looks to display that on his next album, Bottom’s Up. XXLMag.com recently caught up with Obie Trice to discuss his upcoming project, industry politics and living with a bullet inside of his head.
We haven’t heard from you in a minute. What’ve you been working on?
Oh, man, I got an album damn near done already… I’m gonna name this one Bottom’s Up. I got some hot shit. [I’m] workin’ with producers like my man Propane the Great from South Carolina, he did [my new single] “Detroit Summer.” I got a dude name Square Biz—a local cat from Detroit—my man Six… it’s a lot of unknown producers, but the shit is fire.
When do you plan on dropping the album?
I don’t have an idea. We got 50 Cent’s album coming first, then D12 is supposed to come out and Stat Quo. I’m hoping the first quarter of next year or by the summertime. It might take a minute, [though].
A lot of people feel Second Round’s on Me was your best work, but it seemed to get overshadowed. Are you going to make sure Bottom’s Up gets maximum exposure this time?
Yeah, I would like to have a summertime album because both of my [previous] albums were in the winter [or] fall. I think these tracks I’m picking are more fun, summer type of joints. I [don’t] want to wait so long to put out an album. It took three years to put out Second Round’s on Me [after] Cheers. I think that’s too long. Especially the way I work. I’m in the studio everyday from dusk ’til dawn. My work ethic is crazy. I just feel like with the politics of the game… it’s like you gotta get the budget opened up and certain people at the label might be in a direction of another artist at the time. So I just want to have everybody on the same page. I just want you to work with me on this album and push it like it was 50 Cent’s album. Like, really push this album and get behind it like it’s Curtis.
After putting so much hard work into Second Round’s on Me, was it frustrating to see it not sell as well as you expected?
Yeah, I would say that. Things happen, though. I didn’t get the video look from this last album. Everything was like a domino effect. I got shot [and] I almost died from that. Then my man Proof got killed…. So it was just a bad run. I did regret some things for a minute [and] gritted my teeth like, “Damn!” But you get past it and continue to do what you do. [You] gotta keep movin’.
There was also some controversy over the video for “Snitch” around that time, too.
A lot of things didn’t really have to do with me. The “Snitch” song with Akon could’ve been a big hit, a No. 1 song in the country, but MTV wouldn’t back it because of the whole snitch campaign they had going on. [And] BET wasn’t backing it because of their personal issues with Eminem. The video was something different at the time. It could’ve taken off if it just got that look, but it didn’t. I figured it didn’t have nothin’ to do with me. I make the songs but I didn’t know these things were going on, politic wise. I just do what I do. I don’t think I’m changing up or doing anything different.
Do you feel being based in Detroit hinders you as an artist at all?
Dr. Dre told me, “Move from the city and move somewhere else.” I really don’t have a relationship with a lot of artists, that’s another thing, too. As far as [guest] features go, I don’t know none of these rappers. I just know the people in my camp. That’s the kind of thing that maybe [hinders] me being from Detroit. Nobody likes to come to Detroit. Artists call me like, “Aww, man, I gotta come to your fuckin’ city?” I probably would have a good look if was somewhere down South or on the East/West Coast. But this is where I was born and raised, so I gotta hold it down out here. Somebody gotta do it.
But Detroit is known for being a violent city at times. Proof was killed and you got shot in the head a year ago. Did they ever take the bullet out?
It’s still in. I ain’t really been back to take it out. It’s still in the same place, it ain’t move. It ain’t fuckin’ with me or nothin’ like that. I’m straight, for now. I’m gonna [eventually] remove it. I still feel the lead particles. It’s one big piece of the bullet in the middle [and] back of my head. There’s fragments of it going to the right of my head, in the side of my skull. When I lay the wrong way it feels like a brain freeze. You know when you [drink] a cold Slurpee—That’s what it feels like. It’s painful.
What do you think led to the shooting in the first place?
Man, I just think it’s a lot of haterism, a lot of ecstasy going on, it’s a lot of do-or-die type individuals. They want to get that plug and there’s really more to the game then they think it is. They look at artists like 50, who’s been shot nine times, and they feel like they’ve been hit nine times. So it’s competition on a real vicious level. You can lose your life real quick. You just gotta prepare yourself. As far as like the kids go, I just think some of these young niggas is out of hand. But I was at that age when I was out of hand and it took shit to happen in my life to really get a grip and stay focused.
Is it fair to say that Bottom’s Up is the most important album of your career?
Yeah, I think this album is turning out to be great. This one is really gonna do good. My name is out there now. I haven’t done anything that would tamper with my look. I stay true to my music. I’m ready to do the BET Awards, the MTV Awards and sell records like that, while, at the same time, not compromise my integrity and who I am. [I] just [need to] find that right timing [and] the right song. It’s a wrap from there. I got it in me. Now, I’m just waiting to see.