Obie Trice’s new album, Special Reserve, his first official release since leaving Eminem’s Shady Records in 2008, isn’t actually new. Rather, it’s a collection of songs recorded between 1997 and 2000 by the Detroit MC and Canadian producer and DJ Premier protégé, MoSS. Although that makes most of Special Reserve more than a decade old, it’s aged remarkably well.
From the scratched-up samples on “Welcome,” to the appropriately-titled “Got Hungry,” where Obie angrily spits, “I should have 20-inch rims on a V-12 Benz/Hangin’ with brand-new friends, all-flavored Timbs, hittin’ nothin’ but skins,” Special Reserve is short on gimmicks. Instead, it features Obie rapping his ass off about everything from death on the gloomy “You’ve Been Slaine” to survival on the hopeless “Dope Jobs Homeless.” Coupled with MoSS’s Primo-esque production style, the album is a tall shot of bare-bones boom-bap.
Of course, Obie’s pre-Shady recording isn’t without its rookie mistakes. The laughable “Jack My Dick” provides, as you might guess, way too much information about Em’s former running mate. Yet, O. Trice mixes just enough of his patented tongue-in-cheek playfulness on the self-defining “I Am” to make it easy to see why Eminem was so impressed by him at the turn of the century. Cheers to this Special Reserve. —Chris Yuscavage