When Cheers was released in September 2003, Detroit Hip-Hop held its breath. Because while Eminem was becoming the greatest rapper of all time, and most of the city loved and supported him, he was… well, he was White. And while Royce Da 5’9” was killing the game lyrically, his albums weren’t selling well, and he was from Oak Park, a small suburb just north of the city – a fact that should be inconsequential, but residence is significant in a city like Detroit.
But Obie, well, he was from the ‘hood. It barely gets more ‘hood than Schoolcraft, a street that runs down the middle of one of Detroit’s most desolate neighborhoods. Obie was really one of us. He was the guy you might have gone to school with, got drunk with, or fought. A guy ‘hood girls wanted to f*ck. For him to become a major label artist, have videos on the major channels, appear on award shows and in movies, made success in the rap game appear real and possible for any of us.
The excitement that Detroit Hip-Hop was experiencing in 2003 was unique. We were the city that the entertainment industry was looking at. After the release of 8 Mile in the fall of the previous year, everybody in the world saw us as a financially and racially-challenged city full of battle rappers. Labels were curious, and numerous local artists were getting deals, or at least taking major meetings. Our city’s little circle was becoming more and more well-known; Detroit rappers were touring the world. It was our time to shine.
But the shine time was short-lived.
Between then and now, a lot changed. In 2006, D12 founder Proof was killed, leading to Eminem’s subsequent hiatus. Several Detroit rap artists came out and flopped, groups were breaking up, and the city itself had changed so much, it was barely recognizable. Now in 2012, Detroit is attempting another rebirth. The city’s motto: Speramus Meliora; Resurgent Cinerbus, or “We Hope for Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes,” could now apply to the city’s financial state, violent crime rate, and floundering entertainment scene. But, there is hope, especially for Detroit Hip-Hop.
National and international acts like Big Sean, Danny Brown, Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids, Elzhi, Bei Major, Black Milk, Phat Kat, and Royce Da 5’9”’s return to the Shady fold with Slaughterhouse, hold the keys to Detroit’s Hip-Hop future. Another important player is Obie Trice, who after leaving Shady/Interscope in 2008 amid feelings that he wasn’t being properly promoted, has started his own label Black Market Entertainment. Trice’s mission is to bring authentic Detroit Hip-Hop to the world through his venture, and he has started, of course, with himself.
AllHipHop.com checked in with Obie Trice to find out what’s next for him and the future of the Motor City – read the interview:
AllHipHop.com: So, what have you been up to?
Obie Trice: Well, you know, we put out the album a few months ago, April 3 of this year. And, we just got off a Canadian tour with it, and that went pretty well. We are about to go to Australia and South Africa. With it being independent, it’s a different ball game; we are trying to get through some of these doors that are now closed for us. A lot of it is coming out of our own pocket, so it’s a new process. It’s a process trying to get these visuals on MTV and BET, things like that. MTV Jams, getting these videos out there and trying to get added on these radio stations, so it’s a work in progress. I started the company, BME; we are just brand new. It’s like a baby, so we are trying to get in where we fit in.
AllHipHop.com: What are some of the challenges and some of the positive things to independence?
Obie Trice: The challenges are that, you know, when I was on a major label like Interscope, you didn’t have to rub shoulders with a lot of these guys. Interscope mainly did the footwork, so you were just making music and doing the artist part. You didn’t have to worry about knowing such-and-such at the radio, or knowing these certain DJs – that’s the difference. The positive is that you get to put out your own music, the music that you feel that you want to put out without somebody telling you what they think you should put out.
AllHipHop.com: So what are some of your plans for BME? I know you are probably the flagship artist…
Obie Trice: I’ve got a few acts that I’m working with, like No Speakers from Detroit. These are some producers that I deal with, a guy named Patience from here, is a real dope artist that I like – one of those guys from the streets who learned his lessons from it, and knows how to put everything in perspective in his music. I look for that in an artist. How vivid can you tell a story? That’s his gift, so I’m working with him. We still just trying to get it out there. It’s a work in progress. I plan on doing a lot of things, put a lot of Midwest artists out. That’s my goal.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about the state of Detroit – both of us being from there and working on music from there for years – how do you feel about the state of Hip-Hop in Detroit or Hip-Hop from Detroit?
Obie Trice: I like where it’s going. Big Sean and, of course, Royce is back with Eminem. You got Danny Brown, Black Milk, and all those guys that are progressive in Hip-Hop for Detroit. I’m with that. I hope to see more premier artists from Detroit on a national level; that’s the whole goal, to have a plethora of artists from the city that’s on. That’s a great day in Hip-Hop to me.
AllHipHop.com: Definitely, man… For me, too. I can’t really talk to you without asking you the question that I think a lot of the readers would want to know. What, if anything – and I hate to use the word ‘wrong’ – what happened that led to you leaving Interscope and Shady Records?
Obie Trice: With Interscope, well, me and my brother Terry, who is my manager, couldn’t come to an understanding with Jimmy Iovine. It all kind of started with an interview with Big Boy out on his radio show, from then on, the relationship kind of tarnished. I respect Jimmy Iovine; I respect him giving me the opportunity to be out there as a premier artist on his label.
Eminem couldn’t save the situation. It was just business, it was a situation that everybody couldn’t come to an agreement on, so we all went our separate ways. We still have the relationship with Marshall, and that will never cease. Dr. Dre still on the team with us; it’s all cool, so we just gotta get this thing moving. There is still a camaraderie. I think a lot of fans don’t see me with Em as much, so they think it’s an issue, but that ain’t the case. It’s just about working hard, and building your brand up again. Premier artists like that touch big things.
AllHipHop.com: So, how is your relationship with Marshall?
Obie Trice: It’s cool. Like I say, that’s my bro. He gon’ be my bro until the day we outta here. So it’s all good. He blessed us with the track “Richard” for the Bottoms Up album. It’s a good song, and we had a good time doing it. We talked about a lot of things in retrospect. He had a loss in his family, I had a loss. We just hung out like old times. That’s still my man no matter what.
AllHipHop.com: I’m glad to hear that. I was thinking about the Shady 2.0 that they did on XXL. And you, having been a part of Shady 1.0, did you feel some sort of way about that? Being part of the first wave and seeing the label go in a different direction?
Obie Trice: Well, yeah, I mean. It is a touching moment for me. That was my crew. I never would have thought that I wouldn’t be a Shady artist. It was kind of like, “Wow. This is really happening.” But, you know, no evil feelings toward none of the guys over there. For Paul Rosenberg and Eminem to be taking that company in a different direction, that’s business. Did I feel a certain way? Yeah, you know, Shady Records birthed me, that’s what I got out here on. So, it’s will always feel like home for me, with Shady, nothing can fill that void. That’s just something that is always going to be there for me. But, I congratulate them and the things that they are doing and moving on with their company.
AllHipHop.com: So, you sound good!
Obie Trice: Yeah. I’m good. I went to visit my mom recently. She died on the 13th (of July) last year, so I went out there and took her some flowers and talked to her for a minute. So, we just gotta keep moving forward.
AllHipHop.com: I really can’t talk to somebody from home without talking about Proof. I think that was one of the last times I remember seeing you, around that time.
Obie Trice: That was some years ago.
AllHipHop.com: Talk about that void. I know, for me, personally, it’s a void. Talk about the void in the city.
Obie Trice: We just did a celebration for him at St. Andrew’s. It was good seeing a lot of those people who represent for him. The void is really that he had that motivation, he could get with the backpackers, the gangsters, the political people, the ladies, whatever. He was just an all-around type of dude. His daughter is my cousin, and I know she miss him. I definitely miss him.
AllHipHop.com: Me, too. So, I know you got a mixtape coming out with Warren G.
Obie Trice: We working on this mixtape right now called The Hangover; I plan to get that popping in August. We got a couple tracks from Warren, I’m gonna use a couple of them from the mixtape, and one for The Hangover, the album, too, that’s coming out next year. Warren is a good dude.
AllHipHop.com: I’m glad that things are going well for you, man. I was listening to some of your stuff today. I threw on the first album, I always crack up when I hear my voice on that album.
Obie Trice: [laughter] Fo sho. You know we go back like that.
AllHipHop.com: You have anything else that you want to add?
Obie Trice: Yeah, man, you can reach me on Twitter @realobietrice on twitter, go to the website, www.blackmarketent313.com and get the latest information.
Obie Trice’s independent debut album, Bottom’s Up, is available through all online retailers. The third single, “Spill My Drink,” will be released next week.