On Obie Trice’s fourth album, The Hangover, (released August 7th of 2015) the Detroit representative still showcases swift, mostly amusing verbal skills and the large glimpses into his half-comedic and part-battle rhymer personality that made his Shady Records debut, Cheers, one of the best LPs of 2003 (and also made his follow-up record, Second Round’s on Me, one of the most replayable works of 2006) but it also showcases an undeniable departure in overall quality. Instead, this fourteen track, forty-eight minute record is about on par with his previous full-length effort, Bottom’s Up from 2012, because it insights realizations within us that the production and the MC characteristics mentioned earlier are all far better than average but there is a glaring blind spot: we’ve all heard it before in far too many different repackaged fashions.
The Hangover begins with the certainly appropriate, “Intro”, which sets a Trice-like mood (anyone who has heard his earlier work will know exactly what I mean here) that is both cringe-worthy and effective and pulls us quickly into the first number, “Chuuurrrccchh” (produced by iRock). Over a multi-layered soundtrack of drums and differing sounds, Trice gives us three verses packed with his meticulous storytelling skills which have proven, more often than not, to always grip the listeners’ ears despite how many times we have heard it. As he weaves his first person narrative of a violent individual pulled into a life of redemption and hiding in a place of worship (the symbol is also used here as in the fashion the word is sometimes utilized as to discern when one is speaking the truth), where the underlying theme seems to be that he embraces the idea of improving himself in this situation, Trice delivers a solid opener, even though it is nowhere near as potent as Cheers’ brazenly rugged “Average Man”, that showcases that his microphone capabilities are still much in check.
After this intriguing opus it moves to the largely inane “Bruh Bruh”. On this disposable ditty, wrapped up in a bit of his likably strange humor (most prevalent in the refrain when various people are heard saying negative things about him and he utters the words of the title, which we learn are what he states to block out such statements), he offers nothing new in terms of content (the “I’m so hated on” type of songs are almost as common in Rap as love ballads are in Pop music) and the melody he rhymes over, curtesy of Geno XO and Eugene Ferguson, is standard fare. This feels like a gargantuan misstep after what came before it.
“Obie’s Tidal”, a collection of Trice’s hits playing on a radio station as someone goes through the dial, sets up the introspective and poetry laced “So High” (featuring a beautifully sung hook by Drey Skonie). Though it plays like “Battle Cry”-lite, which was the aggressive and powerful anthem which touched on many similar traits in his past album Bottom’s Up, it gives us a look deeper inside Trice’s mind and his perspective, feels more in line with his first two classic albums than “Bruh Bruh” could ever aspire to be. It is also backed by simple production which compliments Trice’s message and is one of the rare occasions where the small glint of auto-tune is used well and adds to it all instead of taking away from the caliber.
As a single, “Good Girls”, the next sonic expression is forgettable as a radio influenced hit. Despite this, as an Obie Trice vehicle it strangely reflects the glory days of Cheers, most notably a far less grimy version of “Got Some Teeth”, and though the eye-rolling, juvenile and bland subject matter harps upon the timeless slogan, “Good girls want to be bad”, it sports sharp production oddly reminiscent of Dr. Dre and his deft narrative abilities keep us listening here, even when it is as trite as the topic Trice has chosen, and makes bearable what could’ve been another obviously artificial attempt at making a song climb the charts.
“Dealer”, featuring a surprisingly strong verse from Young Buck and a capable enough one from Tone Tone, shares the same criticisms I have for the twelfth track: “Detroit State of Mind” (and, in many ways, with the grimy track that proceeds the aforementioned tune: the lyrically and musically brooding, “Bang”). These are all genuinely gritty rhyme fests that reflect beautifully back to Obie Trice the battle MC and though the hammering bass of both could come off with an artificial menace it proves effective, largely because of the fury Trice brings on each tune, and provides the album more of a sense of variety overall (even though we are noticing that Trice is not being anywhere near as experimental here as in his early material).
“GMA (The Speech)” works as another classic Trice platform to hurl lyrical disses with reckless abandon and bar after bar even though it always calls to mind to the point of distraction D-12’s “6 in the Morning”, from the group’s ferociously brilliant D-12 World from 2004, so much in terms of style, sound and approach. Mr. Porter’s production is fierce and perfect for Trice’s rhymes on display. Again, Trice harkens back to his Cheers days here and the feeling it brings is incredible.
Strangely, one of the most infectious pieces of music on The Hangover is “So Long”. The hook by Gwenation is sultry and makes the laid-back, fusion of soulful Rap and R&B that is its backdrop seem to pop out of our speakers with a cool, collective calm that makes Trice’s spin on the usual womanizing schtick endlessly enjoyable. This is the hit Trice desperately tried to deliver with “Good Girls” and regurgitates successfully in the eleventh track, “Same ….” (featuring dim-witted, pedestrian lyrics from Zeether) but an undeniably catchy hook and an elegant beat.
“P8tience”, which features obviously sticking your hand out verses from a rapper with the same name as the title, gives off a glorious old-school impression as Trice and P8tience go back and forth on the microphone as if they are conversing to the beat. It is tried and true, but still a welcome and unique, way to orally attack the dark, purely underground sound of the tune. The piece also develops a well-honed sense of depth as P8tience admits his hunger to be signed to Shady Records, as Trice did from 2000 to 2008, and Obie becomes the voice of experience as he warns of the dangers of wanting something to much, the journey ahead for a starving musician and speaks with the wisdom of a mentor.
It ends on a dazzling, uplifting and exquisite note as Estelle’s wonder inducing vocals propel a chorus concerning both triumph and rising from defeat on the album’s best track: “Home”. Obie is at his most honest on this song, he strips away the vehement sensibilities so present throughout the rest of The Hangover, and comes from the soul as he compliments the hook with his own experience of his hard times selling drugs, being harassed by the police and how his youthful errors made him the strong individual he is now. Victorious in all facets of the stirring, emotive melody chosen and the words used this is the perfect note to end on and one can’t hope that with his next effort he will take this part of his personality and project it into an entire LP (which, if it is half as great as it is here, should prove to be a recipe for a timeless classic).
The Hangover is solid all around but it is missing the distinctive explosion in all arenas which made him so commanding early in his career. The beats, lyrics are all of high quality and Trice is at his best when he summons his essence and nearly as good when he gives us an example of why Detroit’s battle rhyming is especially amusing and vicious. It will not prove as immortal as his first two LPs, mainly because his topics are varied but mostly settles for the commonplace, and though his personality may not be as magnified and at the forefront as it was on Cheers and Second Round’s On Me Trice proves that he can still craft a mostly gripping record that may have only some of the luster of his earlier endeavors but is still far better than most of his Hip Hop peers.