This week I got the honor of interviewing one of the illest emcees from the D (Detroit for the uninitiated), Obie Trice, and he had some interesting things to say about his new label, what he might be doing if he wasn’t rapping and who he likes in the industry currently, besides himself of course (I mean, he does have a new album coming out soon, who wouldn’t listen to their own stuff more than anyone else while they’re cutting a record?). I caught up with him as he was winding up his tour with Coast2Coast Entertainment in St. Louis.
This is what came of our conversation:
So, (I’ve seen from wikipedia) that you’ve been rapping since you were a teenager. Is there anything else you might be doing if you weren’t in music?
[Obie chuckles] Read on wikipedia, right… You know, I’ve always been interested in dead bodies. I spend a lot of time contemplating death and that whole transition from life to death you know? Even from a young age… So probably mortuary science. I thought I might study that when I was real young, like 9 or 10. But yeah, that transition fascinates me. I’m very into zombies, zombie movies and things like that. I saw death a lot in my life, so its on my mind a lot. I probably think about it [the transition] about 2 to 3 times a month.
Right on. That’s really interesting [we trade stories about the old TV shows Outer Limits and The Twilight zone re: death and transition]. Now that you’ve got your indie label, after having been an artist – do you like having your own label versus being on one?
Well, we’re just starting. But as an artist, Interscope always did all the meeting stuff for me. I didn’t have to go meet with people, like… [networking?] Yeah. Networking with other execs is so different from when I was an artist and that stuff was taken care of. Now, when I meet with people they might have their own little box that they want to keep a certain way and if I don’t fit into that, then I face a lot of road blocks.
Do you find that you run into more resistance or that most people just want to work?
Most people just want to work with you, but you still have those folks that won’t because they want to control everything that their artists or their label does. I really try to connect with folks on the radio like the Futures and the people that have stuff on the radio right now so that if I have them do a hook or a verse for one of my artists, we can use that [cache] to give my artists… [to make them relevant?] Yeah. So they can be relevant.
How do you feel about the current state of Hip Hop? Some people say it died, or it’s underground and things like that. How do you feel personally?
I like it. It’s always changing and I just want to be a part of that change.
Speaking of change, do you leverage the internet for your own label?
Oh yeah! We definitely use the internet to its full potential. [Obie laughs] We try to use every resource possible to get the music out there. There is definitely a big change in the industry and you can see it happening. My DJ was talking today about something Jay-Z said, when he was talking about Magna Carta, Holy Grail. He was talking about how it got leaked. I mean, when it was about to come out, I went on YouTube to see if I could find more on it a few days before the release and even I found it. The whole thing was just on there in a playlist [Obie says this while motioning, his hand bent at a right angle, moving from his sunglass-shaded eyes to his chest]
From top to bottom, the whole thing was there. I know Jay was trying to keep it under wraps and get his sales, you know, with the thing with Samsung – because the day after it was released I tried to go back and listen some more to get a better feel and it was gone… on some Frank Sinatra type [expletive deleted]. It was crazy. Like some straight up mob [expletive deleted]
I mean, even when I’ve released something, it’s been leaked weeks before. Because you send your music to all these blogs and journalists, and you don’t know if they gave it to their teenager or somebody else and they just put your [expletive deleted] up on the internet. But what Jay was saying is that now, with the internet and everything, it kind of robs part of the excitement of a release, because of the leaks. Its not like when the industry was selling vinyl and even CDs and nobody could get that except the label or the artist.
I understand that.
But all that said, I do like a lot of the new artists, the K.R.I.T.s [referring to Big K.R.I.T.], J.Cole, Drake, the Futures [referring to Atlanta artist Future] or even a French Montana. And who else… [Obie tilts his head back thinking, the white stitched "L.A." on his royal blue Dodgers cap facing the ornate ceiling of the Mayfair hotel business center, resting the MLB sign back of the leather accent chair]
Yeah! Kendrick. I got mad love for Kendrick. But yeah, I really like, like Future – for his marketability
[I admit, that I'm not really into Future, but I understand that everyone's not a lyricist and in the club, you may not want to listen to every word a lyricist says]
But Future, and like French Montana. I really like them. Especially Future’s style. It’s just so marketable. Not to say that I don’t like the lyricists either. But those are the guys that are on the radio that I like.
Is there anyone underground that you listen to?
Patience, I like him. He spells his name with an 8 [P8tience]. He’s good. And then I have my production team, No Speakers as well as this producer I worked with on my last mixtape, Drey Skonie. They have a really good sound. Other than that, I’ve been listening to my own music a lot.
I know most musicians don’t just listen to their own genre. What other kinds of music are you listening to? What’s on your iPhone or in your CD player, if you still have those?
Oldies really. [Obie takes out his iPhone 5 and check the music app] Gap Band. I was listening to Naked Eyes earlier. Naked Eyes – Always Something There to Remind Me. Darryl Hall and John Oates. But I’ve been listening to my own music mostly. You know, it’s been 10 years since Cheers, I want to release The Hangover. My new album, The Hangover in this tenth year, sort of like that all coming together… what’s the word? [the culmination?] Yeah. The culmination of all that.
I kind of took a break after the thing with Aftermath. I was kinda hurt by that, although we worked it all out. But I was a little hurt and between that and me getting shot. And just a few months earlier, Proof had got shot and he died. But I got shot and after the thing with Aftermath, I just took a break from music. I wish I wouldn’t have because the Rap game is a field where you can’t really take breaks. But I had to take a break. And now I’m back and I’m lucky that Interscope had gotten the Obie Trice brand out there. They paid a lot of money to get out the Obie Trice brand, so I was very lucky to have that and so now people still know me, but I’m still coming from behind.
Yeah. I was telling someone (my friend Marc), that I was going to interview you today and he mentioned ‘The Setup‘ and how that’s still a great song.
Yeah. That one. That one, I was just in the studio with Dre and he told me to go in. He was just playing the beat and he told me to go in. So I wrote and he liked it and we just made it that night. It was [amazing].
So what kind of story are you telling with this album?
[Obie looks at a guy with about 50 blue, helium-filled balloons walk past the stained glass hotel windows and hesitates... chuckling] The Hangover is just fun music. I’m not really telling a story. I have some songs about church and other social stuff, but it’s mostly just about having a good time.
As a person, do you think about politics and other social issues, or…?
Yeah, I think about politics, especially in Detroit. You know, we have Kwame Kilpatrick who just went to jail and another friend of mine that was accused of touching a little boy and he just up and left office. He was just accused, he wasn’t even arrested or anything, he just left [laughs] I have some songs about political stuff, but mostly I just want people to have fun with my music.
Getting away from the music for a second, and speaking of social issues, what do you think of Detroit declaring bankruptcy and how does that effect your business, being based there?
Well, first of all… there’s never really been any industry in Detroit. So it’s always going to be… It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. There’s so much that has to happen. [Obie pauses] We’re lost as a people… I went back to my old neighborhood. It looks like a third world country. I was trying to buy my mother’s house after she died. Well, I was going to buy my old house, my mother’s house… but I have two older brothers and they told me not to, but I was driving through the neighborhood for this other interview. I was riding through my old neighborhood for something else and I had to end it. I just… I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to keep going. It looks like a third world country! That was hard to see, because my moms… When she was alive. She died from Cancer in 2011. July thirteenth 2011. I’ll never forget that. [I express my condolences] But anyway, we were just driving through and even my mom’s house was in bad shape. They [referring to the other people in the neighborhood] just been through there and stripped it. Tore down the awning and took all the copper, the copper piping. And when my mom was living there, she used to take such good care of it. It’s bad there man. I mean, that’s how I got shot and Proof got killed. It’s this do or die attitude these guys have.
It’s a good thing she’s not here to see it I guess.
Maybe she did.
Yeah. Maybe she does. That’s crazy.
[Obie gives a knowing look through his Ray-Bans]
Does your mother’s passing ever effect your music or come out in your music?
Well yeah. I mean, I have this new song called “Sky High” with Drey Skonie that touches on that. Then on this mixtape I had, Watch the Chrome. That was a play on Jay-Z and KanYe West’s Watch the Throne. But I had a song on there called New Day, and I rapped about my mom on there. So yeah, that does come up a little bit.
Well, I think that’s a good place to end. Is there anything you want to tell your fans before we sign off?
Yeah. Go get the latest album, Bottom’s Up on iTunes. Dre [referring to Dr. Dre] did the intro track on Bottom’s Up… Get the Watch the Chrome mixtape on DatPiff. You can get the new single “Bang” off of new album, The Hangover on iTunes. Also, hit me on the SM [social media]. Twitter: @RealObieTrice, IG [Instagram] same thing @RealObieTrice and FB – just look up Obie Trice. It’s the one with the baby picture and maybe with the sunglasses.
O.K. Good talking to you man.
You too. You’re coming to the show right?
[We walk down the hall and part ways]