Just last week Obie Trice released his long-awaited project Bottoms Up on his own independent label, Black Market Entertainment. Most of us know Trice from his Shady Records days, but the change of labels hasn't compromised his ability to deliver a solid follow-up album. Simply put, "Mr. Real Name, No Gimmicks" is still an abrasive, clever lyricist who hasn't missed a beat during his hiatus.
We got on the horn with Trice to hear his thoughts on the new album, working with Eminem and Dre, and his vision for the new label. Since it was the sixth anniversary of Proof’s death, he also took time out to share some memories of his friend, and gave a few insights into what Proof meant to the Detroit rap scene.
It’s been six years since we’ve heard a new Obie album. Do you feel like Bottoms Up picks up right where you left off?
It feels good to have another body of work out here. To be able to touch my fans, the people who supported me from day one, it's a beautiful feeling. It’s just a start of a new beginning. It feels great.
You released it on your own label, Black Market Entertainment. Are you still cool with Shady Records?
We still cool, man. We still people. Ain’t no love lost. Never has been. We always going to be people. That’s just the way we are.
Interscope got rid of me. It wasn’t a Shady type of situation. It had nothing to do with Eminem. We always going to do music. That’s not going to change. The only difference is that I have my own situation going. As far as family—Dre, Em, we always family.
Do you prefer the independent label situation over the major situation with Interscope?
The indie is good. I prefer to be indie. I don’t think I’ll ever do another major deal again, even if the opportunity exists. They just got to be paying me a hell of a lot of money to ever do that again. I'd rather be in control of my own music and my own movement. I’m good with the indie thing.
Where do you see yourself taking Black Market Entertainment? How will you build a label on your own?
The objective is to create opportunities for people like Marshall gave me. I want to do the same thing. Basically, that’s why we started this thing. Just to bring a lot of talent that’s local and creative to the forefront of music. That’s the whole goal.
You said Marshall gave you an opportunity. He’s done some production on this record and did the joint “Richard” with you—plus Dre did the intro for your album. How does that feel to have them contributing to your project?
There's a misconception... a lot of people think that everything is over when business don’t process right. It was business with Interscope which caused me to do my own thing. Interscope got rid of me. It wasn’t a Shady type of situation. It had nothing to do with Eminem. We always going to do music. That’s not going to change. The only difference is that I have my own imprint and I have my own situation going. As far as family—Dre, Em, we always family. Ain’t nothing change.
Can you talk about the concept behind your song “LeBron On”?
A lot of fans, once I left the Shady logo, they kind of turned their back on me. People perceive different things. This is the music industry. This is a business. Careers change every day. That has nothing to do with the way you felt about my music at the time I was over there. “LeBron On” is basically the same thing with LeBron. Once he left Cleveland, people got butt hurt. It’s about if you were there for me and you appreciated my talent and what I brought to the game from day one. just because a business decision has to be made, don’t turn your back on me. That was basically what that song was about.
Today marks the six-year anniversary of Proof’s death. What are your memories of Proof?
I got a story where I was shot New Year’s Eve of ’05/’06. New Year’s Day, actually. Yeah, I was shot in the head and almost died. Proof came to the hospital, this and that and the other. I went to my house and he drove to my house. Once me and Proof and everybody else—which was a lot of people at my house, matter of fact. Once we got there, my keys to my truck that had my house keys was with the Michigan State Police for investigating a vehicle. I couldn’t get in the crib.
I was shot in the head and almost died. Proof came to the hospital, this and that and the other. I went to my house and he drove to my house. Once we got there, my keys to my truck that had my house keys was with the Michigan State Police for investigating a vehicle. I couldn’t get in the crib...
We standing out in front of my house, about 50 people in front of the house. I got this bandage wrapped around my head. I’m leaking. Blood. The bandage is getting fucked up. I need to re-do it. We outside for a long time. So Proof was like, “Let me figure this out.” He left and went around the house somewhere. My house was huge. He leaves for a while. We forget that he leaves. It’s like ten minutes in. We were all talking about the shit and who did it and the retaliation factor and a whole lot of different things. Before we know it, this guy was opening my door like, “Hey, welcome.” [Laughs.]
My house heavily secured. I got cameras everywhere, you know what I'm sayin’? My windows is locked. To this day, I never know how he got in my home. He wouldn’t tell us. We just laughed about that shit.
I went to the hospital at Providence Hospital in Detroit. They had released me after so long. Because the bullet was left in an inch near my brain, they couldn’t do surgery to remove it because they were worried about hemorrhages and shit like that. The doctor opted to just keep it in. I still haven’t removed it. Now my doctor is like, “It’s cosmetic work, Obie. All we got to do is slit your head and pull your scalp back a little bit and pull it out.” And I’m like, “Shit, I’m not fucking with that.”
So you never figured out how he got into your house?
He never told me. He never told any of us that whole morning. It was just crazy. I checked windows, the windows is locked. He had to go through a window. Damn, I always keep my windows locked. But I don’t know how he got in.
What happened when you got inside?
We just kind of laughed about it and we just talked for hours and hours about how we need to move out here in the streets. Four months later, he got a bullet to the back of his head. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it.
What kind of person was Proof?
He was funny. He was a spontaneous dude. He was a jokester. He was a real serious individual. He was many different things. His personality was everywhere. He was just all over the place. He would just show up at your house at 5a.m. and just shit like that. [Laughs.] Keep the same clothes on for like a week. Didn’t brush his teeth for like two weeks and then show up clean. He was just a different type of dude. He was somebody you would like to have in your life. He was just a different type of cat.
Proof was a real, close dude of mine. He was real important in my life. I’m always keeping his memory alive as long as I am still breathing.
Did he set you up to meet with Suge Knight in Las Vegas?
Nah, he didn’t set me up. We met him together at the hotel. I think we were staying at Mandalay Bay and he walked in. I’m like, “Shit, that’s Suge Knight.” I’m looking at it as a business aspect. This dude ran one the biggest record labels in hip-hop history. I went to shake his hand, and Proof was like real pissed about that. “Dude, why the fuck you shaking his hand for?” I’m like, “This is Suge Knight! Fuck the other shit.” I’m not worried about his personal shit. I’m look at it like this guy has created an empire. I want some of that in my future. Proof saw it different.
You still wanted to chop it up with him?
I still ended up shaking dude’s hand. Telling him, “That was a good look you did for hip-hop music. For the culture of this whole thing. That was a good look.” He definitely brought heat to the game with Death Row Records.
What did Proof bring to the rap scene in Detroit?
Proof knew the gangsters. He hung out with the backpackers. He hung out with the killers. He brought all those elements of the city together in one specific place, which was the Hip-Hop Shop. Maurice Malone’s shop. He promoted hip-hop culture. He was the guy who went to New York early in his life and saw the hip-hop movement there and he took elements of that and brought it to the city of Detroit. Most of us don’t leave a two-mile block radius.
We stay confined in our neighborhoods. He brought a lot to the city as far as insight on what hip-hop was. We knew it from listening to it, but he brought the element in the physical, you know? We can always turn on the TV and look at Big Daddy Kane on MTV. And the way he delivered it in person. “I was just chilling with Kane and this is how he thinks.” He was like a journalist for the people who didn’t know. And Detroit at the time, we was real local. Basically, from my point of view—I can’t speak for others—but he brought a element where he was like, “Broaden your horizons, if this is what you want to do.”
So he brought different things from New York and applied them to the Detroit scene?
I’m not saying he brought things from New York. He was a cat that actually may have went to New York and seen things we haven’t seen, seen things we have never seen before. He could tell you stories about certain things in the physical form.
You and Proof have made a couple songs together, right? Do any of them stick out to you?
It was one with my man J-Hill. I can’t think of the name [Ed note: It was probably “72nd & Central” ] but it was me, Proof and this guy named J-Hill. That was a great moment for me and all three of us to do that song. I think we stayed up for twenty-four hours and made that record. I can’t give you the date when it was made. It was in the past.
He was like a journalist for the people who didn’t know. And Detroit at the time, we was real local. Basically, from my point of view—I can’t speak for others—but he brought a element where he was like, 'Broaden your horizons, if this is what you want to do.'
Why does that song stand out, just doing a song with Proof?
We just had a good time doing it. It was just a fun evening creating in the studio.
Have you dedicated any songs to Proof since he passed?
Yeah, I’ve done things in the past. On my Watch The Chrome mixtape, I did the song “Big Proof’s Back” from the Meek Mill and Rick Ross’ “Tupac Back.”
You, Supa Emcee, and Killa Kaun are performing a benefit concert in honor of Proof. How important is it to you to keep his presence alive in hip-hop?
That was a real, close dude of mine. He was real important in my life. I’m always keeping his memory alive as long as I am still breathing.