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Formerly signed to Shady Records, Obie Trice hasn’t looked back since forming his own record label, Black Market in 2010. Delving deep into his personal experiences, Trice’s lyrics are captivating, intricate layers upon layers of stories, some from his own core, some from those around him. We caught up with Obie Trice to get the lowdown on what he’s been up to, how his music has evolved in recent years and what it’s like to work with some dudes called Eminem and Dr Dre.

What are some things you hope to achieve now as an independent artist that you may not have had the freedom of doing previously being signed to a major?

Basically having my own imprint feels like an achievement in itself. Being able to continue doing business with the people that I grew up with and to have them making music with me, that’s a beautiful situation. But the best part is being able to put out music you feel is nice and that is you. You get to pick what should be used as the lead-off single and you don’t have to worry about nobody telling you what’s hot and what’s not. So I’m looking forward to the fans getting the music the way I want to give it to them. And it’s a good look after spending so many years in hiatus. It’s definitely an exciting moment in my career right now.

How are you feeling about the general state of hip-hop in 2012 as you return with your third album?

I’m not mad at it, you know. I enjoy hip-hop as of now. A lot of good artists are getting noticed. You’ve got Danny Brown’s album. You’ve got Big Sean. You’ve got the Black Milks of the world and of course you’ve got Royce Da 5’9 coming out with his Slaughterhouse imprint. You’ve definitely got a lot more faces from Detroit at the forefront. The culture is always growing and I just feel blessed to be able to put music out and be a part of that.

Does being independent provide more freedom to collaborate?

Yeah, I mean back in the day when I was on Shady that was more of an in-house thing where I could only work with them, which was cool. But now it’s a different situation and I’m feeling a lot of different artists out here.

In what ways will Bottoms Up be different from your last two albums?

Well it’s a different time, it’s different topics, different music, different ideals. Cheers is what it was and what it always will be. Same for Second Rounds On Me. There’s some familiar faces on this one. Eminem produced a record, Dr. Dre produced a record. Eminem also performs on another record. I got the late-great MC Breed, he gave me a verse right before he passed. I also have the Reeza brothers, who are these guys from Toronto. One brother does the production, the other is a singer. They’re on the first single Battle Cry. I got Dre Sconie, a young guy with a dope voice. He’s a great entertainer and has a great personality, so I’m glad to have him on my second single.

What has been the biggest learning experience in working with the likes of Eminem and Dr. Dre?

Basically working with Eminem and Dre, the biggest learning experience was the work ethic. Getting in there and doing the best work you can possibly do.

In what ways has the music industry changed since your last release and what are some things you might see as undesirable about the industry now?

Well the leaking situation has definitely gotten out of control and the internet has really become one of the biggest ways to get the music across to people now. So that’s something different for me ‘cause I didn’t come up in that era. But I also see it as a great tool for me to get my music across. So you know, I’ve got a love-hate situation with the internet at the moment (laughs).

I read an interesting article a while back saying that you sat down with the Michigan State Senator to do discuss some community-based ventures. What kind of things came out of this meeting and how well do you feel you saw eye to eye on what needs to happen for your city?

Well he’s a young dude, me and him are around the same age and he’s just a regular guy. He wants to do some good things for the city and I want to provide that too for Detroit. We just came up with some things like a music community or a music district where anybody who has an interest in the arts can go to this district to get studio time or learn the history of the music here or anything else dealing with the arts. We want it to be a nice clean environment for the people to go to, where the schools would wanna take field trips to, you know. Just a way to keep the creativity flowing around here, ‘cause the music is one of the biggest things we’ve got around here. It’s just been the one meeting so far.  We haven’t sat down and planned exactly how this is gonna happen yet, but we’re definitely gonna reconnect again in the future and figure out how to get it done.

That’s pretty cool, sounds like there’s a good relationship there…

Oh yeah there’s definitely a cool relationship there. Like I said he’s a good guy, he wants to do some things for Detroit to get it back to where it should be; as a growing, popping city to be proud of. And you know I’m all with that.

Do you feel as though it is difficult for aspiring artists to make a living in Detroit?

Well there’s a lot of talent out here and there’s definitely a lot of hardships out here too. So I wanna be able to bridge the gap with that and let people create and get music out. And that’s not just for Detroit, that’s the Mid-West, our whole region. There’s a lot of talent out here and I just want to be a part of bringing some of that talent to an international level.

Who are some artists from the Mid-West region that influenced your music coming up?

Well you’ve got the Shady camp, Detroits Most Wanted, MC Breed, J Dilla, Slum Village. If we talk about Chicago we can talk about Kanye, he played a big influence on my music. There’s a lot of different people. Twista and even R. Kelly!

Where do you see Black Market ten years from now?

I see us playing a very important part in hip-hop music. I see us being a very important, structural type of business for hip-hop in general. With a variety of different artists, not just one type. And I definitely see us doing big things in the future.

What is your creative process per track?

Basically, I just keep playing the beat back on Pro Tools and find where the track takes me emotionally or brings out something I wanna talk about.

There’s an interesting analogy you used in the Battle Cry record, “Some days you’re the dog, some days you’re the hydrant”. How does this reflect the road you’ve travelled in hip-hop?

Well my road has been a bit of a crazy one. I lost someone that was very dear to me, who was Big PROOF. That was a very important person in my life. You’ve also got the whole situation with Interscope, with me and Jimmy Iovine and the things that didn’t work out there. Losing my mother to breast cancer last year was also a really big blow for me. There are those things and there are other personal things that have happened over the years to the people around me, that are enough to get you down. So sometimes the music and just life in general becomes overwhelming. Myself, I had to take a seat for a minute to get right with that. There are a lot of things that have definitely put a lot of energy in to the Battle Cry record.

When you record a song like the one you did on your most recent mixtape over Kanye’s New Day instrumental that deals with something as personal as the passing of a loved one, how well does that help you get through the situation personally?

To be honest, it really don’t help me. The New Day song was over a great instrumental, but I could only muster up a few words for my mother on that. I couldn’t find the words on the album either. I was very sad creating that song, but I’m sure it will come to me in the future. When I listen to the New Day track now though I just get sad, ‘cause it brings up my mother’s memory and her having to go so young.

Well for what it’s worth, I thought that came off really artistically and demonstrated what you were going through in some ways better than what a complete song could.

Well yeah, I mean it was real short. But it was definitely something I felt I needed to get off.  ‘Cause you know, that was a real serious time.

What would your advice be to an aspiring artist or anyone else that may be able to relate to your journey?

Just keep pressing on man. Keep on. If it was meant to be, you gotta make it happen. And that goes for anything in life.

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Images Courtesy Anthony Cutajar