It was with mixed emotions that I rocked up to the Brisbane leg of Obie Trice’s 15th-anniversary tour. Though his 2003 debut album, Cheers, went platinum in America and received much radio play in many countries, he has, in some ways been known more for his name than for his raps. Given collaborations on the album with Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, Nate Dog and most famously, of course, Eminem, The Back Room, with its capacity of just 800, seemed like an odd choice of venue. Perhaps Obie Trice had heard from Slick Rick, or Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, previous Back Room giggers, that the sound quality is (usually) really decent.
It’s a younger crowd than I expected. Many would have barely been in high school when the Cheers album was released or during D12’s heyday but the vibe is a positive one throughout the evening. People have clearly come to have a good time and both Obie Trice and D12’s Swifty, along with all the supports deliver. Four piece act T.L.E set a fast pace and although their rap is a little on the dark side, the growing hoodie-clad crowd move forward to show their appreciation. I think we will hear more from them; their professionalism is obvious and they finish with what is surely the best beat from their set. Next up is Biotic, a Brisbane local, who like Trice, is no newcomer having been spitting lyrics since 2003. It is during his set that we first become aware of some technical issues which will go on to haunt Trice and Swifty later in the night. Biotic’s flow makes breathing look optional though and tracks like Drunk on a Sunday get The Back Room kicking. By now the Brisbane crowd has grown threefold. Having wandered through the crowd earlier, New Zealand’s Ursa13 take to the stage as the final support act. His DJ is bare-chested wearing suspenders and a novelty animal face mask. Feels like it takes them two or three songs to truly relax and show off their skills. By the end of the set though, at least six random punters are dancing on stage and the fact that I am about to bear witness to Obie Trice in the flesh really hits me. DJ Kick, hosting the night, plays a particularly tight set preceding the headliners finishing, suitably, with Bliss N Esso’s Happy in my Hoody [on a Friday].
Before Obie’s first song ends it is obvious just why fellow Detroit native, Eminem, signed the emcee to Shady Records and is even featured on Tupac’s posthumous album Loyal to the Game. His flow is impressive in a way that I don’t feel translates via recording and lyrically, he and Slim Shady obviously share a devilish sense of humor. Though Hip-Hop artists have been known to go overboard with audience participation, Trice and Shifty (who joins him on stage for most of the set), get the balance just right. Both grab various punters’ phones and video songs from their perspective on stage between demanding we put our middle fingers up in the air. At one stage, the sign is directed to the sound guys, who have seemingly failed to fix the mic problems Trice battles with near throughout. If this upset anyone though (as it clearly did the artists), Trice would instantly be forgiven no doubt upon exposing a Brisbane Lion’s AFL jersey and matching sweatpants that have been hiding beneath his leather jacket. By chance later in the night, in the bathroom, I run into the lucky lady who ended up with the jersey when thrown into the crowd. She assures me she will sleep with it for life.
The love between Swifty and Trice is also obvious, the headliner claiming D12’s Shifty is a “real hard-worker” and “taught [Obie] about life”. They embrace and cling to one another when ending the show but not before a killer performance. Highlights include “Sh*@t hits the fan”, “We all die one day”, “Psycho” and “Good girls”. D12 tracks “That’s how people get f*@ked up” (Obie’s declared favourite) and “Purple Pills” slide effortless into the set and to the uninitiated, one could be forgiven for thinking the two rappers always collaborate.
Naturally, given it’s the 15th Anniversary tour for Obie Trice’s debut album, Cheers, the song makes an appearance complete with brief comedic homage to the NBC sitcom’s theme track. The crowd’s eager singing throughout the night suggests this is indeed, a place where “everybody knows [Obie’s] name”.
What makes a night like this even more enjoyable of course is when the artists are also enjoying themselves; this despite the technical difficulties. Indeed, Trice promises Brisbanites the full set regardless, declaring if they go over time it’s the venue’s fault. Having seen Eminem play to a fifty thousand strong crowd at Suncorp Stadium in 2014, it feels a little like an injustice that Obie Trice and D12’s Swifty are crammed into The Back Room. The intimate setting, nonetheless, affords us a view of the emcees that are second to none, and to their credit, they put on a show which, in my opinion, outshone that of legend Slick Rick who played here in March. True to form, the “real name, no gimmicks” artist, complete with a bullet lodged in his head, needs no tricks up his sleeve to host a party worthy of a good “Hangover”. Brisbane, not always included on ‘Australian’ tours, should feel blessed and I for one will definitely look to see these artists again.
Review Contributed by Renee Morrison