Obie Trice Cheers

Obie Trice, another of Eminem’s cred-building street rappers, debuts with a solid album. Cheers has a few mediocre songs, but the only track that really deserves outright cutting is the painfully generic and melodramatic "Never Forget Ya,” which also fulfils the requirements for requisite thug love track. "Follow My Life” has great potential but the beat falls flat by one dimension, and "Hands on You” is a simple beat that’s only saved by the beat box. When it comes to production, all of the contributors are hit-and-miss, but more Timbaland ("Bad Bitch”) wouldn’t have been a bad idea. A few of Eminem’s beats are derivative, but "Got Some Teeth,” "We All Die One Day,” and "Outro” are inspired. Dre’s "The Set Up” and "Shit Hits the Fan,” as well as Emile’s "Hoodrats,” are also standouts. The guests are strong, and even Bizarre’s simple audacity is endearing. To top it all off, Eminem channels some Slim Shady. Unfortunately, occasionally Obie’s flow is uncomfortably similar to Em’s, especially on "Lady.” Plus we shouldn’t forget the plethora of disses to Jah Rule from almost everyone on the album: Obie, Dre, Em and D-12. Cheers isn’t a standout album, but it’s certainly no black mark against the Shady empire. (Universal)