Although Obie Trice now carries a bullet in his skull (from a violent encounter last New Year's Eve), the bragging rights at Shady still belong to 50 Cent and his nine gunshot wounds. Unlike the larger-than-life 50, though, Obie sounds genuinely scarred by his experiences: Most of his sophomore album is as bleak as 8 Mile Road. But for the most underrated rhymer in the uninspiring Shady stable, the somber overtones aren't entirely a downer. Richer and subtler than his 2003 debut, Trice's latest effort, Second Round's on Me, finds Eminem and JR Rotem mining minor-key soul to back the star's plainspoken flow; it's effective enough that even Akon's hook on the grim "Snitch" seems sugary by comparison. Aside from a fixation on Superman drawers, Obie's rhymes reflect more serious sounds, tracing Detroit's disintegration and debating whether to stay and fight. "Cry Now" suggests that he will: "The white boy has stepped down," he says of Eminem, "so I'll accept the crown." That's presumptuous on a couple of levels, but Second Round turns Obie's dances with death into something of value, at least.
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