Will Hagle already has his ticket for Fyre Festival, 2018
“What you gonna do when shit hits the fan?”
Obie Trice, Eminem, and Dr. Dre asked Ja Rule that question in 2003.
In 2017, we found out the answer:
It’s easy to make fun of Ja Rule now. But Shady Records’ exposure of his character on “Shit Hits The Fan” was prophetic. In the Aftermath of the Fyre Festival fiasco, Ja Rule didn’t stand and fight like a man. He wasn’t as hard as he said he was. He ran and got his bodyguard. Or, more accurately, he sent a half-hearted tweet.
It’s as easy to make fun of 2017 Eminem as it is to make fun of @Ruleyork. In the Bush era, though, when CDs sold and Eminem sold the most, Shady’s name held influence. Signing to Shady Records guaranteed more than just airtime on Shade 45. It guaranteed superstardom, or at least a decent chance at it. By 2003, in between The Eminem Show and Encore, fans were looking for Eminem to anoint his heir in the same way Dre once anointed him.
The first artist Eminem signed to Shady Records, aside from D12, was Obie Trice. That’s right. Real name, no gimmicks.
The rest, as Wikipedia reminds me, is history. Eminem signed 50 Cent soon thereafter and put out Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ before Obie’s first album. 50 Cent filled the next-in-line superstar slot Em’s fans were wishing for, and Obie Trice spent the next several years struggling to find his place on the roster. But before he retreated into obscurity, Obie left behind Cheers, the album with “Shit Hits The Fan.”
Cheers is an undisputed classic.
Before you react to the terminology used in the preceding sentence, let me clarify. An undisputed classic is not the same as a classic. The former term can’t be tossed around as liberally as the latter. You can’t just call something an undisputed classic. You must prove it with evidence.
An undisputed classic doesn’t just have to be a great album at one point in time. It must defend its belt against everyone in its weight class and knock them all out in the 1st round. Every song doesn’t need to be perfect, but every song needs to serve a purpose. You should be able to remember the track numbers by heart.
“Shit Hits The Fan,” if you don’t remember, is Track 8 on Cheers. It is not perfect. It’s too specific and too long. It gives too much attention to a beef that never got exciting. Dr. Dre even explicitly states that the beef itself was a media creation. But Track 8 serves a purpose. It gives us an image of Ja Rule jumping and swinging up to hit Dr. Dre in the knees. It lets us laugh at an easy target, a brief respite from Obie’s own narrative before the second half of the album begins.
Obie’s story, while not as dramatic as getting shot nine times, primed him for success under the Shady umbrella. He was from Detroit, a lyrical MC with an ear for pop accessibility. There’s no point in speculating now, but Obie might’ve become Shady’s first superstar if Cheers came out before Get Rich or Die Tryin’, if only because the album followed essentially the exact same formula. There’s the inoffensive pop single. The Nate Dogg hook. 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks. Dr. Dre. Enough Eminem. Excessive use of sound effects within verses.
The only thing missing from Cheers—and the thing that held Obie back from success—is the charisma and bravado that 50 possessed and would capitalize upon. On Track 1, “Average Man,” Obie states, “I’m no gangster, I’m just an average man.” On Track 2, the title track, he says, “Every man’s got a story to tell / Well fuck it, I’ve got a story as well.” There’s no disputing that the stories Obie tells are captivating, but they were overshadowed on the airwaves by his labelmate’s singles.
Obie’s own inoffensive pop single—Track 3, “Got Some Teeth”—did land him some chart success for a while. The song is nonsensical but catchy as shit. It could have been a Macklemore hit; the beat sounds like Ryan Lewis Made It. When “Got Some Teeth” came out, in an age before lyric booklets were annotated by idiots online, I thought I was just too young to understand the premise. In 2017, I’m still not sure I have any idea what’s going on. Is Teeth a metaphor? Am I overthinking it? Either way, Track 2 would be my favorite song to sing along when the DJ throws it on, if Cheers wasn’t such an overlooked undisputed classic.
If you still don’t agree that Cheers is an undisputed classic, listen to the last two minutes of Track 5, “Don’t Come Down.” Try and dispute the classic nature of that instrumental breakdown. Listen to Eminem on Track 4 saying “pass my pussy around like it’s Ja Rule’s jewelry” and tell me “Lady” isn’t classic. Listen to Track 2, the title track, and tell me that “Cheers” and Cheers aren’t both undisputed classics. You can’t.
Cheers is an undisputed classic. I have proven it with evidence, and I’ve only mentioned six of the album’s 17 songs. I don’t remember much about the other songs, to be honest. They’re not perfect, but they serve their purpose. Looking back, Pain Is Love was pretty good too.