For Cheers, his debut album, Obie Trice had some tough acts to follow. Less than a year earlier, fellow Shady Records signee 50 Cent had released the year's best-selling rap album, and before that, Eminem's burgeoning label had a pair of other multi-platinum, hit-filled releases: his own The Eminem Show and the 8 Mile soundtrack. Chances were, no matter how remarkable his album debut, Trice wasn't going to match the success of his predecessors -- not by a long shot. Perhaps that's why he begins his album with "Average Man," a standoffish statement-of-purpose that showcases his humble persona. Trice is certainly no "P.I.M.P." like 50, nor is he so self-important that he lashes out at "White America" like Eminem. He's just an "Average Man," a long-struggling rapper from Detroit who "rose from zero to hope." This theme of urban actualization informs the majority of Cheers: the evolution from nickel-and-dime hustling to big-time rapping ("Here's a toast to never looking back again...this is it, my niggas/This what we boast about," he raps on the title track). Discounting his affiliations, Trice is just another poor dude from the hood with nothing to lose, through and through, and that in itself is novel circa 2003, when innumerable ghetto-fabulous, Pinocchio-nosed rappers made a business of telling tall tales and gloating ad infinitum. Of course, it helps that Trice gets top-shelf productions from Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Timbaland, as well as high-profile features from Em, Dre, 50, Nate Dogg, and Busta Rhymes. Like 50's Get Rich or Die Tryin', which was similarly conceived by the Shady collective, Cheers is such a well-crafted album that it's a worthwhile listen regardless of whether or not you care much for the protagonist himself. Trice is a fine rapper -- thoughtful, sincere, gruff, and quick -- but perhaps a bit too "average" for casual rap listeners. In fact, you could call him middle-of-the-road: hardcore but not gangsta; swaggering but not big-pimpin'; witty but not hysterical; smart but not brilliant. That's okay, though. It's his persona -- he's the Everyman rapper. And besides, his producers more than compensate for his plainness, as does the solidness of his album. Cheers boasts 74 straight minutes of inventive production, original ideas, thought-out lyrics, and straight-up MCing -- even if it lacks outright hits à la "In da Club" or "Lose Yourself." So cheers, indeed -- to Trice, that is -- because his debut is quite an accomplishment and deserves accolade, even if it's not a commercial juggernaut like its fellow Shady releases.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier