One year and one month after the fact, D12 has arrived to take advantage of the hype built up by their appearance on Eminem’s second release, “The Marshall Mather’s LP.” Someone might want to explain the timeliness element of hype to the group.
With their two-track cameo on Eminem’s last album, the five other members of D12 sent a resounding “who’s-that?” through the rap industry, and this past December they followed up with the Eminem-chorused “S**t On You.” Proving that their appearance was more than just another blip on the hip hop radar and demonstrating the white rapper’s allegiance to his hometown crew, “S**t on You” was supposed to be a teaser to keep the public aware of the D12 album that was promised to follow.
Six months later, D12 has finally released “Devil’s Night,” the long-awaited but mostly forgotten debut of the Eminem-produced group. If music shop owners and their customers are attentive enough, D12 is sure to be rocking the headphones of hip hop heads this summer, at least where their raunchy and envelope-pushing offensiveness is tolerated.
Taking after his mentor, Dr. Dre, Eminem has demonstrated a deftness in collaborating with bizarre, distinctive-sounding partners. Dre had Xzibit and Snoop. In his days, Tupac was at his best in tracks like “Picture me Rollin'” with the comical Danny Boy, Syke, and CPO complementing him or in “Hit ‘Em Up” with the Outlawz providing support. Eminem’s crew, fully named The Dirty Dozen, provides the same pass-the-mic feeling, perfectly complementing the white rapper and often outdoing him in terms of raunchiness and audacity.
Accompanying Eminem–Slim Shady, if you prefer–are Proof/Derty Hairy, Bizarre/Peter S. Bizarre, Mr. Denaun Porter/Kon Artis, Swift/Swifty McVay and Kuniva/Rondell Seene. The six already-nicknamed rappers and their alter-egos constitute the 12, which might have caused confusion if this wasn’t the same era that gave us The Artist and P. Diddy.
With the album’s first music track, “Shit Can Happen” (which, as we’ve ridiculously become accustomed to, is actually track two) the group immediately establishes the fact that this isn’t just another Eminem-driven album. Not only does Slim wait until the fourth verse to take the mic, but his voice is absent in the chorus–an encouraging sign that suggests D12 doesn’t rely on Eminem to carry them. Kon Artis leads with an aggressive warning to all others that they still means business, despite their newfound fame and fortune. “You think for one second since we got a deal / that we won’t deal with you in front of St. Andrew’s Field / You gay rappers better learn that / I won’t stop until I see ’em turn back,” he spits. Here, the group pairs off into tag-teams of sorts, following each other and then passing the mic at the chorus.
In “Nasty Mind,” D12 picks up right where Eminem left off in his previous efforts in terms of controversy. Surely not intended to please any woman’s groups, the track plays out like an absurdly grotesque musical Kamasutra.
“Ain’t Nuttin’ But Music,” basically an additional five minutes of “The Real Slim Shady” is the first track to show signs of weakness. As DMX and others before him have demonstrated, there is a price to be paid for forcing out two albums in almost a year, and the weak beats start with “Ain’t Nuttin’…” Even the lyrics sound played out, questioning the role parents have taken in monitoring music and attacking pop music. While Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Everlast, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown take the brunt of the blows, it seems the song goes out to the entire music industry.
Surprisingly, the track gets better as Slim steps off his soap box and Bizarre and Swift dwell on more light-hearted shots at The Baha Men, MTV’s “Jackass,” the cast of “Diff’rent Strokes” and even Christopher Reeves.
Later tracks such as “Purple Pills” (D12’s attempt at our own generation’s “White Rabbit”) and “That’s How…,” riddled with Curtis Mayfield samples, demonstrate the same weak production. Instead, it’s the pleasurably innovative lyrics, often leaving you embarrassed and ashamed, that drives the album.
There’s hope for Eminem’s partners, even more so if they stick together. Most noticeably, the enormous-sounding Bizarre and the nasal-voiced Swift stand out from the gang while the rest might as well be axed. Then again, Dirty Four doesn’t exactly work.