Rap groups with more than two members are a musical crapshoot. All of the music multi-member groups produce and release might be stellar, ready-made classics, but this is the cyberspace, 80+ cable channel, iPod era. If you have a short attention span, the last thing you want to do is try to remember the name of what’s-his-name who was on the last verse of the 17th song on that last CD.
Maybe music fans can only concentrate on one personality at a time, or maybe it’s just too hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, so we end up picking the individual ones we like and ignoring the rest. This has been the fate of the Wu-Tang Clan and Junior M.A.F.I.A, who have both clearly enjoyed different levels of success, but have too many folks in their ranks for people to know by name. That’s just one problem, though, and one that’s easy to dismiss.
Here’s a harder dilemma: crew love, which is the obvious remedy for D12—Swift, Bizarre, Kon Artis, Kuniva, and Proof—also known as Eminem’s loyal and less talented homeboys. These Detroit natives have found their niche as rap’s current group of silly knuckleheads who favor party, bullshit, and every now and then, a break in their hard-knock personas for long enough to sing “Kumbayaa”. On their sophomore release, World , executive produced by their homeboy Slim Shady, they have made an art of mediocre rap over above average tracks. They’re not in the same league as the Wu-Tang Clan in the long run, because they just don’t have the same level of charisma individually: if anything, they are closer to Junior M.A.F.I.A. Just like the latter will forever be known for “Get Money” and for being supported by Biggie and Lil’ Kim, D12 will always be remembered for “Purple Hills” and on this album, the clever single, “My Band”.
On “My Band”, Shady and his boys have a lot of fun with the fact that he overshadows them among groupies, in particular, and the fact that they’re good sports about it only accentuates the off-key singing. There are potential hits in “Loyalty”, featuring Obie Trice, and “U R the One”—both forgettable songs lyrically with slick production.
But beyond those three songs, only the Eminem affiliation makes D12 from any other group. “Good Die Young”, a tribute to those lost to the traumas of inner city life, has good intentions but is too sluggish and formulaic to listen to more than once.
There’s a bit of crunk on “40 oz” (“I’m so crunk / I could hurl for a month” one of them raps: how’s that for poetry?) and an infectious party beat on “*****” (yes, that’s an album title of just asterisks) along with a good verse from Eminem, but what blends these songs together is that they all seem to have the same tempo; D12 members tend to rap in the same voice on each song, never switching up their flow for more than a few bars at time. One can only hope that D12 will either add four or five more of Eminem’s friends and start releasing double CDs or they’ll start their own clothing lines and stop rapping altogether.