ARTS

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May 15, 2004

Eminem's band could use a little more Eminem, a little better math

Eminem is wrong to sing, "These chicks don't even know the name of my band." Guy or girl, everybody knows the name of Eminem's band. It's just that nobody cares. Many talented rappers have scooped up their old crews after finding success, and the result is always the same: a mediocre album with too little of the star and too much of the other guys. D12 could have easily avoided this problem with D12 World, but instead, they embrace it.

D12 is an abbreviation for Dirty Dozen, and the group has six members: Eminem, Kon Artis, Kuniva, Proof, Swifty and Bizarre. According to interviews, they call themselves the Dirty Dozen because each member has a split personality. Since, after two albums, this concept has yet to come through in their music, I'm going to assume the real reason is, "Yo, D12 sounds cool!" In fact, every non-Eminem member barely has one personality, let alone two. When they're not mimicking Eminem's style completely ("My Band," "Git Up"), they're wasting their time with ridiculously clichéd subject matter ("U R The One," "Pour Your 40 Out"). All their chances to step out from Eminem's shadow are thereby ruined.

This is particularly unfortunate, because there are a few members in the group who have potential. Proof has delivered some great freestyles with Eminem in the past, and Kon Artis has an interesting flow—it feels like he's always wrapping himself around the beat. However, talent is apparently not something D12 rewards. The least talented member, Bizarre, receives a big push, appearing on almost every song on the album. Bizarre has the most distinctive voice in D12, but he doesn't rap. He mumbles lethargically, reciting vulgarities like a fourth-grader desperate for attention on the playground. I'm not offended by the obscenity—but rather, by the fact that D12 thinks, out of all their members, Bizarre is the one people really want to hear.

Meanwhile, the most talented member of D12, Eminem, has the least amount of time on the microphone, and his performances are wildly uneven. He steals the show on the playful lead single, "My Band," providing a self-mocking first verse, whiny chorus and impromptu salsa chant. This doesn't work well as music, but it works very well as humor. He also performs well on "Bitch," delivering a silly verse that degenerates into gibberish, then quickly reassembles itself. He also shines on the aggressive "6 In The Morning," rapping, "I'm the beautiful-est thing/And you're gonna miss me/When I'm gone like Keith Murray/When he threw his stool and hit a girl accidentally!"

However, Eminem's performance on virtually every other song is either disappointing or downright embarrassing. On "American Psycho 2" and "Get My Gun," his verses are criminally short and cut off before Eminem has a chance to really go anywhere. Meanwhile, on "Git Up," he delivers an 80-second ode to guns, sporting an impressive sing-song flow but saying absolutely nothing. Eminem's strengths lie in humor, self-parody and sharp punch lines—nobody cares how he rolls in the club. Yet he reminds us once more of this on "Pour Your 40 Out," a sickening attempt to capitalize on Lil Jon's and the Eastside Boyz' popularity. Eminem strays further and further from his usual self on D12 World, especially on hooks. His annoying Southern accent on "Leave Dat Boy Alone" resembles humor but directly clashes with the serious tone of D12's verses. Even worse, on "Git Up," he barks, "Let's get this motherfucker crack-a-lating!" White people should never say that unless they're joking.

One of the most frustrating things about the album is the production. Dr. Dre supplies an eerie, James Bond-ish beat but nothing else for the excellent "American Psycho 2." Kanye West, the hottest producer out right now, supplies a beat for the titular track, but it's forgettable, lacking all of his characteristic energy and soul. Hi-Tek supplies an outstanding beat for "Just Like You," full of hypnotic, sprinkling pianos, but it's wasted as a solo track for Bizarre. Worst of all, though, Eminem handles the rest of the production. His predictable, plodding bass lines and gothic synths combine to form, as always, interchangeable mediocrity. If Dr. Dre's beats "should be played loudly in all residential areas," Eminem's beats should be played softly—very, very softly.

In the end, there are only two songs on D12 World that stand out, showing actual growth for the band as a group. "The Good Die Young" is a moving tribute to a fallen D12 member, Bugz, by every member sans Eminem. The gloomy "How Come" is a bitter look at relationships between two people that grow apart, and Eminem provides a catchy chorus, singing "And I heard it through the grapevine we've been beefing now/After all the years we've been down/Ain't no way, no how/This bullshit can't be true/We family, ain't a damn thing changed/Unless it's you." These songs stand out because D12 is rapping about something with substance, and each member has a chance to offer his unique perspective. Their album is currently selling so well that they don't have to make any more songs like this—but if they did, we might actually have a reason to learn their name, not have it shoved down our throats.