July 6, 2008

D-12 - Devil's Night (June 19, 2001)


Most people (including myself) frequently refer to Detroit's own Dirty Dozen, otherwise known as the rap group D12, as Eminem's weed carriers. Sure, that may be an accurate description of the group today, as they only came into prominence (relatively speaking; nobody really cares about D12 that much except for some of the hip hop bloggers) after Marshall Mathers blew the fuck up. But classifying them simply as such would be doing a disservice to the origins of the crew.

And what exactly are the origins of D12? I don't know, and I don't much care. I'm not from Detroit, so I don't have all of the facts, but what I do know is that the Dirty Dozen (which is made up today of Bizarre, the late Proof, Kon Artis, Kuniva, Swifty McVay, and Eminem) did not count Marshall in as a full fledged member until after the passing of underground emcee Bugz freed up a slot. I have no idea if this partnership took place before or after both Eminem and Bizarre had hit the marketplace with solo albums (yes, Bizarre was a solo artist prior to D12: Attack Of The Weirdos, which is otherwise terrible, is notable for having "Trife Thieves" (an early collaboration with Eminem and previous D12 member Fuzz) and for having the late J Dilla behind the boards on one track), but I do know that Marshall played the loyalty card after his first two Aftermath/Interscope albums ended up in the bedroom of every single white suburban teenager in the United States.

However, the other five members of the group (there are only six members total, each with a second rap alias that would make the group total up to twelve "members", but I don't recall what the other aliases are, and it's not like they use them today anyway) didn't want to ride on Marshall's coattails, which makes sense: Eminem was actually famous at this point, which would make any criticism against their work harsher that normal. At the same time, Eminem provided some added clout to the project, a group debut album that would eventually be titled Devil's Night. With his name attached, it was essentially guaranteed a release date by Interscope Records, and Em even convinced his new mentor Dr. Dre to provide some beats for a crew that he probably wouldn't have paid any attention to otherwise. But the true reason why the rest of D12 wanted to distance themselves (to a point) from Marshall was because (a) he was generally seen as the leader of the crew, (b) he was generally seen as the best rapper in said crew, and (c) he was white. In a predominantly African-American musical culture, the fact that Eminem was both a different race and a good rapper (back then, anyway) caused the rest of the crew to be unfairly judged, when in reality the other five artists were bland but in no way deserving of the labels bestowed upon them.

Prior to the release of Devil's Night, D12 released some singles to the Interweb, in an attempt to prove their worthiness minus Em. Eminem, to his credit, even tried his best to showcase the rest of the crew and publicly proclaimed that he was just one out of six rappers, but Interscope, wanting to, I don't know, actually sell records, seemed to have forced Marshall onto almost every single song on Devil's Night in some capacity.

Devil's Night sold moderately well, primarily to white teenagers who thought they were buying the third Eminem album. To this day, D12 is still trying to shake being referred to as Eminem's group, even after the recent loss of a second group member.

I hear Royce Da 5'9" is available, guys.

1. ANOTHER PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Sounds exactly the same as the introductions on Eminem's last two albums, except even less tolerable this go round.

2. SHIT CAN HAPPEN
Swifty McVay uses both "hunky-dory" and "roni" in his verse, which immediately makes me think that he's the most impressive from the Dozen, save for the white guy.

3. PISTOL PISTOL
Contains two Eminem choruses that are performed at the same time. Seriously, we Americans are spoiled as shit: there are children starving in third world countries that would kill for just half a chorus, and Marshall has the audacity to waste two of them at once. This gross negligence disgusts me.

4. BIZARRE (SKIT)
...

5. NASTY MIND (FEAT TRUTH HURTS)
Truly an embarrassment for all parties involved, and I'm including not just producer Dr. Dre, but every single rapper's mother in that category.

6. AIN'T NUTTIN' BUT MUSIC
This song probably started life as a posse-cut remix to Em's "The Real Slim Shady", and it contains a lot of the same subject matter (i.e., attacks on easy targets). Not horrible for what it is.

7. AMERICAN PSHCYO
Could be considered a legitimate bid to resurrect the horrorcore genre, except for the fact that the best rapper in the crew can't sell the "psycho" image; he just comes off as a guy that is trying to garner attention by spitting the most ridiculous shit that comes to mind.

8. THAT'S HOW (SKIT)
...

9. THAT'S HOW...
For a D12 song that only features Marshall in a couple of ad-libs, this song isn't bad, even though it resorts to the "repetitive chant" concept that was popular in rap at the time (hell, it's still popular now, and it's no less frustrating). The beat marches its way into your mind, leaving behind a soundtrack for your mundane day-to-day activities, such as washing the dishes, hiring three escorts to blow you while they're wearing skimpy thongs and full-on clown makeup, and taking out the trash.

10. PURPLE PILLS
The infamous first single from the Devil's Night project. Interscope forced the group to change up the subject matter and the title before its release to radio, so they altered it to "Purple Hills", thereby rendering the entire song nonsensical. The beat, provided by Em, isn't bad, and most of the rappers come off decently (save for Bizarre, who couldn't stay on beat with a map and a flashlight), but this really isn't first single material.

11. FIGHT MUSIC
I want to say this was the second and final single released from Devil's Night, but I could be wrong. I like how Em mentions that this song is representative of the kind of song where you don't have to ask who produced it, you just know: when I first heard it, I didn't hear the Dr. Dre sound at all, but now it's all I hear. The title is just begging to be used for a Hollywood movie about two inner city youth choirs that do battle while trying to raise money to save their rec center, which is in danger of being replaced by a high-rise condominium building-slash-left sock factory.

12. INSTIGATOR
The chorus invites you to find out what happens if you fuck with them, but the song itself is about starting shit for no actual reason. Such mixed messages give Max a headache, and the overproduced instrumental isn't helping matters any.

13. PIMP LIKE ME (FEAT DINA RAE)
The song for the ladies. Specifically, the ladies that like it when rappers fuck them and flee, after referring to them as "bitches" and "hos" all evening to their faces, but their low self-esteem drives them to think that the rapper in question is still a good and respectful person. Pretty lame, when you look at it (both the song and the example provided). The group members seem to enjoy the "beating of women" part of being a pimp much more than the "making the money" aspect, which is troubling.

14. BLOW MY BUZZ
Meh.

15. OBIE TRICE (SKIT) (FEAT OBIE TRICE)
Not a bad move by Marshall to promote his newest signee by putting him on the highly-anticipated D12 project. Too bad Obie easily outshines every rapper on the album with his short verse, save for the white guy.

16. DEVIL'S NIGHT
Going back to the horrorcore angle: if the members of D12 would have just gone a little bit further with their lyrical content, they probably would have sold more than the Flatlinerz and resurrected the genre. Instead, they choose to focus on absolutely nothing, with Marshall being the only one that tries to stay on topic, albeit not that impressively.

17. STEVE BERMAN (SKIT)
...

18. REVELATION
This song is just bad. The chorus (why does Em feel the need to sing his own hooks?) completely destroys the vibe the group was going for (mildly socially conscious). And I figured that the track, with its guitars and chorus, was Em's attempt at making a Pink Floyd track: the outro only confirms my suspicions.

The following track was an unlisted bonus track:

19. GIRLS
Apparently controversial at the time, since Eminem, performing solo, proceeds to rip various members of Limp Bizkit to proverbial shreds, and Limp Bizkit was also signed to Interscope at the time. It's certainly not a good dis, and for someone who can spit some admittedly vile things, calling Fred Durst and DJ Lethal "girls" is pretty fucking tame. Two thinks stick out for me, though. For one, when Marshall runs down a list of friends that he would do anything for, Royce Da 5'9' is mentioned as an ally, and that just made me sad (although, yes, I understand they have since reunited, but this is 2001 we're talking about). Secondly, Eminem mentions repeatedly (in what passes for a chorus) that he's a man, he can stand on his own two feet, and he doesn't need anyone to share his beliefs or join his beefs. He then almost immediately joined Curtis Jackson's donnybrook with Ja Rule: the same Curtis Jackson that kicked The Game out of G-Unit because he didn't want to join the group's battle with Fat Joe, Jadakiss, and Nas. Is Eminem trying to tell us something? Obviously not, since this song was released long before Curtis's reign on the charts, but Em's stance is telling.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Devil's Night is a slick, overproduced album that wasn't radio friendly enough to appeal to the mainstream, and much too polished to appeal to anyone in the streets. None of the artists involved (except for the white guy and Bizarre) have distinctive enough voices to make them stand out in a crowd, which makes them interchangeable, which is a horrible thing for members of a rap group to be. The Devil's Night project was successful, but for all of the wrong reasons.

BUY OR BURN? I can't recommend that you buy this disc without losing sleep at night. if I were writing for Entertainment Weekly, I would give the album a C-. Since I'm much more entertaining than that, though, I think that you should burn this disc if you absolutely have to hear it, since your life won't progress any differently if you have this or not.

BEST TRACKS: "Obie Trice (Skit)"; "That's How"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Eminem - The Slim Shady LP
Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP

11 comments:

  1. IMO, Em's verse on Revelation is classic...

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  2. AnonymousJuly 06, 2008

    I was duped into buyin "D12 World" and nothin nobody say could make me buy anymore of their shit!

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  3. AnonymousJuly 06, 2008

    I actually liked "Blow My Buzz" (although the hook was a little over the top and they tried too hard with the funk/westcoast vibe).

    One thing you didn't mention in the entire review (or simply left out because you didn't find it funny), was the thick coat of humor they put on everything. Even the "horrorcore" songs had certain parts where things were funny.

    D12 was very tolerable because they didn't take themselves serious and fully embraced the fact that they were viewed as "niggas riding on Marshalls coat tails".

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  4. one of my doops bought this ish and tossed it...what can i say i'm a hoarder... i liked Purple Pills

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  5. Album is actually pretty good with some dope beats.

    Shit Can Happen, Pistol Pistol and That's How are all slammin' beats.

    Devil's Night, Purple Pills, Girls, and Pimp Like Me are also dope beats.

    What's the problem with Nasty Mind? It's SUPPOSED to be funny.

    Not every disc has to be socially conscious, or keep it real in the streets.

    That said, Revelation and Fight Music both suck.

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  6. D 12 is the absolute worst rap group of all-time. It's only between them and 2 Live Crew.

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  7. When I think of horrorcore, Ganksta NIP and the Geto Boys always comes to mind. If you don't know, you better ask somebody.

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  8. First review where a skit makes "BEST TRACKS?"

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  9. AnonymousJuly 09, 2008

    D12 is about as funny as open mic stand-up comedy at that dive bar that takes two buses to get to in your local city. Meaning not funny at all.

    Rape your grandmother! Aids! Transvestites! Farts!

    Ho, ho, ho! Can you stand the hilarity?

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  10. "None of the artists involved (except for the white guy and Bizarre) have distinctive enough voices to make them stand out in a crowd, which makes them interchangeable, which is a horrible thing for members of a rap group to be."

    Ok. Although I agree with you that Eminem and Bizarre are indeed distinctive enough voices (mainly because Eminem has skills, whereas Bizarre does not)in D12, I think that you are overlooking Proof. In my opinion, Proof was, second to Eminem, the best rapper in D12. Both his voice and his flow were distinctive, and honestly, he sounds better than Eminem on some tracks whether or on a D12 album ("Purple Pills") or an Eminem album ("When the Music Stops," "Rap Game"). Kuniva and Kon Artist, on the other hand, are just wack. They are interchangeable, and often times, it is difficult to distinguish the two.

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  11. terrible review in every way, shape and form.

    im not even a big eminem fan and this album is one of my favorites of all time. its just grimy, disgusting, evil, and occasionally hilarious. the candy-painted, drug-filled, devil-worshipping fantasy world D12 created in Devil's Night is simply incredible.

    The fact that you would not even mention Proof (RIP), is what makes your review truly a piece of garbage. proof easily outshines every emcee on DN, "white boy" included.

    this album was made for pissed-off teenagers with imagination. my favorite horrorcore record.

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