This Was A Thing: D12

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything in this space, but due to my inability to ever make it easy, I’ve decided to once again take on another multi-part challenge.

Fear not, faithful readers and friends. And yes, even you, cyber-bots that check in every so often with caring messages like this:

“I have checked your website and i have found some duplicate content, that’s why you don’t rank high in google, but there is a tool that. can help you to create 100% unique content, search for: Boorfe’s tips unlimited content.”

Seriously, JannetteSmall, thank you for shit like that. Keeps a man’s heart warm when he knows someone’s out there with an eye on the success and happiness of strangers.

But anyway, I say this to you now: what I’m embarking upon and, hopefully, what you’ll be reading along with me, isn’t a 250-entry journey. Far from it.

No, it’s actually without numerical designation. Just something I plan on doing semi-regularly until I run out of ideas or time (let’s be real, the latter won’t be the culprit… I haven’t run out of time in years.)

So, without further ado, here’s the first installment in a series designed to look back at things we once enjoyed or took for granted or both, at some point in the recent past, and confirm, once and for all, that they were in fact real.

We begin, with the Dirty Dozen from Detroit.

We all should’ve listened to Paul Rosenberg and Steve Berman.

They tried to warn us that this shit was insane and we didn’t listen.

D12, also known as the Dirty Dozen, was a rap group formed out of Detroit, Michigan in the late 1990s headlined by Eminem.

They released two studio albums (“Devil’s Night” and “D12 World”) and a handful of mixtapes over the course of their career as a group, a period that’s roughly from 1997 to 2015 (Trust me, I was as stunned as you probably are to discover they had released music post-2004. I incorrectly assumed that once I grew up, so did they.)

However, it’s probably fair to say that the bulk of their creative, financial and popular prime came during the releases of their two studio albums, respectively in 2001 and 2004.

Now, for some personal context.

I am–as of a few months ago–32 years old. Unlike most people, I keep a book of CDs in my car and every so often I’ll go through the booklet and pick something out (Side note: It’s insane to think, nowadays, that for the majority of recorded music’s history, if you wanted to listen to something, you basically could only pick between 1 and 18 songs at a time. Then, basically out of nowhere, it went from being that number to unlimited. Fucking crazy.)

For no reason at all, I picked out a green Memorex cd with a friend’s familiar scrawl of “D12 Devil’s Night” in permanent marker etched on the non-shiny side. What I heard and felt, almost immediately upon the first few songs was a rush of nostalgia, confusion and laughter. It was amazing to me that this shit ever existed, let alone hasn’t been brought up in recent times as an example of “What in the fucking hell was this? How did we let this be a thing?”

When their main records came out, I was in high school. Most high schoolers, in some way or another, experience angst and many vent that angst through clothing, music, makeup or becoming a really-bad in-line skater.

At the time, I really rocked with D12. I distinctly recall walking the halls of my high school, discman shoved precariously in my pocket and wrap-around headphones cutting off the outside world, listening to their music in the brief time I was allotted to do just that in between classes.

The stuff they were talking about was either completely unrelatable, hilarious or hideous (and sometimes all three at once.) There was no in between. Far as I know, there’s no full-D12 song (outside of “Girls”, and that’s really just an Eminem record on a D12 CD) that has any real point. It’s basically just, “Let’s say some of the wildest shit we can think of, put it on a record to some dope Dre/Em-styled beats and be out.”

Now, let me be perfectly clear: this post isn’t some sort of indictment on D12 or cry for help for how awful and demented their lyrics were. What they rapped about was, quite purposefully and plainly, horrific. It was also done intentionally. As they said on a track on the first album, “It ain’t nothin’ but music” and frankly, I get that.

What I don’t get are two things… how did this become so popular and, more importantly, how did my parents EVER let me listen to this stuff?

Bizarre, a heavy-set member of the group that went on to release not one, not two but three studio albums, was easily the most insane of the whole group (When learning of these albums, I thought of Saved by the Bell: The New Class which somehow had 7 seasons. I know the same number of people that have listened to Bizarre’s solo efforts as I do that have watched that show, yet that hasn’t stopped their success.)

When listening through songs from the albums to find his most egregious lyrics, it became clear to me that this was a fruitless effort. Among his favorite topics were rape, misogyny, abduction, masturbation and grandmothers–and not in that Chance The Rapper, Sunday Candy grandmother way. For whatever reason, he seemed to work in some version of a sexual act with grandmother in a number of songs.

If you can say nothing else about D12, it’s this: they’re consistent. From start to finish, it’s the same basic shit. And, to be clear, I ate it all up. And you know what? The first album still knocks. It’s absolutely, positively bonkers and not to be listened to by anyone that would ever take a millisecond of it seriously–but it’s still a good listen.

I can wrap my head around it being fun to listen to while being completely off-the-wall… what I can’t understand is how any parent at any point let their kids listen this.

This is how it had to have gone down, somewhere in America, between 2001 and 2004…

A family, at the dinner table…

Mom: Hey, Derek, what are you always listening to on that AIWA 3-disc changer?

Son: D12, mom. You wouldn’t know about them. 

Mom: What sort of things do they sing about?

Son: They’re a rap group, mom. They rap. They don’t song.

Mom: Fine, rap. You kids, today! She attempts a knowing wink at her husband who seems more concerned with how the Yankees are doing via the tube-TV in the other room. Well, what do they “rap” about?

Son: Oh, nothing really. He’s attempting to end things here, nervous as to where it could go.

Mom: They must talk about something.

Dad: Answer your mother. He’s still not really engaged, but replies this way in rote fashion.

Mom: Thanks, hun.

Son: You really want to know? Well, primarily it’s hate-filled, misogynistic, rape-culture music that is done under the guise of “We’re just fucking around.” That’s largely what they do. It’s pretty great.

Mom: That’s wonderful. Pass the string beans.

That has to be how it went down. There is no other conclusion to draw, because any serious inspection by adults into this music (if it was being listened to by their malleable and easily impressionable children) would lead to no less than riots. Well, maybe not riots but certainly not A SECOND CD AND A NUMBER OF SPIN-OFFS (to varying degrees of success, admittedly, but still.)

Again, I will state clearly: I am not writing this to retroactively condemn D12 or the music they made. I still listen to it. I still enjoy it.

I just can’t believe, especially now that we all find ourselves in various stages of being woke, how this was a thing.

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