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.

#69 – Hearing An Old Song You Used To Love For The First Time In A While

A good lot of you may not remember this song. In fact, most of you won’t. Jagged Edge and Nas hooked up for the remix of “I Got It” in 2001 (the original had Trina on it and was, some how, more forgettable than the remix which no one remembers).

About a month or so ago, I found my old iPod and started listening through the old girl to see if there were any hidden gems. This one, by far, came in first place.

I hadn’t heard this song in years, possibly between 5 and 10. Maybe more.

But instantly, it brought me right back to how much I’d loved it when I’d first heard it as a young high school student. I remembered the beat, the music video, the Nas verse that inexplicably uses every astrological sign. It all came back to me.

It must have played on my iTunes one out of every four songs I chose for about a week plus. It was bliss.

From totally forgotten to first in the queue, in a matter of moments.

Polar Opposite of this Feeling?: Where I’m at now with that song, after having listened to it so many fucking times.

#92 – Being the First Person to Tell Someone Big News

jacksommichaelnewbiopicIn today’s day and age, it’s hard to really break news to someone. Everyone’s plugged in, everyone has Twitter or Facebook or Instachat or Snapgram or MyBook or FaceSpace.

So the idea of “breaking news” as we knew it growing up isn’t quite the same.

That said, in most instances, there still is the person who told you about something first.

The reason you’re looking at Mike on this page is because one of my most prominent memories of someone telling me something first happened when he passed away on June 25, 2009.

A girl I had dated casually for a bit but hadn’t spoken to in months randomly texted me to let me know what had happened. Initially, I assumed it was a group text or it was sent to me accidentally. After further and specific probing years later, I discovered that in fact it was only sent to me and it was done intentionally.

From that moment forward, Michael Jackson’s death and this girl were to be intertwined in my mind.

What was so special about that bit of news breaking, aside from the randomness of the source, was that she was so early to the news in my world, I was able to tell other people about it that hadn’t yet found out.

Now, I’m not sure if this feeling was better back then because you had to be “on the inside” to know something or better now because it’s so rare to really break something to someone, but either way, it’s a hell of a feeling.

For a brief bit, you’re an authority. The news runs through you. And, if you’re lucky, you get tied to that memory for good.

Polar Opposite of this Feeling? Thinking you are the first to tell someone something and finding out that not only is that not the case, but you’re way, way late and a ton of other shit has happened in the interim.

#52 – Finding Out Your Favorite Group Is Getting Back Together

fugees2When you’re a kid, before life really hits you in the nuts, there’s a bunch of things that can disappoint you in the small world you’ve created for yourself.

I felt, among other things, disappointment when I realized Biggie wasn’t going to be releasing any more new music.

Each year, when the Spurs or the Yankees or Bucs (everyone’s three favorite teams) would inevitably lose and see their seasons end, I’d feel disappointment.

Those were all upsetting, to varying degrees. But for me, neither compared to when The Fugees broke up.

Biggie and Tupac dying was sad, but I understood death. I mean, as a 9-10 year old I didn’t have a true grasp of what it really meant, but I got it enough to understand the finality of it.

With the sports teams, while each season’s end without a championship was crushing in its own way, you always knew they’d come back and try again next year. There wasn’t going to be a next season without the Yankees or Spurs. Bucs, maybe.

But when The Fugees broke up and stopped making music, not because someone had died or because of some other permanent reason, it really fucked me up. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept. If they’re all still alive, why aren’t they making music? The last album was so, so, so great. How could that be it? That can’t just be it. Can it? Fuck.

About 10 years ago, Pras said the following, making it pretty clear where things stood: “Before I work with Lauryn Hill again, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden and [George W.] Bush in Starbucks having a latte, discussing foreign policies, before there will be a Fugees reunion.”

So, I know now not to take any of the multitude of rumors of a return seriously… however, like anything we wish to be true despite the long odds, it’s really hard not to imagine. And in that vein, we have this feeling.

The idea of them reuniting for a new album, to put music out once and for all after this time, would be so damn fun. The music itself might be garbage but, fuck, if it wouldn’t be fun to hear an album filled with Lauryn Hill verses and Wyclef tracks again.

Just like anything else, the fact that it’s been denied of us for so long is what makes it so sweet.

Polar Opposite of this Feeling?: Knowing this will never happen. The Fugees aren’t fucking getting back together, Scott.

#36 – Two of Your Favorite Artists Collaborating

When I was a kid, I never put much thought into who appeared on what album. It seemed to be fairly formulaic… Biggie did songs with Puff Daddy and other Bad Boy artists because they were on the same label. Every so often a rapper would get some female artist I hadn’t heard of to sing a hook or something. Even more frequently, a singer will get a rap artists to lay down a verse for them on a song. 

I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about a real collaboration. Here’s an example outside the rap world:

This  features probably my favorite modern author (Jonathan Tropper) and definitely my favorite screenwriter/actor (Ed Burns). I should clarify, I’ve read all of Tropper’s books and seen nearly all of Burns’ movies (I think I’ve missed one), but I’ve been a fan of Burnsie longer. So when, in a bit of twitter stalking a while back, I stumbled upon the news that Burns and Tropper actually worked together to make one of the latter’s books (The Book of Joe, my second favorite of his) into a movie, you could imagine my excitement.

Part of the fun of being alive is enjoying the work of people who are better than you are at the things you love. When those people happen to work together and create, that’s a great thing.

The best analogy I can make is this: I don’t know about you, but there’s a part of me that’s happy when two attractive people are together and have kids. I realize, there’s a chance those kids aren’t as talented and good looking as they are… but they’re certainly stacking the deck in their favor and that’s better than I can say.

Polar Opposite of this Feeling? When people talk about collaborating and never ever do (ahem, every rap super group ever discussed). Or talk about getting back together (ahem, Fugees) and never do. Or when they do get together and make Harlem Nights (ahem, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy).