D12 with Slum village and Ric-A-Che at the Docks (11 Polson), Wednesday (July 28), 7:30 doors, all ages. $34.95. 416-469-5655, 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Many think of D12 as a fat guy, some other dudes and Eminem, although more likely in the reverse order. Others don't even like rap, and don't think of them at all. Then there are those on the Internet who think the worst of D12, ignorant of the fact that the group has existed since 1990, when Proof and Bizarre pooled their talents. The latter is the aforementioned portly fellow, and the former is a well-known king of Detroit and the basis for Mekhi Phifer's character in 8 Mile.
Kuniva, Kon Artis, Eminem and Bugz joined later. After Bugz's death, the addition of Swift rounded out the lineup that went on to produce D12's debut, Devil's Night.
When I get group member Kuniva on the phone to talk about their genesis, the Hip Hop Shop - the breeding ground of D12 and their touring compadres, Slum Village - comes up, which usually happens when speaking to a Detroit MC. Considering Proof's high-profile position at the vaunted venue, Kuniva had a lot to say about what it was like then.
"That's where we all connected. It was real competitive. There were sharks in the water all over the Hip Hop Shop. Ninety-nine per cent of the battles that happened there weren't set up - they were spontaneous. They'd say they wanted you, and it wouldn't matter if your shit wasn't ready.
"At the same time, it was peaceful. There were little shoving matches now and then, but we'd break it up. There wasn't a whole lot of violence going on. I miss it a lot. There weren't any contracts back then. It was just about straight hunger, and serving the next MC."
He sees success as a double-edged sword, and Eminem as a prime example of the two-way swing.
"No one saw it coming. He got so huge, and had to isolate himself from a lot of people because they wanted to grab a piece of him. It's the price you pay - there's always something you gotta give up in order to make it work. It's sad."
He also says the My Band jokey stratagem of highlighting the other band members has begun to work, resulting in higher profiles individually.
"We're starting to get recognized now, too. I'm not able to go anywhere without signing a bunch of autographs. Just don't ask for autographs when I'm in the fuckin' emergency room." He pauses for a second.
"You should know that I'm a madman, and I'm sick. I'll kill anybody. Nah, I'm just joking. I'm me, I'm just cool. We're all down-to-earth people who love hiphop."
The sole solo songs on sophomore album D12 World (Shady Records) are by the deceased Bugz, and Bizarre, whose entry Just Like U offers advice to his son that makes Courtney Love look like an model mother. Bizarre's gems of paternal insight include suggestions like "Smoke crack" and "Smack your sister - she's a slut."
So, has the big guy in the shower cap ever gone too far, even for D12's lax standards of taste?
"One time he made a song for Devil's Night, and I told him I couldn't be on it, that it had to be a Bizarre solo. It was about a gay teenage runaway, and he was talking all this crazy shit. But it was a deep song, not a funny song. It was him putting himself in the minds of different kinds of kids."
As for Internet shit talk, he's got it all figured out.
"We're gonna do a Jay And Silent Bob, just knocking on everybody who's talked shit's door and slapping them. It'll have to be a tour."