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By Biba Adams
The film, The Dirty Dozen, released in 1967, is about 12 convicts who are asked to team up to complete a secret mission during World War II. Men from different walks of life, they coalesce and achieve their goal, no matter the cost. Not all of them make it out alive, in fact, most of them are killed, but the mission was accomplished.
This was the premise that Big Proof had in mind when he walked through the now legendary, Detroit Hip Hop Shop and whispered in the ears of the hottest MCs. He was going to form a rap crew of the best that the city had to offer and present it to the world; that was the mission. However, it soon proved difficult to get and keep 12 men together as a group.
Time and circumstance would eventually turn The Dirty Dozen into the D12 that we know today, six men each with two personalities: Proof/Derty Harry, Eminem/Slim Shady, Bizarre/Peter S. Bizarre, Kon Artis/ Mr. Porter, Kuniva/Rondell Beene, Swift/ Swifty McVay.
With time, Shady Records grew into a brand. Eminem was its founder and flagship artist, D12 was holding its own with successful albums and touring, despite their reputations as the labels resident Bad Boys. â€œD12 was like a testing ground for Shady Records,â€ says Kuniva. â€œThey would bring an artist around us first to see how we got along, if they could hang with us, they would sign them.â€ Eventually Obie Trice would be introduced to the world with good results but not before the signing of 50 Cent to Shady/Aftermath would create a legend.
Through all the ups and downs, D-Twizzie would remain solid and successful until the early morning hours of April 11, 2006 when their group would fracture and their lives would change, forever. DeShaun Dewitt Holton, best known as Proof, died after an altercation with Keith Bender, a fellow Detroiter and an Army veteran who was celebrating his recovery from a heart problem. While the circumstances of the night remain unclear, the result was devastating. When the smoke cleared, Proof lay on the floor of CCC Nightclub, dead; and Keith Bender, who would die a week later from his injuries, had been shot in the face.
In the last two years, little has been heard from D12 or Eminem, who lost his best friend and hype man. They have done very few interviews, however, rumors abound about Em’s weight, his health, and his relationship with the crew that once joked that they were not his â€œband.â€ But, finally, The Dirty Dozen are ready to return to the world of Hip-Hop with new music, a new tour, and a new lease on life.
The Return of the Dozen features appearances by stellar Detroit MCs. Hosted by outstanding up comer DJ Young Mase, the mixtape also shows the growth of D12 as a group with the track, â€œPlead for Your Lifeâ€ which features former friend, turned enemy, turned friend, again; Royce Da 5’9â€. The project does have verses from Proof and Eminem, contrary to some reports. AllHipHop.com sat down with Kuniva, Swift, and Bizarre to discuss The Return of the Dozen mixtape and the future of D12.
AllHipHop.com: So, what’s up, guys?
Bizarre: Chilling. Finishing up the mixtape, staying focused. Getting ready to get back on the road.
AllHipHop.com: Are you going to be touring?
Swift: Yeah. We are going on the road to promote the mixtape, we leave at the end of May. We’re ready to get our names back out there, get back to work. Releasing that energy, being in front of our fans again, we need that. To pick ourselves back up and get back out there. This is like the stretch before the big workout.
AllHipHop.com: And what’s â€˜the big workout’, your studio album?
Kuniva: Everybody knows that a D12 album follows an Eminem album. That’s the way it is. But, we felt that we needed to do something to get our names back out there. To reconnect with our fans, so we are releasing this mixtape.
Swift: It also gives us a chance to show our work ethic and that we can create opportunities for ourselves.
AllHipHop.com: With the changes in the industry are you a little nervous about getting back out there?
Swift: I wouldn’t say nervous, the style that we have is second nature. We never get deterred by what somebody else is doing.
Bizarre: We aren’t conforming to anything, our style is so us. We gotta pay attention to what people like but D12 is just a different type of grain.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think you guys are overly criticized for the style of rap that you have?
Kuniva: I mean, we aren’t the most hated on, but we hear it. Our mindset right now is to show and prove, a lot of people discount us because we are sometimes overshadowed by Em. We are always overshadowed by Em. S**t, it’s hard to keep up with Em on a track. Who hasn’t Em sh***ed on, on a record?
AllHipHop.com: Do you think you get a lot of criticism even from Detroit?
Bizarre: What I really hate is when somebody asks a Detroit rapper about D12 or Eminem, they act like what we do ain’t really Detroit; when we put this [city] on our backs. We have sacrificed a lot to represent Detroit and we deserve that respect.
Kuniva: We are all from Detroit. We are all from the same streets. We don’t rap about just guns and drugs. We rap about it, but we put it in a different light. I’m not gonna say, I sold this and I snorted that, because I didn’t. But, we are all still from Detroit. We all still been through the same drama, the same bulls**t.
AllHipHop.com: How has it been recovering for you guys since Proof was killed?
Swift: There is definitely a void there. We can be just chilling, playing with our kids, or hanging out kicking it with each other, and it will just hit us, that void, and it hurts. It might hurt for five minutes, it might last for a few hours or for a day, but we have to get back up and keep going.
Kuniva: It doesn’t hurt as bad as it did the first year, but it still hurts, you just have to recover from it, but we are still scarred. Everybody loses somebody close to them, but he was so many things to us; a leader, a brother. So, it’s hard just doing this rap thing when the main reason for us to do it was for us to do it all together.
Bizarre: I am just glad that he left us with some many memories. He basically fulfilled all of his dreams and he left a lot of good memories, and a legacy.
AllHipHop.com: How is Eminem?
Kuniva: He’s good, you know? Better. He’s recovering. It’s hard everyday and he was really sick when he got pneumonia, so you know, it was like a string of bad luck. But he is doing a lot better. I see him every other day. He’s working on his album. He’s right across the street, working. I know that sounds like a political answer, but he is. He’s not over there looking like Chris Farley. He is doing good and he is across the street working on his album. I could be more specific and say he’s scratching his balls, but I don’t know all that.
AllHipHop.com: [laughs] Anything else people should know about the Dozen?
Kuniva: No matter what we are always going to be The Dirty Dozen. I read a lot of real heartless s**t, on blogs and message boards, like, â€œIt’s 2 of them n***as dead, they should be D8.â€ Real cold s**t. But, even if it’s just one of us left…that n***a will still be D12.