D12 - D12 World
You want to know when he appears? His is the first voice you'll hear on the disc, his picture is the second within the CD booklet and, what I guess is a nod to the owner of the record label, producer of most of the tracks on the album and the foot by which D12 got through the door, Shady clothing is modelled by Proof, Kon Artis and the rest of the band.
But, yeah, they're proof that when successful hip-hop stars call in their mates from back home for an album, it doesn't have to be seen as no more than a vanity project. Where 50 Cent labours with raps on his solo albums, tossing the least appealing scraps from his table to G-Unit, despite it never offering much else, D12 is closer to the myriad groups spun out of the The Wu-Mansion when The RZA was at the top of his game, struggling to hold in all the music he was writing and letting it go between The Wu-Tang Clan, Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, The GZA, Gravediggaz and his solo/Bobbby Digital albums.
Despite Eminem being no RZA, least not as daring in his writing of music nor his choosing of chunky, electronic pop over The RZA's sparse funk, D12 World captures what's been recorded by Eminem since the release of The Eminem Show and points towards the sound of where Eminem will go next, moving away from the stripped beats of his Dre-produced earlier material through to the clipped beats of this and its lead single My Band.
That single, despite its high placing in the chart, is close to being the worst track on the album - as ever on a hip-hop album, there's a slew of dreary skits and pointless jams to step through on the way to the likes of How Come, 40oz. and Good Die Young - but in the moments when D12 World gets away from the association with Eminem and is no longer overshadowed by his presence, then it suggests the band has a life when Eminem's too busy to stop by the studio. Free of a main production credit from Eminem, the album's two best songs are Just Like U and American Psycho II, with the former pulling in a D12 twist on a school choir as Proof advises his son, "You don't wanna be just like your daddy, pimpin' ho's...son, your daddy got a foul mouth" whilst Dr Dre, on his only credit on the album, calls in B-Real from Cypress Hill to colour the D12 sound. With Dre opening up the sound of the album with rich strings, edgy guitar and the closest D12 World gets to having a band, if this points to the direction that Dre's set on taking for his follow-up to The Chronic and 2001, the closing part of that trilogy will be as great an album as those earlier two releases.
The problem with hearing American Psycho II is that, compared to it, much of the rest of the album, whilst good, falls short of great. As good as many of the tracks are, there's a gulf between the productions of Eminem, Mr Porter (Kon Artis) and Trackboyz and those of Dr Dre in as much as Bizarre stumbles over his raps whilst Eminem and Proof fly. Unfortunately, with Dre only credited on one song and without anyone of his abilities making up the rest of the twenty-one songs, this is a good, sometimes great, hip-hop album but short of the classics of the genre.
Note that his PR company have made available a microsite for the release of this album, which can be viewed here...