Eminem’s membership is both a blessing and a curse for D12, the group he helped form in Detroit before he hit it big. Without him, the posse would likely be underheard and forgotten, but with him, the other members find their egos bruised by fans and critics interested only in hearing and seeing Marshall Mathers. Cuts like the hit “My Band” (from the current Shady Records release “D12 World”) feature Eminem so prominently they sound like his own songs, with D12 acting as special guest. So when he doesn’t perform at a show — well, despite the bare-minimum effort to placate the unruly audience, it still ends up a disappointment for most.
D12 suffer the same issues faced by every leaderless posse since Wu Tang Clan. With no one to guide them, more often than not all five members rap simultaneously, drowning each other out in a shattering sea of misguided hip-hop anger. Though Eminem’s not there, his vocals are still in the mix, but invariably someone is rapping over them, in an almost jealous, jaded attempt to take away any of his pull and credibility. But the group also expects their audience to know his vocals; they’re obviously disappointed when the crowd doesn’t sing to his parts.
Attempts at showmanship, like bringing out a “little person” dancer, or introducing crooner Nate Dogg (who stood sidestage instead of actually performing) were misguided at best. With the group all together, and one of hip-hop’s biggest stars onstage instead of on record, D12 could have been electric (or at the very least, exciting). Instead, as the sold-out crowd thinned to half-capacity long before the encore, it just seemed like a run-through of overwrought cliche.