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 Parading around the white elephant ...



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 Em comes back for his boys, then tragedy strikes ...



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 D12 are the earth ...





 D12 Visit Las Vegas



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D12 are now acknowledging their fallen comrade as part of their history, memorializing him in two songs on D12 World. The first, "Bugz 97," is a freestyle Bugz recorded with the group before he was killed. And the second is a song called "Good Die Young" recorded in his memory. "It's one of my favorites on the album," Kuniva says. "But I can't ... I don't want to listen to it because it puts me in a sad mood. It just puts you in one of those moods where you start thinking, man, a lot of people have passed."

Bugz's death and its aftermath underscore just how tight the bond between Eminem and the other members of D12 is, how Shady's affiliation with the group is not merely one of appearances or vanity. There was a great deal of struggle in Eminem's rap career, largely because it wasn't easy to get the validation he needed as a white MC in a primarily black art form. His partners in D12 were his support system, and there is an intense loyalty among the six from having come up together.

 

 
"My Band"

"40 0z." live
Which is why some of the members roll their eyes when confronted with the idea that D12 are Eminem's backing band.

Proof explains: "Saying, like, Eminem was our leader and we were all under him and he taught us everything ... we all taught each other. We had this bond. It was like the media twisted it on us like we're just Eminem's people that he grabbed from the 'hood, more so than our being a collective already."

"We are in a group with a superstar. Not just a regular rap guy. We're in a group with a super-world-galaxy-superstar," Bizarre says.

"[But] see, it don't bother us like that," Kuniva jumps in. "Because we all came from the same place. We all struggled together, so we happy. I'm glad that I can still go to the grocery store whenever I want to go. Sometimes Em wants to go places we go and he can't."

There are times when Eminem seems to be one costume change away from being the "Weird Al" Yankovic of hip-hop, what with his humiliating send-ups of the likes of Moby, 'NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and others through clever rhymes. Other times, he's the dark, brooding kid from the wrong side of the tracks cleaning out his closet. Either way, he's the isolated rap megastar. D12, on the other hand, are his earth. Eminem has rediscovered a purity in working with D12, even through jocular singles like "My Band" and "Purple Pills," as the group connects him to the rap-battle days of his youth. Like the rhyme ciphers that would blossom in the parking lot outside the Hip-Hop Shop long after the open-mic sessions had closed. Or the smoke-filled, basement recording sessions that would spawn freestyle demo tapes. His work with D12, born out of their mutual desire to make it out of Detroit, is one of the rare instances we see Eminem actually transcend his own narcissism. It also peels back his own raw passion for hip-hop.

"One night, I remember, we had just left Alvin's," Eminem says. "It was probably like a year before I got signed with Dre. Swift pulled up in the car and he was like, 'Don't you feel like even if we never got deals that we could just rap forever?' And I was like, 'Yeah, I do.' We knew we had to make it, but if we didn't, we knew we'd still be rapping. It was in our blood."  


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Photo: Interscope

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  "My Band"
D12 World
(Shady/Interscope)


  "40 oz." live from Las Vegas
D12 World
(Shady/Interscope)


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