The Dozen has returned! After a four-year D12 drought, Kuniva, Bizarre, Swift and Kon Artis are back with their new mixtape, Return of the Dozen.
This is the group’s first public release since the passing of fellow D12 member Proof back in 2006.
Throw in some court cases, a jail stint and the very public arrest of their manager, and you have yourself one pissed off rap group. Don’t expect to hear the upbeat, commercial likes of “My Band” or “Purple Pills.” Return of the Dozen brings a more aggressive, raw D12 style.
“There really hasn’t been nothing to laugh about the last four years,” says Swifty. “The silliness that people look at us for has kind of withered away because we haven’t really had a chance to bust out and laugh about anything.”
Return of the Dozen uncovers the shifting mind-set of the group.
“Going through the whole healing process and going through the pain and everything, everyone’s attitude is a lot different,” Kuniva says. “Especially with Proof, that was one of the biggest blows we ever took.”
Kon Artis says losing Proof is a demon the group is still trying to face down.
“It has affected the shit out of us,” he says. “Proof is the reason this group exists and a lot of times I’m just not in the mood to be a rapper.”
On the other hand, as Bizarre explains, often times pain gives birth to the best art.
“I think this is one of our great projects because we’ve been through a lot of tragedy in the last couple years,” Bizarre says, “We’ve got a lot to talk about.”
The mixtape, Kon Artis explains, is an effort to get the group back on their feet.
“We’re still trying to find out who we are again,” he says. “[The mixtape] is kind of like niggas getting up, brushing themselves off and going back in there and doing something.”
Lyrically, Return of the Dozen is reminiscent of the group’s days at Detroit’s Hip Hop Shop. The group has shed their radio-friendly facade to remind the world who they really are beneath the label bureaucracy and demands.
“We come from the roots of MCing and battling and trying to work our way to the top to be the best,” Swifty says. “We’re trying to let y’all know we are not forgetting where we came from. This is another dosage of what you never really got to hear from us, because if you didn’t come from the Hip Hop Shop and see us do our thing you wouldn’t really know.”
But without Proof, Swift explains, the group has struggled to regain full confidence in their music.
“When he passed, that void was missing so therefore whenever we do a song and we create, we always listen to the song and we felt like, ‘hey it sound good,’ but we could never get that 100 percent of confidence within us…” he says. “It took time for us to listen, listen, listen, listen, get together, listen, listen, until that spirit got embedded into us to have the confidence we needed to say, ‘yeah this is what’s up.’”
With Return of the Dozen as a stepping stone, D12 is confident their upcoming album will be even stronger. The group’s new album, still in the works, is scheduled for release the end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009—after Eminem’s solo album hits stores.
Work for his solo album, along with scheduling conflicts, are partially to blame for Eminem’s absence on the mixtape. The other group members hope this will give them an opportunity to step out of Eminem’s shadow and showcase their talents.
Eminem isn’t the only one working on a solo project, however. Kon Artis is finishing up his production album Who is John Doe; Kuniva is working on a solo mixtape, Retribution; Swifty’s Underestimated EP: Volume 1 is scheduled to drop by the first week in June, with the second edition to follow this summer; and Bizarre recently released his solo mixtape Hate Music.
These four also have a tour in the works for this summer to promote Return of the Dozen. There are 11 stops scheduled so far, but they plan to add a few more—possibly even some outside of the U.S.
“We might hit up Canada, we might hit up overseas,” Kuniva says. “We’ll definitely be there once the album drops, and we may be there for the mixtape, you never know.”
One thing the group does know: they aren’t going to let hard times slow them down.
“We’re going to keep going,” Swifty says. “This is not the last album. It’s D12 for life.”