DETROIT (AP) -- In D12's world, Eminem's just one of the guys in the group.
Most groups, however, don't include a Grammy- and Oscar-winning member who has sold more than 30 million records.
The six-member Detroit-based hip-hop group rode their most famous member to a successful debut album, 2001's "Devil's Night," which sold 4 million copies.
Now D12 is back with a follow-up, "D12 World," which was released on Tuesday.
The lead single, "My Band," spoofs how much attention Eminem receives at the expense of the other five.
"We just wanted to poke fun at ourselves and at the media about how they portray us and how they see us," Kuniva said. "They see us as a band or a bunch of background singers, and Eminem's the lead singer. ... We just got into the mind of a band who's jealous of a lead singer, and it was just funny. We had fun doing it."
"My Band" has received substantial play on both rap and top 40 stations alike and is in rotation on MTV. It features a catchy chorus and a number of humorous lines, including several by Bizarre, who others in the group say might be D12's funniest lyricist.
""Lose Yourself' video -- I was in the back/"Superman' video -- I was in the back" he raps. "For the media, I got some suggestions/(Forget) Marshall, ask us the questions/Like who are D12, how we get started/But what about Eminem?/Are you retarded?"
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Charles Aaron, music editor at Spin magazine, said even the presence of Eminem will not be enough for D12 to match the sales of the first disc.
"There's no way it can do as well as the first one, because people aren't as fascinated with Eminem right now as they have been," he said. "If everybody's fascinated with Eminem, then they'll buy a D12 record just to hear what else he might say. If Eminem wasn't on the record, there would be a very, very limited audience for it. It's hard to say if they would even be on a major label or not."
Kuniva said the group is pleased with the album, regardless of how it sells.
"This album is so good. I'm not stroking my own ego or my own group's ego, but we put a lot of hard work into this album," he said. "I like it a little bit more than I like the last one."
D12 has been around since the mid-1990s, when the members met at Detroit's Hip-Hop Shop, a clothing store by day/hip-hop club by night.
Owner Maurice Malone moved the racks of clothing out of the way to form enough space for area MC's to rap-battle after the sun went down.
The six future D12 members -- Eminem, Kuniva, Kon Artis, Bizarre, Bugz and Proof -- started hanging out and doing songs together. Proof came up with the idea of forming an "untouchable crew" that would rap-battle, like in "8 Mile."
"We picked the best guys from different crews and recruited them and made them into one big supergroup," Kuniva said.
They named themselves the Dirty Dozen, fashioning themselves lyrical gunslingers with aliases, taking a page from the outlaws of the Old West like Billy the Kid.
The six members of the group each had two names, for 12 altogether. Thus, Dirty Dozen and later D12.
Members of D12 say the latest disc represents a leap forward in terms of the group's maturity and growth as rappers.
Recorded over five months at 54 Sound in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, "D12 World" is a departure from the previous effort, which was marked by its gross-out, over-the-top lyrical content. This time around, D12 offers both lighthearted tunes as well as more serious fare, including "Good Die Young," a tribute to Bugz, an original member of the group who was gunned down in Detroit in 1999. Swifty took Bugz's place in the group.
"I think it's just growth, a different D12, a grown-up D12," said Kon Artis, who also put on his producer's hat on several songs. "The music is totally different."
Other producers on the album include Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Trackboyz. Eminem, whose label Shady Records is helping to distribute the CD, also is the executive producer.
"On this one, you'll hear a lot more group members taking control of songs, doing hooks and being more involved in production," Kuniva said. "You get more of D12 than just Eminem. On the last album, you hear a lot of Eminem doing the hooks, and he really was involved with the last project. And he was really involved with this one, too, but he let us have more creative control because we've really grown up a lot."
Source: Detroit Free Press