Whatever side of the Eminem debate you may fall on, the debut album from his hip-hop collective D12 isn’t likely to change your mind. As the opening skit, “Another Public Service Message” says, “if you get offended by words like bitch, ho, sissy, faggot, homo, lesbian, fudgepacker, clit-eater, all that shit like that, then you should turn this shit off right now, ’cause that’s just some of the shit, naw, that’s the only shit you’re gonna hear right here on this album.” To no real surprise, the record goes out of its way to shock and offend as many people as possible. It’s also funny as hell in a lot of places, and if you didn’t get the jokes on Eminem’s albums, you probably should give this one a wide berth, too, ’cause you’re not gonna get this one, either. But listeners with the intelligence to understand that those songs are a big joke and that D12 are rapping as characters will find plenty to enjoy here. Like the real Slim Shady himself, the D12 posse (Proof, Kon Artis, Bizarre, Swift, and Kuniva) are all skilled MCs and have the verbal dexterity to keep up with the grooves laid down by the likes of Dr. Dre, DJ Head, Kon Artis, and Eminem. While some of said grooves do seem a bit• shall we say, “recycled” (if “Ain’t Nuttin’ But Music” isn’t based on the same tracks as “The Real Slim Shady,” I’ll eat my hat — and that’s just the most blatant example), the lyrics more than make up for any deficiency in that department. “Ain’t Nuttin'” verbally skewers everyone from old targets like Britney and Christina to the richly deserving Destiny’s Child and Whitney Houston, and the borderline pornographic “Nasty Mind” is good, dirty fun. And when the tracks are fresher, the results are even better — check out the chilling “Pistol Pistol” or the Addams Family-style spookiness of “Shit Can Happen,” for just two examples. Nope, D12 isn’t going to win Eminem any new converts, but his legions of fans will relish every moment of Devil’s Night. And as for the rest, fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.
Shady Records/Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404; http://www.d12online.com