Eminem: He’s With the Band
Eminem steps from his suite in the posh Dorchester hotel in London wearing an oversize white parka with a huge fur-lined hood that seems to swallow him when he flips it over his head. This makes him all but invisible. As he moves briskly through the hallway with his confident strut, he’s cocooned by four bodyguards, three record-company people and one manager. “We’re walking,” a bodyguard says to his walkie-talkie. If you’d been in the hallway as they flowed from room to ? elevator, you wouldn’t have been able to get within six feet of him. But as he walks by, he looks up, and behind his thin glasses his blue eyes are rather sullen, as if he were some sort of prisoner being escorted. They reach the elevator, and the group piles in. “We’re in the elevator,” the bodyguard says to the walkie. And the door closes. Everyone in the cocoon knows that outside the Dorchester there are at least twenty fans waiting for Eminem, mostly teenage and twenty-something girls. One who waits for him for hours has a silver backward E pendant and wears Nike wristbands over her hands, just the way he does. Also nearby are four girls in a Peugeot, waiting to chase, but they won’t get far. Eminem’s caravan consists of three silver Mercedes vans and one silver Mercedes sedan, which, when needed, blocks traffic to keep away chasers or prevents the vans from getting separated, like a guard dog aiding a pack of elephants.
Eminem is in town to promote D12’s new album, D12 World, the follow-up to 2001’s Devil’s Night and another collection of gruesome rhymes calculated to offend and amuse. The night before, D12 played a concert at tiny Shepherds Bush Empire. Now the group is headed to Top of the Pops — basically the British TRL — to perform D12 World‘s first single, the hilarious, catchy and highly ironic “My Band,” which pokes fun at the stratification in the group brought on by Eminem’s fame. “My Band” is a parody, but as with any good joke, there are truths within it. For example, at the concert, an unscientific poll of people in the VIP room found most couldn’t name any of the members of D12. A few recognized Bizarre, who stands out because of his twisted imagination, and Proof, well known to be Eminem’s best friend. But two people asked me if I was a member of D12.
Eminem and his cocoon reach the studios where Top of the Pops is taped and find fifty kids camped out by the gate and another thirty or forty perched just twenty yards from the entrance. Eminem flips down his invisibility-conferring hood and steps from his van into the studio, where there’s a dressing room waiting for him. Next door is the dressing room for D12. That’s where there’s a little party going on. It’s like a minifrat house: Domino’s boxes piled three feet high, a joint going around and a Chappelle’s Show DVD playing on someone’s laptop while the five rappers all talk at once.
There’s twenty-five-year-old Kon Artis (government name: Denaun Porter), a former roommate of Eminem’s who has become a respected producer, getting $25,000 a beat. He made “P.I.M.P.” and “Stunt 101” with 50 Cent and has also worked with Sting, Snoop, Method Man and Busta Rhymes. He’s the techie of the group. Right now he’s telling twenty-seven-year-old Kuniva (Von Carlisle, whose phone rings with the Good Times theme song), “Nigga, you just learned that word download, and you about to download a ass-whippin’!” And there’s twenty-eight-year-old Proof (De-Shaun Holton), who, right now, is comically condemning twenty-eight-year-old Swift (Ondre Moore) like a ghetto judge because Proof is the founder of D12 and the glue that holds the group together, while Swift is the member who packs CDs and DVDs for road trips but no players, because he plans on just borrowing from others. “That’s his packing strategy!” Proof says to howls, clowning Swift in front of everyone.
Kon Artis leaps in from his conversation. “He’ll ask you to borrow yo’ shit while you listenin’ to it!” Swift doesn’t even try to defend himself; he just laughs. Proof says, “Where’s my lighter?” He really doesn’t know. He says, “Swifty’s pocket, I bet.” Swift empties his pockets to show he’s got nothing. But Proof searches through the clothes tossed here and there and finds his lighter in the pocket of the sweat pants Swift was wearing twenty minutes ago. Busted. “What’d I say?!” Proof says to big laughs. “Swifty’s pocket!”
On the side, a makeup girl sprays something in Kuniva’s face, and he sort of screams. The road manager says, “You kinda sounded like a little girl there.” And parked in the corner is twenty-seven-year-old Bizarre (Rufus Johnson), the class clown supreme, his hair dyed red, sporting an oversize blazer and jeans, making a mockery of the trendy style. On Bizarre’s stomach there’s an ornate tattoo of an ill clown with a revolver in his hand, edges ripping as if he’s bursting through Bizarre’s stomach. To one of the band’s minders he says, “Watch my bag. I got weed, pills and fifty dollars’ worth of Euros in there.” If you redid CB4 for 2004, it might look like D12.
The separate-dressing-room thing doesn’t bother them, at least not anymore. “It’s better that D12 have they own dressing room and Em has his own dressing room,” Bizarre says. “When it first happened, we used to be like, ‘Damn, why he get his own dressing room?’ But I’d rather have my own room and have who I wanna come in than be in Em room and be told who can come in.” Besides, many nights Eminem wants D12 in his room. “He’ll come over to our dressing room sometimes like, ‘Why don’t y’all come over with me?’ ” Kon Artis says. “Like a little kid: ‘Come play with me.'”
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