D-12 : London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Guess who's back? But it's not very good...

Set your watch to hip-hop time and allocate

a reasonable amount of space, they said, Eminem is coming to London! Except that this is definitely not The Eminem Show. It’s probably ironic that the new single from his original – make that part-time – crew should be ‘My Band’, in which Marshall Mathers III takes the merry piss out of the fact that despite going to every length possible to make sure that D12 are presented to the world as a (G?) unit, the only one who anybody cares about is the white guy.

Tonight, as the publicity fanfare insists, is not a gig, but

an ‘international launch event’ for their second album, ‘D12 World’. Thanks to security paranoia, it’s the only chance anybody’s going to get to hear tracks from the follow-up to basically-OK debut ‘Devil’s Night’ before it comes out.

And yet the buzz on the balconies is less about ‘D12 World”s suggested drum’n’bass direction (although there’s whispers about that as well, funnily enough) but, ‘Do you think he’ll do the whole set or just come on at the end for ‘Purple Pills’?’

He doesn’t, by the way; emerging with little fanfare, in red trackie and cap, he does everything in his power to not steal the show except, well, not steal it. Jerking and fooling and jumping around, he’s clearly having a fantastic time with Proof, Kon Artis, Bizarre, Swift and Kuniva, but it brings to mind that old joke about jazz shows – they’re having an infinitely better time than the audience.

It’s not Eminem’s fault, of course. Remembering where

you came from, using your good fortune to give your mates

a leg-up, maintaining a healthy disrespect for the circus that surrounds you are all honourable traits. But live hip-hop is notoriously hit-and-miss at the best of times, and for all the good intentions, this is the stadium version downsized into

a venue too small to house any pyro that could distract from the shoddier edges, yet too big to come anywhere close to

the kind of intimate shakedown they clearly want to play.

It ends up a dissatisfying halfway house. In showing how down they really are, they forget to really try, and after less than an hour, nobody’s really screaming for more.

For what it’s worth, new songs ’40 Oz’ and ‘Six In The Morning’ are encouragingly experimental and reassuringly heavy, but it says everything that even the biggest hits, ‘Purple Pills’ and ‘My Band’, barely break the crowd into a sweat.

And Marshall can’t have it both ways. If he wants to be judged as a part of his brotherhood, he’s going to have to

get used to the fact that the Dirty Dozen just aren’t dirty enough.

Dan Martin