The Dirty Dozen–more affectionately known as D12–started out in Detroit back in 1996. The group went through numerous iterations before it’s final and most well-known line-up that shot to superstardom. For starters, original member Eminem left the group to pursue his fairy tale solo career under the tutelage of the iconic Dr. Dre. Most notably, though, member Bugz was murdered following an altercation at a picnic leaving an obvious black cloud and hole in the group. Eminem stepped up to fill the gap; however–as per Bugz’s final request–Swift (also known as Swifty McVay) who was a member of another local group, Da Rabeez also joined the group. The group went on to record Devil’s Night, which put platinum plaques on all of their walls and saw the group tour the world.
Swift, though, has remained a solo act throughout the years and his experience as part of the chart-topping group; he’s released six solo albums, three mixtapes and made a host of notable charting features. D12 remains active–and has a new project dropping in 2017–however, Swifty continues to expand his personal catalogue with his upcoming album, Grey Blood, which features Crooked I, Guilty Simpson, Slum Village and more.
Recently, Swifty took some time out to chat with AAHH about the new project, his history with D12 and. Check out the interview and new remix of “Here 2 Party” featuring Slum Village below. Pre-order Grey Blood here.
How did you join D12? Did you know it was going to be as big as it was?
Well, I was always affiliated with D12. I was there when Proof first built the movement. We all met at the legendary Hip-Hop Shop in Detroit, Michigan, where we all freestyled every Saturday for a good five or six years. Proof had whispered in the ears of all these MCs and asked them if they wanted to be a part of D12, and first, it was 12 members. I was already a part of a group called Da Rabeez. We had a deal with Robbins Entertainment. So, when D12 was formulated, I would always support D12, and D12 would always support my group–and me. It wasn’t anything new; the chemistry was already there because there was already a friendship. So, when Bugz, rest in peace, thought that I should be a part of the group, a lot of people out there thought that I replaced Bugz, but I didn’t replace Bugz. If. Bugz was still living, he would have been in the group with us. That’s how I got into D12, but it wasn’t like I was the new guy that had to get to know everybody. I already had years invested with them from supporting each other as friends, and on projects, etc.
How do you navigate from there to being a solo artist?
Well, this is the thing. I was already a part of a group called Rabeez, so one of my ex-rap partners went out and grabbed deal out in California, which left me here in Detroit to be a solo artist. I didn’t have plans of being a solo artist, but maybe for several months, I started recording my music solo wise for the first time in my life. Me and my ex-rap partner, we’d been rocking since like junior high, so here I am–a solo artist for the first time, being able to go over to the studio, do songs, and I was even doing these shows at different places around the city. So, everybody had the chance to see what I could do solo-wise for a little while before I even actually got a part in D12.
Did a part of you wanted to be a solo artist even throughout the process of being part of D12?
Well, I always wanted to be a solo artist. One thing about D12 is, when it all got narrowed down to six guys, it was already a solo thing going on with everybody. I was already Swifty, but for years and years, we all agreed when we got with D12, we were going to bring another identity to the table to make out who we were in the group. So, you got Swifty, and once I entered D12, it was Swifty McVay. So, we already had our soloism inside of it, we all just had an understanding that when we got with D12, that we were going to have two identities. So, like Eminem for instance, he was always Eminem, but he agreed when he got into D12, he turned into Slim Shady.
That makes sense. But did it have like a Wu-Tang feel to it? Because Em went solo, and Em did that stuff, but he was Eminem, you know what I mean? In the same way that Wu-Tang is Wu-Tang, but Meth and Ghost tend to eclipse U-God.
Yeah, see Em, was already Em, I was already Swifty, Proof was Proof, but we decided now that we in D12, let’s go ahead and get two identities. We’re all going to be solo artists, but in D12 we’re going to have this name, and whoever blew up first would come back and build everybody else. And yeah, we were like the big Wu-Tang Clan thing in the middle 90s, because at first, like I said, it was 12 members, and it narrowed down to six. So, Wu-Tang was the biggest thing since ice-cream; we tried to mimic them as far as the volume of members because people came and went. You had members that were in, then members that were out, so that’s how it was.
Does D12 have more shit coming out?
Yeah, right now we got a lot of songs in the vault and we’re all collaborating together to see what we all want to do to make this thing big, man. We want to come out this year; in 2016, everybody had meetings about what we want to do to get into a situation that’s going to be comfortable for everyone. Marshall Mathers, Paul Rosenberg, we all in discussion right now, so we will have another D12 album, but there’s not anything carved in stone as far as the date.
Let’s talk about your new project and your music that you’re working on. For somebody that hasn’t delved into your catalog that deep, you’ve done a lot of stuff. You’ve had numerous albums and mixtapes, so you’ve been on the scene for a long time, so I guess from that perspective it’s like you’re not new at this. So, maybe this project, kind of what’s changed? What’s new? What can fans expect?
Well, they can go a little bit more in depth with knowing where I came from as a solo artist. A lot of people know where I come from as far as D12 and that history is concerned. But, a lot of my solo records, I never really went in depth with a lot of people knowing the history of what I went through, where I came from, and the struggles, trials and tribulations that made me who I am. I mean, I touched on it with the last album that dropped in 2015. But, this album goes a little bit more personal, and that’s why I called it Grey Blood because there’s a lot of grey areas in my life that a lot of my fans don’t know about. They know me as Swifty McVay the MC, but I think they deserve to know more. I need to be a little bit more transparent with them.
What are some of the highlights of that project, and what do you have coming up from it?
I got a remix of “Here 2 Party“coming out with Slum Village; I got a track on the album with D12–and, a track with an underground artist who got a lot of notoriety overseas, Guilty Simpson, and more.
It’s cool to hear that D12 is all still connected, it’s still cordial, everybody’s happy, and what’s exciting too, I was reading about the new album, you were saying that Em is on it, which is dope too, right?
Yeah, I mean like I said man, we got a bond that’s way bigger than music, and of course like brothers we’re all gonna have our differences and what not. But, at the same time, we understand that this is where we come from, and this brand is what made us. We can’t shake that. It ain’t going nowhere. No matter how much you try to shake it, no matter how much you get mad, whatever, we all are one in the core understanding that you’ve got to come back home, you know what I’m saying? Grew up in the same house still, you know.
Absolutely. And that is unique, right? Because if you’re not from Detroit, your entry to D12 might have been Eminem. So, from the perspective of a listener who maybe lives in Germany or something, he might look at Eminem and D12 the same way that someone might have looked at Nelly and the St. Lunatics, you know what I mean? But none of those groups are together today.
Like I said, you’ve got to be brothers first, you know what I’m saying? And if you’re all on one accord on that first, then the music is second. But even though sometimes music brings people together, and people can create love through music, that brotherhood trumps everything. So, once you have a great understanding on that level, you all can disagree, or fall out, or whatever, the Brotherhood is what’s going to bring you back, and of course the music is going to come with it.