Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Bizarre: How Bizarre

Bizarre Bizarre Bizarre Bizarre

Known worldwide as the shirtless, shower-capped oversize member of multi-Platinum-selling Detroit rap outfit D12, controversial MC Bizarre (aka Michigan-born, 34-year-old Rufus Johnson) this month combines the explicitly-nihilistic yet tongue-in-cheek rhyme style of his work with the group with a more meaningful lyrical edge for his fourth solo album ‘Friday Night at St. Andrews’.

Indeed, with Bizarre’s musically-diverse ‘Friday Night At St. Andrews’ featuring guest raps from such respected Detroit hip hop talents as Seven The General, Royce da 5`9” and D12’s own Kuniva, it interestingly finds the portly comic-cum-goremeister intent on reconnecting with his original musical roots in the city’s underground rap scene by recreating the spirit of his first solo album - 1998’s ‘Attack Of The Weirdos’ - while simultaneously rhyming from the perspective of a veteran who’s travelled the world and enjoyed chart-topping success along the way.

… Which Bizarre of course attained as one-sixth of the aforementioned D12. Who - significantly including global rap megastar Eminem in their line-up - have seen their two lyrically-controversial albums (2001’s ‘Devil’s Night’ and 2004’s ‘D12 World’) sell in excess of 10 million worldwide; propelled by international smash singles like ‘Purple Pills’, ‘Shit On You’ and ‘My Band’.

… Cue for a jetlagged-yet-polite Bizarre (who in 2005 scored UK Top 20 success in his own right with his Eminem-produced solo single ‘Rockstar’) to get on the line to Pete Lewis to discuss - in between stifled yawns and endearing chesty chuckles (!) - his aforementioned new solo project.

PETE: What was the thinking behind titling your new, fourth solo album ‘Friday Night At St. Andrews’?

BIZARRE: “St. Andrews was a hip hop spot in Detroit back in the day, where we used to hang out every Friday and rap, have freestyle battles… Plus it’s also where the movie ‘8 Mile’ was shot. So, because I wanted the album to be a kinda representation of Detroit, by calling it ‘Friday Night At St. Andrews’ I’m just kinda paying homage to the city’s hip hop scene and reminiscing on how we used to do back in the day.”

PETE: What did you want to achieve lyrically this time round?

BIZARRE: “Well, I grew up as a battle rapper - that’s how I first got into D12. So lyrically I just wanted to bring that essence back with this album. Because a lotta people just view me as the funny-guy of D12, I just wanted to show another side of my style. You know, there’s a lotta things going on in my city; a lotta jobs being lost in Detroit; a lotta poverty; it’s the Number One murder capital of the world... So, in addition to the crazy kinda themes I’m already known for, I also wanted to talk about more meaningful things that I felt needed to be addressed.”

PETE: Musically it’s also very diverse - ranging from hardcore hip hop (‘Here We Go’); to heavy rock (‘Wild Like Us’); to more melodic R&B/funk (‘You Gotta Believe’)…

BIZARRE: “I’m a connoisseur of all types of music. So I definitely tried to mix it up with this album. You know, I’m trying to hit everybody with a lotta different styles. Because to me music is all about emotion and how you’re feeling at the time and the things you’re going through. Which is why I have a lotta different moods on there.”

PETE: The bulk of the album has been produced by upcoming - often relatively unknown - local Detroit studio bods…

BIZARRE: “To me bringing through fresh Detroit talent is definitely a priority - in the same way that Marshall (Eminem), once he had success, came back and put me and the rest of D12 in the game. I just feel it’s really important to keep the torch burning and to keep the movement going. Plus what’s great about working with new, up-and-coming producers is that they’re HUNGRY! You know, they’ll send you like 30/40 beats in your e-mail until you come across one you like. Whereas established producers that are out there already might send you just one beat or two to choose from.”

PETE: You also have an interesting line-up of guest artists on there…

BIZARRE: “First of all, they’re all my FRIENDS! Me and King Gordy, for example, have formed a group together - we’re calling ourselves The Davidians, and our record will be coming out pretty soon. You know, that’s my boy, my partner, my friend... We smoke weed, we get high and we write raps together. Then Monica Blaire is just a great songwriter and a great performer that I’ve been keen to work with for EVER! Plus I also have Royce da 5`9” on there... I mean, as you know, back in the day him and D12 had some beef - but that’s all squashed now. You know, back then we was real young and our heads didn’t know no better. But, now that everybody’s grown, we realise it was all just a buncha bullshit! In fact, we’ve recently been on tour with him, and I actually saw Royce just a coupla days ago... Then Kuniva (who features on the track ‘Rap’s Finest’) of course is the one in D12 that does the BEATS! He’s currently working on Dr. Dre’s ‘Detox’ album; he’s working on the next D12 album; he’s got two tracks on Marshall’s current album (the globally-chart-topping ‘Recovery’)… You know, he’s a busy guy!”

PETE: Do you have any favourite tracks on ‘Friday Night At St. Andrews’?

BIZARRE: “I like the song I did with Yelawolf called ‘Down This Road’. ‘Cause he’s talking about a little country town called Gunston, Alabama where HE’S from - and I’m talking about Detroit, Michigan where I’M from. And basically we’re just saying that, no matter what ghetto you’re living in, ghettos everywhere are the SAME!.. Then ‘Believer’ is a song where I’m telling people - especially kids - that, if they believe in themselves and not give up on their dreams, they can MAKE it - and that, if you WORK for yours, you’ll APPRECIATE it more!.. While on ‘You Gotta Believe’ I’m giving advice to young rappers coming out. You know, everybody always asks me all the time ‘How do you get a record deal?’ - and I always tell them that there’s no FORMULA to it. You just gotta get out there and hustle, make your CDs, do these shows - until you get POPULAR... Which is when the right people might call you… But then you have to already be in STAR MODE! You always need to be DOING something, and making songs whenever and wherever you CAN! You can’t just do three quick songs, drive down to Atlanta and get a deal! That ain’t gonna HAPPEN!”

PETE: Is it right that, with this album you wanted to recreate the sprit of your first solo LP - 1998’s ‘Attack Of the Weirdos’?

BIZARRE: “Yeah, I definitely wanted to take you back to those more lyrical days of the ‘Attack Of The Weirdos’ album. Because, like I said, after the success of D12 I started seeing myself getting categorised as either a funny guy or some kinda real weirded-out goremeister. And I definitely have more to offer than that! Plus the fact that since that first solo album I’ve toured the world, means I can now use those experiences to experiment more today in terms of what I wanna rhyme, rap or write about. I’m pretty much open to ANYTHING.”

PETE: The unexpected fatal shooting of D12 founding member Proof in April 2006 must have been devastating for you and the rest of the group. To what extent do you feel that’s impacted on the ‘Friday Night At St. Andrews’ album?

BIZARRE: “Oh, Proof’s death made an impact on EVERYBODY, and it shows in EVERYTHING we do today. It also makes us determined to keep the legacy alive. Because we know that DeShaun (Proof) would have WANTED that.”

PETE: Over the years comparatively little has been written about your own personal background…

BIZARRE: “My musical influences were basically all hip hop - from the break-dancing of the ‘Beat Street’ days to artists like Run DMC and KRS-One. I grew up mostly on Westside Detroit, which was much like any ghetto neighbourhood - though as a kid I moved a lot between Detroit and Texas. As a youngster I’d always wanted to be a rapper; there was never any Plan B. Then, when I was 10, a teacher made me write a rap for Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday - and it’s been on ever SINCE! When I was like 16/17 I started going to The Hip Hop Shop on Eastside Detroit for the open mic sessions… And that was when I met Proof and the rest of D12.”

PETE: So what are your ideas on the Detroit hip hop scene of today?

BIZARRE: “The Detroit hip hop scene is BANGIN’ right now! You know, we’ve got Black Milk; Slum Village; Seven The General; Big Sean; Mike Posner… It’s just getting bigger and bigger! It’s CRACKIN’!.. And, while in some ways the scene itself is virtually the same as when I started out back in ‘95, today we’re just getting RECOGNISED a little bit more... So hopefully we can bring that whole Motown-type thing back to Detroit, where it becomes a major music capital once more. We’re definitely getting close!”

PETE: So what’s the current situation with D12?

BIZARRE: “We’re actually in the studio working on our next album right now. You know, Marshall is in there creating, overseeing... And this time it’ll be a lot harder, with a lot more subject matter. I mean, we’ve been through a lot in the last 10 years, and you’re definitely gonna hear that on this new record. Then in terms of production, in addition to the people we’ve already worked with we’re also still hoping to get in the studio to do something with Alex Da Kid from over there in London - who did the Rihanna track ‘Love The Way You Lie’ for Marshall... And the album will probably be out early next year. You know, we’re still with Interscope Records, and with this next record we’re basically just trying to start a whole new era for the band.”

Bizarre’s album ‘Friday Night At St. Andrews’ is out now through AVJ Records

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