Trying to explain Bizarre to an audience who didn’t know him at his peak is an interesting challenge. My first instinct is to say he was the Detroit rap version of Big Black, but if you never watched Rob & Big on MTV that explanation is meaningless. MTV does lead me in the right direction though, as Bizarre’s antics in and outside of D12 were comparable to Jackass. Do you need an extra large emcee to perform his bars in concert wearing nothing but a diaper and a shower cap? Then Rufus Arthur Johnson was your man. There was no length he wouldn’t go to in pursuit of getting a laugh from his bandmates or his fans, and for me at least Johnson is a Detroit rap legend who is proud of his humble roots and doesn’t put on airs.
“I don’t got no Ferrari, I don’t drive no Benz“
We don’t have to stop with the Jackass comparisons though. They’re legends too, but they also paid a price for being legendary. Thankfully Bizarre hasn’t paid the highest price (death) or the second highest (crippling injuries), but when you become known for pushing boundaries with odd behavior and shocking lyrics, it becomes hard to top your previous stunts. “Friday Night at St. Andrews” finds the big man at a career crossroad. At a time when a cameo from Marshall Mathers would have helped immensely, there’s not a single Eminem bar in sight. Instead you get the likes of Fiona Simone and K.B. on “Pussy,” neither of which are notable enough for a Wikipedia entry. In fact the only notable person here is the producer Honorable C.N.O.T.E., who does craft an atmospheric track that sadly seems wasted on this subpar ode to sex.
“All I’m thinking ’bout is pussy, because I love pussy” is the kind of hook I’d expect from a Soundcloud rapper, but this album is from 2010 (although both are fascinated with AutoTune). The artists themselves run out of ideas and the beat continues on for over a minute without them, unintentionally becoming the most enjoyable part of the track. I kept looking for something to bring that classic Bizarre/D12 feel and finally stumbled across “Rap’s Finest” featuring Kuniva, Royce Da 5’9″ and Seven the General, which on a very forgettable album winds up being the lone highlight. I’d even go so far as to say the relatively unknown Seven sparked the rest to step up their game.
The rest of the time you’re met by weak attempts at humor like “Smoking Crack,” which is about how fucked up Rufus Johnson can get off as many drugs as possible, laced with unnecessary homophobia to boot. “You are super lame… I’m super lame” might be the most unintentionally honest lyric on the whole album. It’s disappointing because I know from previous solo albums just how funny Bizarre can be, but you might think the song’s title was the literal truth after hearing it. They clearly had commercial ambitions for this project though, which is how Bizarre wound up doing a track with Yelawolf called “Down This Road.” Those ambitions didn’t materialize as I never heard an edited version of this song on FM radio. In fact before reviewing this album I didn’t even know they made a video for it.
Rufus Johnson is getting shown up by Michael Wayne Atha on the song. Yela sounds like an artist going places, while Biz sounds like someone going nowhere. “Detroit, Michigan — (a) great place not to come” is the only thing close to a funny punchline in his verse. WLPWR is the latest producer to give Bizarre a more interesting track than the bars on it… and speaking of which C.N.O.T.E. also laced “Believer” featuring Tech N9ne. This one I can’t hate on because Bizarre is speaking from the heart about the members of D12 who were murdered, but I do find it uncomfortable when he says “I’m running out of time/I’m running out of rhymes.” Ouch.
I’ve been trying to avoid this for a minute now, but no write up about this album is complete without mentioning the song “I Love the Babies.” When I said you pay a price for always having to top the shocking things you said or did before, this is the song where Rufus Johnson paid the biggest toll. Without being too explicit here let’s just say you could substitute another four letter word for “love” and get the song’s point. He thinks it’s a joke and he thinks being this gross will make you laugh, but I’d much rather watch him arm wrestle a grizzly bear in his trademark shower cap than ever listen to it again. Neither one ends well, but at least in the latter scenario, only Bizarre gets hurt and not our offended ears… and it might be a laugh. Out of good taste I’m not sharing the song here. Let’s go with his tolerable weed anthem “Whatcha Smokin’ On” instead.
In interviews to support this album Johnson claimed he was “being more lyrical this time around,” but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m personally offended by this album, and not because of its perceived shock value, but because a rapper who used to be genuinely funny stopped trying. It’s as though he could see that his career had already hit the roller coaster peak and was only heading downhill, so he just threw his hands in the air and waited until it bottomed out. I expected so much more out of Bizarre on “Friday Night at St. Andrews” and he just didn’t deliver.