by Alex Shtaerman
As the clown prince of the Detroit collective of MCs known to fans around the globe as D-12, Bizarre, born Rufus Johnson, is arguably the group’s most recognizable member outside of his superstar partner in rhyme Eminem, who’s success in the late 90’s and beyond spearheaded the group’s ascension to Hip-Hop stardom. Bizarre seems to regularly draw the attention of fans and media alike, often rocking a shower cap and not being particularly shy about flaunting his oversized buda-belly, a feat that’s earned the overweight MC a staring role in the third season of VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club, a show where obese celebrities are pitted against one another in a struggle of wills and appetites to see which one of them can lose the most weight. But in truth, the Detroit rhyme vet’s most enduring legacy will be his signature junkyard flow of hard lyrics mixed with off the wall subject matter and an often perverse, if not disturbing, sense of humor. With the forthcoming October 23rd release of his third album Blue Cheese ‘N’ Coney Island, we catch up with Bizarre to talk some food (no joke), Hip-Hop as well as get his perspective on the tragic passing of fellow D-12 rapper and Detroit Hip-Hop icon Proof.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Detroit Hip-Hop really came to prominence in the last decade or so with acts like Eminem, D-12, Slum Village and others. You were actually MCing long before most fans were checking for Detroit. Can you describe that earlier period in the 90’s and what the Hip-Hop scene in Detroit was like?
BIZARRE: The Hip-Hop scene in Detroit in the ‘90’s – it was pretty hard man. Coming up at that time nobody was really paying attention to Detroit or the mid-west period. We had to go to New York often and try to shop deals or just try to meet the artists that came to town and hoping they would listen to us or listen to our music. That was our big thing, trying to catch artists that came to [Detroit] so we could try to hook up with them and play them our music.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Who were some of the MCs that you looked to up while you were coming up?
BIZARRE: Uhmmm, I looked up to Redman, I looked up to KRS One, Erick Sermon, EPMD… also Masta Ace – it was [mostly] a lot of the hardcore rappers.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your new album is called Blue Cheese ‘N’ Coney Island; can you talk about the tone and feel of this record, what producers and guest appearances can the fans expect to see?
BIZARRE: On the album we got some hometown producers, we got Silent Riot from Detroit, Jeff Bass [and others]. Some of the guest appearances are, of course D-12 is on there, Proof, Tech N9ne, Twiztid and the rest of the cats are just unknown cats that’s trying to come up.
RIOTSOUND.COM: How would you say this record is similar or different than your previous work? Did you stick to a more familiar formula or are there instances where you delve into previously uncharted waters?
BIZARRE: Yea, I gave them a couple of the more serious joints. I hit ‘em with some serious joints this time because I don’t want [the fans] to think that Bizarre is all about jokes and games all the time, so I hit ‘em with some songs where we switched it up a little bit. Music is about emotions and feelings and the shit that you’re going through in life. My life has been a rollercoaster for the last couple of years. I’ve been fighting a couple of cases, I lost my homeboy Proof. So, you know, it all comes out in the music man.
RIOTSOUND.COM: With the tragic passing of Proof, is it a situation within D-12 where the group is determined to push ahead in honor of Proof’s memory or is it something that you are still coping and dealing with on a day to day basis?
BIZARRE: I think it’s really both, I think it’s definitely [about] honoring his memory because I know what he would want us to do. Proof was definitely a leader and a warrior – it’s all new to us too man – he was such a leader. I can’t really see doing an album or anything without him. So it’s definitely on a day to day basis that we gotta deal with this.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Currently there is a new D-12 record in the works, is that the case?
BIZARRE: Yea, there’s a new D-12 album in the works, we’ve been cuttin’ off and on and [the album] is slated for release early next year.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Now for people that might not know this, Coney Island isn’t only a spot in Brooklyn. A Detroit Coney Island is a special kind of hot dog that’s native to the Motor City. Can you explain the difference between an ordinary hot dog that you might buy from a vendor on the street in New York and a Detroit Coney Island hot dog?
BIZARRE: Detroit Coney Island hot dogs is real sloppy, you know what I’m saying. There’s a lot of sauce on it, mustard, ketchup, onions; it’s just real sloppy to the point where you need like ten or fifteen napkins. So you know, the original Coney Dog it’s that 24 hour food. It’s like when you’re drunk coming home from the club type of stuff.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What would be some food spots that you’d recommend to anyone who might be visiting or passing through Detroit?
BIZARRE: Mr. Child’s, if you can afford it, definitely try a Coney Island, also Lou’s Deli – the Food Exchange in Detroit where they got a sandwich called the Big Baby, it’s a hamburger with steak on top of it. And I also got one spot in Tacoma, Washington called Shakira’s it’s better than Benihana’s, so [check out] that place too.
RIOTSOND.COM: You got the album Blue Cheese ‘N’ Coney Island dropping on October 23rd, what else should the fans be looking out for as far as Bizarre goes?
BIZARRE: Look out for me being on Rapping With The Stars, the TV show I’m doing on MTV. Check out my reality show on You Tube called Bizarre’s World and also check out my label [Red Head Music]. I got some more artists coming at you in the near future, first up is K.B. from Decatur [Georgia].
RIOTSOND.COM: Any last words?
BIZARRE: Stay up man, stay in school, get the drugs for free, [make it] a drug free America.
For more news and info Bizarre and D-12, stay tuned to www.MySpace.com/Bizarre