The filth that comes out of Bizarre's mouth isn't particularly virtuosic, but the Detroit rapper is still a natural when it comes to operating without a mental filter. His mind might be wasted, but at least it's free.
Known for now as merely the "shower cap guy" in Eminem's D12 group, the stocky MC is the kind of quasi-celebrity who serves as instant grist for snarky VH1 one-liners, but he proves to have enough personality to carry a 20-track solo disc. Maybe "personality" isn't the right word, though. On the appropriately inappropriately titled CD, "Hannicap Circus," Bizarre is more of a collection of hang-ups, obsessions, addictions and hormonal misfirings. Occasionally there's something approximating art.
Take "Gospel Weed Song." At first it seems like another dumb hip-hop paean to pot, with a soulful chorus: "I wake up praising God every day / I wanna smoke some weed and roll me a jay / Thank you Jesus / Thank you Lord / For lettin' me live another day." But to his credit, Bizarre never tries to position his earthly habit as a pathway to the divine. "Just 'cause you smoke weed don't mean you don't believe in God," he says, sounding more grounded than any wannabe Rastafarian.
But such, uh, subtleties are in short supply elsewhere, and the disc becomes a succession of rhymes about loving music, growing up poor, popping pills, performing bodily functions and spreading venereal diseases. Some of it is flat-out disgusting ("Let the Record Skip" has a ridiculous incest reference), but most of it reeks of psychological vulnerability. Unlike, say, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Bizarre is more of a mess than a threat. During "Hip Hop," he even makes the point that he doesn't "know how to use a gun."
And the lack of bullet-based violence almost seems poignant at times -- Bizarre's official weapon is his bad taste, and even though he's inconsistent as a rhetorical marksman, he has as much firepower as MCs who fetishize AK-47s. The Erick Sermon-produced "Bad Day," which parodies Ice Cube's all-good-in-the-'hood hit "It Was a Good Day," makes the point that self-deprecation can be just as hard-core as gangsta hyperbole.
The backing tracks, by big names such as Sermon, Hi-Tek, Eminem and Raphael Saadiq (and several no-names as well), tend to meld well with Bizarre's game plan -- most are mid-tempo and catchy without overselling the fact that the rhymes are supposed to be comical. He's out of place, however, when he operates at a hard-rock pace: The Eminem-produced single "Rockstar" sounds forced, and the cheapo '80s metal riff of "I Need a Friend" undermines the overall lost-soul vibe. The song's lyrics aren't so hot, either. "I need someone to listen to me / I need someone who cares about me," Bizarre says, perhaps forgetting that dozens of rap-rock bands have covered the same ground.
Bizarre outdoes the rap-rockers on one front, however: On a song about onanism and pornography -- with assists from OutKast's Big Boi and way-smooth Houston rapper Devon the Dude -- the shower cap man revisits pubescent sexual ineptitude in a way that deserves a laugh, if nothing else. It's one case where "gross" definitely equals "funny."