Whether you love or hate Bizarre, it's tough to say that the man doesn't leave a distinct impression. The Detroit emcee's deliberate delivery and dark, twisted humor made him a standout member of Eminem's group, D12, and his fans have remained loyal throughout his subsequent solo career. But in interviews leading up to his latest album, Friday Night at St. Andrews, Bizarre has said that he's downplaying his jokey, horrorcore side this time to show listeners his true lyrical ability. Fortunately, he keeps his promise and has delivered a surprisingly solid album.
Critics of Bizarre's ilk and style usually chastise performers of the genre for "irresponsibility," citing negative influence on listeners. But Friday Night at St. Andrews (the title is a shout-out to the downtown Detroit club that was once a hip-hop hotbed where the rapper frequently took the stage) actually features several songs with positive messages. Although his lyrics aren't exactly what one would label complex or thought-provoking, Bizarre's blunt style gets his point across. And incredibly potent beats and choruses give the songs movement. "Rock It Out" and "You Gotta Believe" speak to aspiring musicians and fans alike about working toward their dreams, featuring hooks from King Gordy and city songstress Monica Blaire, respectively. On the album's gem and single, "Believer," Bizarre joins indie phenom Tech N9ne and Grammy-winning singer Nate Walka over an orchestral backdrop by Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E. (who produced many of the album's highlights) to vent frustrations while still persevering through them — something that Detroiters should be able to relate to amid the city's financial woes, drugs and violence.
Bizarre also does a commendable job of making less polarizing music this time out. His demented side is still there, sure, as revealed in songs like the drug-addled "Smoking Crack," and the violent, horrorcore, Alice Cooper-ish (at least lyrically) track regarding pedophilia, "I Love the Babies." But he also makes it a point to deliver some universally identifiable rap, even when his rhymes aren't at the forefront. Marijuana anthems don't get much better than the reclined, King Gordy-assisted "Whatcha Smokin On." And "Rap's Finest" showcases dexterous, braggadocios rhymes from Bizarre and other Detroit city staples, including Seven the General, Kuniva (of D12), and Royce Da 5'9" rhyming over a fitting, guitar-driven backdrop by Sky of the Northstarz. Melancholy pianos by producer Silent Riot and an eerie hook by Monica Blaire amplify Bizarre's depressive rhymes on "Emotions."
At a hefty 19 tracks, Friday Night at St. Andrews suffers from filler near the album's beginning ("Here We Go," "Some Days," "Pussy"), which may discourage listeners from giving it a chance. But rap fans — whether they're previous supporters or detractors of Bizarre —should be pleasantly surprised by this record.
William E. Ketchem writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.