Bizarre has been “Bizarre” for so long, his fans haven’t really had the chance to get to know the real Rufus Johnson — until now. His latest album, the aptly titled Rufus, finally exposes the man behind the moniker and finds the D12 vet opening up about some incredibly personal topics — from his struggles with weight to losing his grandmother.
The move to distance himself from the persona he’s cultivated over the years was boldly intentional. In fact, the 21-track effort begins with the song “RIP Bizarre,” making his intentions immediately crystal clear.
After years of feeling pressure to “stay in character,” he noticed a shift with the release of 2014’s “Pray 4 Me,” in which he addresses drug abuse. It gave him the courage to essentially reinvent himself and travel down the path he’s on now.
But an interview with Bizarre wouldn’t be complete without getting his opinion on the current Eminem and Nick Cannon beef. Last year, Bizarre stepped in the ring to defend his childhood friend in the Machine Gun Kelly fiasco — but this time, he realized he had to sit this one out.
In a recent interview with HipHopDX, the 43-year-old Motor City native opened up about his weight issues, the younger generation’s love affair with pills and, yes, the Cannon vs. Slim Shady beef.
HipHopDX: I’m very intrigued by this project. What kind of made you decide to kind of take the Bizarre mask off and expose the real you?
Bizarre: Oh, man. I think it was time. I had to play my position for so long in a group setting. People, when they meet me all the time they just be like, “Oh man, you just seem so different from your character in D12. You know what I’m saying? By me being Bizarre kind of limits me to what subject matter I could talk about because everybody expects me to be a certain way or just stir out the crazy shit. So, this album was called Rufus, which is my real name. I just kind of wanted to touch on some subjects that made me my journey to where I became Bizarre. So you know what I’m saying? Some things that they don’t know about me and the subject matters that I think I needed to put out there previously to music.
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Enjoy ??? LINK IN BIO.. RUFUS is ablum … it’s out .. my dad named was rufus .. even tho I never met u before . I know u your in heaven proud of me … ???… I love all my fans … to the people that came to the autograph signing last month it will be another one dec 28 .. in detroit . Stay tune ..
HipHopDX: I think that as we get older too, it’s really important to kind of come to terms with who we are as well.
Bizarre: Yeah. Definitely.
HipHopDX: How did you get the nickname Bizarre?
Bizarre: I got the name from my 5th grade teacher.
Bizarre: I used to be in a class rapping all the time, but I would be rapping to myself. So I guess it looked like to him that I was talking to myself.
HipHopDX: But really you we’re spitting rhymes?
Bizarre: Right. Yeah. Just thinking of raps, not really paying attention to what was going on at school.
HipHopDX: Do you remember the teacher’s name that gave you the name?
Bizarre: Mr. Styles.
HipHopDX: I wanted to touch on some of the content you touch on with your new album. I can relate to a lot of it, especially when it comes to weight. I always go up and down. How did your weight issues affect you growing up?
Bizarre: I was always a little guy who had asthma all the way up until I was like maybe 14. Then I had a doctor had put me on steroids for the asthma. That kind of made me gain weight. But through my adult years, I’ve basically been through the same thing that you’ve been talking about up or down, you know what I’m saying? Doing good, lost 20 pounds. Then you relapse or give yourself a cheat day and your cheat day turns into three days and then two weeks. It’s like an ongoing battle, you know what I’m saying?
HipHopDX: Did it weigh on your confidence?
Bizarre: Yeah, not really confidence. I’ve always been a confident guy. That’s why I think I have the shirt off and things like that. But I think it weighs on your confidence. I got the mind of a skinny guy, but then when I go to the gym or play basketball, then that’s when I realize I’m fat. But I’m really on a journey because now that I’m older, it’s like I’m starting to do research and find out. It’s like these doctors they literally give all of us, especially black people, the same medicine. It’s like if somebody got high blood pressure or diabetes or high cholesterol, you damn near can switch medicines with them. They’re passing it out like candy. So now, by being on so much medication, it makes me tired all the time. I’m too young for all that. So, it’s time.
HipHopDX: You’re only in your 40s, right?
Bizarre: Yeah, yeah. Yep. 43.
HipHopDX: Did you struggle with drugs and alcohol?
Bizarre: Never alcohol.
HipHopDX: When did you kind of come to terms with the fact that, “O.K., this is getting old.” The video “Pray 4 Me” seemed to really capture what it was like.
Bizarre: Actually, it wasn’t really a personal story, even though I can relate. It was just more of me being a narrator, like telling the story of people. I think people felt it because it was so heartfelt that I could do it. I’ve been a partier, but I don’t have a compulsive personality. I could kind of like mess with something and then back off of it and kind of do it in moderation or whatever. A compulsive personality can really take you over the top.
HipHopDX: Considering the recent death of Juice Wrld, what are your thoughts on the newer generation acting like pain killers are the thing to do? I mean, you had “Purple Pills” but now we have the opiates that killing kids.
Bizarre: With my generation, it’s like, “Yo man, we’re about to go to such and such. We’re going to be on acid” or “we’re bought it to go to Amsterdam. We’re going to take some shrooms.” These kids, I think they’re using drugs for depression. “Purple Pills” was a happy thing. Purple pills are ecstasy. I’m pretty sure if you popped ecstasy before, it’s something that you’re not going to want to do every day. But these kids, they really are in depressed moods and they’re going through it and using these drugs to stay numb. I’ve seen this video of this kid on the internet, he popped like 10 Percocets and drunk them with some water. I’m like, “Jesus Christ, are you trying to not feel anything?” You can tell it’s a deeper problem. I really think it’s depression and everybody’s doing it to be cool. I had to slow down on Percs and Vicodin because it’s highly addictive. I would do like two or three a day, not like 10, 15 a day.
Then there’s the cough syrup. I never was a lean sipper, but I know that it’s prescribed for the whooping cough. I’m a researcher. I’m not taking nothing unless I look it up. So the syrup is for the whooping cough. That’s what they prescribed for. So it’s really like an antibiotic. It can slow the heart rate down. So you’re taking syrup, which is an antibiotic, that’s cleaning out germs and viruses in your body, but you don’t have a cold. Imagine taking an antibiotic, like taking a Z-Pak, and you don’t have a cold. So they’re literally destroying their self and their immune system on top of it. These kids getting so crazy to where they’re mixing uppers and downers, and they’re speed-balling. You can’t take Adderall and Percocets.
HipHopDX: There needs to be more education. If you don’t understand how these drugs interact, you’re in big trouble.
Bizarre: Yeah. I was with these producers in Los Angeles. They came to the studio and they had an EpiPen — is that what you call it? It’s like a pen for when you overdose. They had that in the studio! I’m like, “O.K. What are we doing here?”
HipHopDX: Well, I’m glad you never went too far down that road.
Bizarre: Yeah. I mean, I learned a lot from Marshall [Mathers], too. So yeah, definitely. I definitely could have.
HipHopDX: I was just going to bring that up. Eminem has like 15 years clean, right?
Bizarre: Yeah, yeah. Yep.
HipHopDX: Speaking of, Eminem got into it with Machine Gun Kelly last year. What do you think about the current beef with Nick Cannon?
Bizarre: Man, I had to learn my lesson with the Machine Gun Kelly and Joe Budden’s beef. Marshall’s my friend and we’re damn near like a gang, so when I see people talking shit about him, I always go into defense mode. That’s my brother. When the first Nick Cannon diss came out, I thought it was funny. I’m cool with Charlie Clips and Hitman Holla — I’m cool with all them cats.
But then when I heard the second diss record, I was like, “O.K. wait a minute. This is getting a corny.’ I just think the whole thing is corny when you got four rappers, regardless if it was Charlie Clips or fucking Pusha T, whoever it was. It’s kind of corny when you got four rappers trying to diss one rapper. And then they were trying to force lines. It was, “You Eminem … you need to leave Nick alone.” Then when I seen the Wild ‘N Out shirts, I was like, ‘O.K. I don’t think I need to say anything.’ I think these guys are going to bury themselves.
HipHopDX: Obie Trice has already dropped two aimed at Nick.
Bizarre: Oh, he came out with two? I only heard one. I’ll have to check that one out. The first one was kind of light. I think he was trying to play with us.
HipHopDX: This second one’s called “Spanky Hayes 2” and towards the end of the track, he clowns Suge Knight.
Bizarre: Damn [laughs]. We always had to have Marshall’s back, even when we were kids. Because Detroit is like 98 percent black. So it was like, “What’s up with the white boy” type of thing.
HipHopDX: How far do you guys go back?
Bizarre: I think I probably was like 16 when we met.
HipHopDX: One more question before you go. I wanted to talk a little bit about the video for “Grandma.” What did your grandma mean to you and what made you want to write that song?
Bizarre: Yeah, she meant a lot to me. I live in Atlanta, but I go back to Detroit like twice a month and I’m so busy in the studio that I wasn’t really getting a chance to go visit her. She would get on me so bad about not going to visit her. “I heard you was in town, you ain’t come visit me!” So when I heard she was sick or whatever, she kind of called her death. But sometimes my grandmother can be a little dramatic. I believed it, but she was like, “Boy, you need to come see me. You know, I’m dying.” And for some reason, like in my brain, something told me to record our conversation. So, I recorded it over the phone and that’s the intro that you hear in the beginning of the song.
So I went and seen her. She was literally holding on until I came to see her. My family had all seen her and it was like, “You need to get up to Detroit soon. We don’t know how much longer she’s going to make it.” And then when I got there, I thought my whole family was going to be there in the room. But I got there and I was the only one in there and I’m like, “Damn.” It was weird. So the nurse was like, “Yeah, she can hear you,” so I started talking to her. I talked to her for about 15, 20 minutes and then as soon as I left, like 30 minutes later, they called and said she passed.