One reason 8 Mile struck such a resonant chord with moviegoers was because it beautifully dramatized hip-hop's genius for transforming negatives into positives, for alchemizing frustration and anger into artistic glory and at least a shot at the big time. D12's hit single "My Band" manages a more glibly ironic version of the same dynamic, riffing self-deprecatingly on the semi-obscurity and lack of success of Eminem's Detroit compatriots all the way to massive radio and video play.
Then again, it helped that there's a real core of truth to that song's self-mockery. Even with the patronage of one of rap's biggest superstars, the other members of D12 haven't exactly ascended to superstardom, which is unlikely to change with the release of Bizarre's major-label debut, Hannicap Circus. Even more than Eminem, Bizarre traffics in shock, delivering an endless barrage of tasteless one-liners and scatological non sequiturs in a lazy, half-spoken, half-rapped, mealy-mouthed monotone that's immediately recognizable yet fairly grating, even in small doses. The problem with shock, of course, is that it quickly loses its novelty, and anyone who doesn't find the topics of pedophilia, drug abuse, or incest innately hilarious will find Hannicap Circus rough going.
Throughout his debut, Bizarre sounds like he's auditioning for a prime slot in a hip-hop sequel to the controversial dirty-joke magnum opus The Aristocrats, but the album's best songs tend to be its sweetest. The languidly soulful marijuana odes "Gospel Weed Song" and "Ghetto Music" boast a Sunday-afternoon-barbecue-in-Compton-circa-1993 appeal. But Bizarre takes his love of retro G-funk too far with "Bad Day," a pointless karaoke-style "comic" takeoff on Ice Cube's seminal "It Was A Good Day" that suggests D12's most morbidly obese member aspires to be shock-rap's answer to "Weird Al" Yankovic. Charismatic guest turns from Devin The Dude and OutKast's Big Boi help make "Porno Bitches" far better than a song with that title has any right to be, but such highlights are few and far between. Where D12's albums revolve around vaudeville-style group routines, Circus feels like hip-hop stand-up comedy. And with material this tired, Bizarre would get the hook from Sandman Sims at the Apollo even on amateur night.