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On Monday, December 10, a group of rappers performed on the Norm’s stage in Superior. Considering the amount of acts for the night, the $10 cover was reasonable. The night included touring and local rappers alike, but the headliner that many in the crowd were excited to see was the hip-hop artist known as Bizarre.
The rap artist Rufus Johnson, also known as Bizarre, emerged from the Detroit hip-hop scene where he would frequently perform at rap battles in the early 90s. Along the way he ended up meeting a group of fellow rappers and formed the rap group D12 (short for Dirty Dozen). Among one of the rappers in the group was the Detroit rapper Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem. When Eminem was noticed by the producer/rapper Dr. Dre, he eventually pursued a solo career, but also collaborated with his former group.
D12 was known for their harsh raps which often involved violence, rape, murder and drug use. Although it would seem hard to minimize the darkness of these topics, the group seemed to present it in a tongue in cheek manner. After the show we had a chance to sit down briefly with Bizarre and ask him about controversial rap. “I’m just doing it as a character, it’s just another flavor of hip-hop. I’ve been doing this a long time and I guess it’s an acquired taste. We’re just having fun and bringing something different to the table,” said Bizarre. When asked if rap battles, which are often aggressive and abusive in nature, had an influence in his sometimes violent and vengeful music, Bizarre replied, “Yeah, that definitely helps with it. Like with Marshall in 8 Mile, it could get crazy sometimes.” 8 Mile is a movie starring Eminem which dramatizes the story of his rise in a largely African American run genre of music in the early 90s Detroit hip-hop scene.
We also had a chance to also talk to the rapper Sonny Bonoho who is on tour with Bizarre and learned that not all of the lyrics in the music that some may consider crude should be held at face value. Sonny was masterful at working the crowd and his set was very high energy. One of his tracks is titled “The Vag,” which would seem to be referring to a specific body part, held a deeper meaning, no pun intended. “The song ‘The Vag’ is not about, you know, the woman’s part. It pretty much is a slang in the hood. In the hood they say, ‘yeah, I’m going all in.’ The vag is a kind of like a slang word saying, ‘I’m going capital N on the vag fully driven.’ Pretty much the whole song is about whatever thing that you want to do in life or whatever, you want to put it all. You want to do your best,” clarified Sonny. “Most of my music is fun music, certain experiences; I try not to defamate or to make it really controversial,” said Sonny comparing his style with Bizarre’s.
Behind the show which did very well considering it was a cold Monday night in Superior, Wisc. was a new promotions group called Hypnotic Otter, which is made up the vocalists Cory Jezierski (aka MC1980), Suzy Anderson (aka Suzy Q) and Eric Lipponen. Jezierski and Anderson take on the booking duties, while Lipponen handles the book keeping end.
While touring with his hip-hop group named Modern Gentlemen near Green Bay, Jezierski met a business contact which helped him put Monday’s show together with Bizarre. Although Jezierski and Anderson are tied into the area’s hip-hop scene, they are working on getting national headliners of various genres into the Twin Ports. “ We did shows earlier this year with Psychostick, Sid Wilson of Slipknot and American Head Charge. We don’t want to limit ourselves as to what styles of music we consider bringing to our shows, but I think hip-hop may end up being a bit more dominant in our bookings,” said Jezierski. “We think it’s important to keep the local scene involved with anything we do.” The show on Monday had a variety of local rappers sharing the stage with the touring acts.
Hypnotic Otter is focused on making the Twin Ports a place where more touring artists will visit and enrich the local scene at the same time. “Creating this company is just one of my many ongoing pursuits to fulfill those life long aspirations. I feel we all noticed a need for something fresh in the Duluth music scene: a change from the norm. We hope by bringing this endeavor to life we can unleash a wide variety of artists upon the north land and give proper exposure to local artists who deserve some much needed attention. We figured what better way to see the shows we want then to book them ourselves,” said Anderson about the decision to put together the company.
When asked about the future of the company and what it hopes to achieve the in the future, Jerzieski replied, “We hope to get more national and touring acts into town, especially ones that haven’t been around the area before. We hope to help the local scene grow by supporting rappers, artists and bands from the area. We hope to see more and more people at each show we put on and really we hope that people are having a good time. We also want people to name their children ‘Hypnotic Otter’ and get tattoos on their face that say ‘H.O. 4-Eva,’ but those are long term goals.”
On top of booking great shows, one of the plans to get people to show up to the shows the company books is to make them easy on people’s wallets. “Our biggest thing, and this is how we set up Hypnotic Otter, is we wanted to make shows affordable for people here in the north land,” said Lipponen. It’s fair to say that Monday night’s show was well worth the cover.