“The Messenger” by Bizzle

There are two Christian Rappers that stand out from the usual pack of bland diet substitutes, and they have become the most recognizable names in their genre, but for very different reasons. Lecrae actually gets a fair amount of respect in the Rap community, mostly because he really is a fairly legit Underground Rapper who happens to be a Christian and to Rap about his faith a lot. Bizzle, on the other hand, is certainly not remotely respected by anybody, but his sheer audacity makes him impossible to ignore (albeit not in what most people would consider a good way).

Imagine if Pat Robertson had a Rap career, and you pretty much have an accurate portrait of Bizzle. He’s the kind of lunatic fundamentalist you’d normally see burning Rap CDs in mass, but instead he tries to provide a “positive alternative” to the “evil” genre of Rap, and starts fights with pretty much every more famous Rapper in existence. He’s most remembered today for his unforgivably offensive “response” to Macklemore’s groundbreaking plea for gay rights “Same Love” (Bizzle uses the same production, only his lyrics compare being gay to being a pedophile). However, today I’m here to review the notorious mixtape that first launched this idiot into the public spotlight, 2010’s The Messenger.

The song that originally launched Bizzle into notoriety was a bizarre diss track aimed at an infinitely more famous Rapper, Jay-Z. A newcomer making their debut by publicly insulting a giant of the genre is strange enough, but this song was just insane, rambling about Illuminati conspiracy theories involving Barack Obama and coded uses of the number ‘666’ and using all this as evidence that Jay-Z was secretly a Satanist. It’s a lot easier to laugh at than “Same Love (A Response)” would be, but it established Bizzle’s persona as an attention-grabbing religious loony who happened to be a Rapper.

The rest of this mixtape, however, isn’t really hilarious so much as infuriating. For example, ‘Leave-your-boyfriend-for-me’ songs have gotten a bad reputation in recent years, but I think I’ve found the most repulsive example of that template in existence…it’s on this mixtape, and it’s called “Call Me”. The element of pious, puritanical self-satisfaction stemming from the album’s religious angle enhances the smug self-congratulation that kind of song is already known for to the point where the result makes “Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes sound like an expression of self-loathing by comparison. I also can’t imagine how this song’s scenario could possibly be compatible with Bizzle’s well-known Fundamentalist sexual politics, so I’m forced to conclude that he’s a hypocrite as well.

Equally repellent is “Believer”, where the singer overtly brags about resisting the temptation to cheat on his wife. It’s possible to do this idea well…a few years later, a song called “Honey, I’m Good” would do just that. But that song had a tongue-in-cheek feel to it rather than the weighty pomposity on display here, and was presented as the narrator talking directly to the girl he’s turning down, not boasting of his fidelity directly to the listener. I’ve actually read the Gospels, and it’s made abundantly clear in them that being proud of your virtue is generally worse than whatever sin you’re not committing in the process, so Bizzle doesn’t even have his theology right.

In fact, in general Bizzle comes off as a hateful, arrogant fanatic on most of this album, qualities that are not exactly compatible with Christianity in its intended form (not that that’s stopped anyone else for the past 2,000 years, but still). Despite his proclamations of faith he retains the boastful swagger that’s expected of a Rapper, but in the context of his message it makes him come across as a holier-than-thou Pharisee. Probably the most offensive song of the album is “One”, where Bizzle claims with a straight face that God provides enough for everyone and anyone who is complaining about their lot is just greedy, which shows an especially craven level of hypocrisy given that he’s doing the same thing himself one track later on “You Got Me”.

And while the usual problem with Christian Rap…its pathetically vanilla attempts at thug posturing…is actually somewhat downplayed on this album, there are still times (such as the embarrassing “Prayed Up”) when replicating Gangsta Rap’s sound and delivery with Christian lyrics winds up sounding unintentionally hilarious on its face.

The really frustrating thing about all this is that, apart from his lunatic religious views, Bizzle is actually a really talented Rapper. Even on the “Same Love” response track, the hateful propaganda he was spouting was so eloquently worded that it came off as disturbingly persuasive (which, as I pointed out in my review of that song, is exactly what made it so dangerous). And on the few tracks where he’s not saying something incredibly offensive or unbelievably stupid, his skill does shine through. Actually, his lyrical style, flow, and preferred sound on choruses is oddly reminiscent of Eminem for a Rapper with Bizzle’s religious politics. There’s even one track on this album that dates back to before Bizzle became a ‘Christian Rapper’, a collaboration with T-Pain of all people, and it provides a heartbreaking look at what might have been if this impressive talent hadn’t wound up going completely insane.

Still, in spite of the occasional flashes of sadly wasted talent, this might be the worst Christian album of any kind in the entire current decade…and Lord knows (no pun intended) that’s not a prize that lacks for competition. Even so, bad Christian music is normally too bland and deliberately inoffensive to rise to this level of supreme awfulness, so I think it’s a pretty (un)worthy contender for that dubious honor. In any case, this is one of worst albums (or mixtapes, if you want to be pedantic) of the decade in any genre, and while “Explaining To Do” might actually be worth hearing, just to laugh at the sheer spectacle of insanity it provides, I definitely don’t recommend slogging through all 21 tracks of this garbage unless you’re doing a review of it yourself…in which case, I wish you the best of luck. You’ll be needing it.

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