Busta Rhymes is the unique east cost rapper who has proved that innovation can be main stream. The leader of Flipmode Squad was born on 20 May 1972 as Trevor Smith jr. in East Flatbush, Brooklyn from a Jamaican background. In 1983 his family moved to Long Island where he attended Uniondale High. It was at the age of twelve that Busta began to rhyme and it was with fellow classmates MC Charlie Brown, MC Dinco D and Milo De Dance. In 1990 the quartet formed Leaders of the New School and straight away got a deal with Elektra records with Busta at the tender age of seventeen.

With LNS he released two albums, Future Without a Past in 1991 and T.I.M.E. in 1993. Future Without a Past provided a new sound, surprising in the already innovative hip hop scene of the late eighties and early nineties. Despite the Busta's success with LNS his real breakthrough came when LNS worked with A Tribe Called Quest on Scenario in 1992. Busta's unusual solo rhymes grabbed the attention of the public and that single was to be the launching block for his career. The follow up album was more of an experimental underground journey but Busta's already unique style was somewhat stifled in the group so they split in 1993. He worked on his own with with Craig Mack on Flava in your Ear in 1994. However it was not until 1996 that his first solo album was released.

The Coming was released in April 1996 on Elektra records, the same label that Leaders of the New School had recorded with. The single Whoo Hah!! Got you all in check was a hit both sides of the Atlantic and excellently defines Busta's aggressive and invigorating style. The album was a huge success, going Platinum, despite a disastrous attempt to promote it in the UK. A planned gig in Kentish Town had to be cancelled after Busta failed to obtain a work permit, the disgruntled fans rioted and caused £75,000 worth of damage.

Only a year later, in September 1997, Busta was back with his second LP, When Disaster Strikes, again on Elektra records. Firmly securing his place in rap stardom the album was another hit for Busta debuting at number three in the US and selling over 1.5 million copies. Singles like Dangerous and Put your hand where my eyes can see continued to raise Busta's already huge public profile. Beginning to play the MTV game Busta accompanied the singles with extravagant videos.

Busta somehow found time to record both another solo album and a full length with his squad Flipmode. Extinction Level Event, released in December was a third platinum album for Busta. The singles Gimme Some More, a classic high paced Busta cut, and What's it Gonna Be, a collaboration with Janet Jackson, yet again cruised to the top of charts all over the world. The video for What's it Gonna Be cost $3 million, one of the most expensive videos of all time. The Imperial, the Flipmode offering wasn't a huge success but the voices of the likes of Rah Digga made excellent additions to Busta's style. In the same year Busta was pulled over for erratic driving and a loaded 45 was found in his back seat. He had no licence and a year later he was charged with possession of an unlicensed weapon. He only got five years probation and so walked away with a nice easy reputation boosting conviction.

In June 2000 came Busta's fourth album, Anarchy. It, somewhat inevitably, went platinum and provided another spate of hit singles such as Get Out!! and Fire. Continuing his fast turnover rate Busta produced his fifth solo effort in as many years, Genesis. His first record on his new label, J Records, the album has gone, you guessed it, Platinum. In October 2001 the much awaited Greatest Hits album arrived in the form of Total Devastation: The Best of Busta Rhymes. It's a pretty hot collection of his top work including two tracks from Leaders of the New School and Turn it Up remix which had completely new lyrics and a knight rider sample that was not included on any previous LP.

In his bid for full scale stardom Busta has appeared in a number of films. Back in 1993 he appeared in Who's The Man as Jaween, Strapped as Buster and Higher Learning as Dreads. More recently he was the voice of Reptar Wagon in the Rugrats Movie in 1998, he played Rasaan in Shaft and Terrel Wallace in Finding Forrester, both in 2000. This year he has played the voice of the Cowardly Lion in a TV animation of The Wizard of OZ, Freddie Harris in Halloween: Resurrection and Beery in Narc. Of these films I have only seen Shaft in which he was pretty good although he was basically playing himself.

Busta's music is energising and exciting. Heavy beats underpin Busta's aggressive and ragga influenced rhymes. Very much about the overall effect rather than the lyrics you'll be hard pressed to find a track without a high number of "Hohs" and "Hahs". However this doesn't mean that the man doesn't have skills. His speedy flows and innovative rhymes mean that his music is always fun to listen to. One of the first rappers to really start appealing to white American Busta's lyrics don't exclude, you don't have to be an East Cost ghetto boy to tune in to Busta.

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The Coming, 1996, Elektra

" Busta doesn't have a deep message in his raps, but he twists words and phrases around with an insane, invigorating flair" - AMG
  1. Coming (Intro Medley: a Black Child Was Born/The 8th Wonder/Keep Fall)
  2. Do My Thing
  3. Everything Remains Raw
  4. Abandon Ship
  5. Whoo Hah!! Got You All in Check
  6. It's a Party
  7. Hot Fudge
  8. Ill Vibe
  9. Flipmode Squad Meets Def Squad
  10. Still Shining
  11. Keep It Movin'
  12. The Finish Line
  13. End of the World (Outro)

Busta's first solo offering is excellent. There are some unforunate fillers, like Hot Fudge, but tracks like Woo Hah!! and Everything Remains Raw cancel out the substandards. Flipmode Squad meets Def Squad is an excellent example of squad rapping with 8 minutes of Flipmode and Def combining really smoothly.

When Disaster Strikes, 1997, Elektra

"Busta's lyrics remain startlingly fresh and compelling, and they're given more weight by these dense rhythm tracks." - AMG
  1. Intro
  2. The Whole World Lookin' at Me
  3. Survival Hungry
  4. When Disaster Strikes
  5. So Hardcore
  6. Get High Tonight
  7. Turn It Up
  8. Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See
  9. There's Not a Problem My Squad Can't Fix
  10. We Could Take It Outside
  11. Rhymes Galore
  12. Things We Be Doin' for Money, Pt. 1
  13. Things We Be Doin' for Money, Pt. 2
  14. One
  15. Dangerous
  16. The Body Rock
  17. Get off My Block
  18. Preparation for the Final World Front...

A fair bit longer that The Coming When Disaster Strikes is not, unfortunately, extended by the inclusion of more quality tracks. More fillers and mediocre skits relying on Busta's personality and humour pad out the album. However if you were impressed with Woo Hah!! from The Coming you won't be dissapointed as Busta presents us with tracks like Dangerous and Put your hands where my eyes can see. Collaborations with the likes of Erykah Badu (One) add a slightly new flavour to the album but aren't anything particularly special.

Extinction Level Event, 1998, Elektra

"impressively tongue-twisting rhymes over unpredictable but body-grabbing beats....fearsome and off the hook, E.L.E. is Busta Rhymes at his best" - Urban Latino
"Busta has come up with a party record that doesn't just sound the end of the millennium, it feels like it" - AMG
  1. Intro: There's Only One Year Left!!!
  2. Everybody Rise
  3. Where We Are About to Take It
  4. Extinction Level Event (The Song of Salvation)
  5. Tear da Roof Off
  6. Against All Odds
  7. Just Give It to Me Raw
  8. Do It to Death
  9. Keepin' It Tight
  10. Gimme Some More
  11. Iz They Wildin Wit Us & Gettin Rowdy Wit Us?
  12. Party Is Goin' on over Here
  13. Do the Bus a Bus
  14. Take It Off
  15. What's It Gonna Be
  16. Hot SHIT Makin' Ya Bounce
  17. What the Fuck You Want!!
  18. This Means War!!
  19. Outro: The Burial Song

One of Busta's best efforts ELE sees less filler and more killer. The rapid fire flow of Gimme Some More is in stark contrast to the laid back more poppy stylings of What's it Gonna Be, on which Janet Jackson features, but even here you can't escape Busta's ability to verbally manipulate in ways unlike any other mainstream hip hop star. Even more than before we see Busta's obsession with the millenium and his apocalyptic rhymes avoid absurdity by the skin of their teeth.

Anarchy, 2000, Elektra

"He may have street cred but listening to an album's worth of Busta is still like having someone shout in your ear for over an hour" - Amazon
"It seems almost impossible that Busta could produce a true failure, but by this point, a growing number of fans may not salivate over a new album nearly as much as the inevitable best-of collection" - AMG
  1. The Current State of Anarchy (Intro)
  2. Salute da Gods!!
  3. Enjoy da Ride
  4. We Put It Down for Y'all
  5. Bladow!!
  6. Street Shit
  7. Live It Up
  8. Fire
  9. All Night
  10. Show Me What You Got
  11. Get Out!!
  12. The Heist
  13. A Trip Out of Town
  14. How Much We Grew
  15. Here We Go Again
  16. We Comin' Through
  17. C'mon All My Niggaz, C'mon All My Bitches
  18. Make Noise
  19. Ready for War
  20. Why We Die
  21. Anarchy
  22. Outro
It didn't seem possible but Busta managed to produce and even longer album with even more filler. After being seemingly cured of this annoying tendency with ELE the padding has returned in force with Anarchy. Perhaps attempting to compensate for this lack a number of high profile stars jump in to try and help Busta out. However even the likes of Lenny Kravitz, MOP, DMX and Rah Digga can't really rescue this album and it really does lack greatness. Busta has always stuck to a similar style and with Anarchy it has, perhaps, overstayed its welcome.

Genesis, 2001, J Records

"this is another solid release from a consistent hip hop artist who can still make relevant, interesting albums long after his days with the Leaders of the New School" - AMG
"Busta's gruff, urgent voice remains a potent instrument in the right setting" - Q Magazine
  1. Intro
  2. Everybody rise again
  3. As I come back
  4. Shut 'em down 2002
  5. Genesis
  6. Betta stay up in your house - Busta Rhymes & Rah Digga
  7. We got what you want
  8. Truck volume
  9. Pass the courvoisier - Busta Rhymes & P. Diddy
  10. Break ya neck
  11. Bounce
  12. Holla
  13. Wife in law
  14. Ass on your shoulders
  15. Make it hurt
  16. What it is - Busta Rhymes & Kelis
  17. There's only one - Busta Rhymes & Mary J. Blige
  18. You ain't fuckin' wit me
  19. Match the name with the voice - Busta Rhymes & Flipmode Squad
  20. Bad dreams

"Genesis is not only the album he was destined to make, it is the album that Busta has been working towards his entire career"
The above quote from Busta's official bio is just a piece of record company hype, or so it seems at first sight. However upon listening to the album there is some truth in the claim. As Busta puts it himself,
"So first there was The Coming, which was the warning, then I had When Disaster Strikes and then when the aftermath comes there's Extinction Level Event and that leads to Anarchy. But now it's time for me and everyone to have a new beginning. We're all having to start over in so many different ways and for me, that can only mean one thing...so it's Genesis."
A cynic would perhaps claim that Busta is doing some serious ass covering since the world hasn't been completely destroyed, nor have we had a millenium apocalypse as his last four records have been telling us would happen. Previously the small amount of development that Busta's music has seen has been very much in a linear fashion however with Genesis we see Busta taking a new direction. He hasn't abandoned his success formula, the main single Break ya Neck is inimitable Busta and has an excellent beat laid down by Dre. Nor has he completely escaped his tendency to use star appearances as a replacement for content, see Pass the Courvoisier featuring P. Diddy.

It's nice to see that Busta has acknowledged the problems with Anarchy and attempted to move on and make more mature and interesting music. Genesis doesn't completely get there but it revives hope for fans.

Total Devastation: The very best of Busta Rhymes, 2001, Rhino

"The Best of Busta Rhymes paints as definitive a portrait as possible of one of rap's most electrifying talents, but, more than that, it's simply an irresistible listen" - AMG
  1. Case of the P.T.A.
  2. Sobb Story
  3. Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check
  4. Everything Remains Raw
  5. Do My Thing
  6. It's a Party
  7. Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See
  8. One
  9. Turn It Up
  10. Dangerous
  11. Rhymes Galore
  12. Do the Bus a Bus
  13. What's It Gonna Be?!
  14. Gimme Some More
  15. Party Is Goin' on Over There
  16. Tear da Roof Off
  17. Get Out!!
  18. Bladow!!

An excellent selection of some stunning tracks. A Busta album without filler this record is a brilliant, well chosen compilation.


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