Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
There was a story on TMZ a couple of days ago about Trevor Smith aka rapper Busta Rhymes and how a lawsuit that he was involved in has finally been settled. The lawsuit revolved around him launching a carton of protein shake powder at another man. It hit some other man. That other man sued Busta Rhymes. I don’t care enough to know what happened after that. The last time I saw Busta Rhymes before now he was sitting in the audience of some awards show. I just remember how bad he looked. It made me sad.
Now, as some of you may not know, there was a time when Busta Rhymes was regarded as a top-notch lyricist. One of the best rappers you could hire to guest star on your record.
Busta Rhymes’ career began as 25% of the group Leaders of the New School. Busta immediately stood out, and after 2 critically acclaimed albums, the group went their separate ways. The split actually happened in real-time on Yo! MTV Raps in 1993. Busta Rhymes stuck around, doing hella guest work, as all out of work rappers should when the time calls, eventually dropping his first solo album. From there, it was — as the young people say — on and poppin’.
Busta’s list of solid rap albums and noteworthy guest appearances is enough to solidify him as one of the greatest rap voices ever. And I’m not even going to try and list the amount of features his done since the 90s. Let’s just put it like this: name a favorite rapper from the the past 20, 25 years. Busta Rhymes has performed with them. He has rapped over beats from just about every “hot” producer from every era of rap beat-making since at least 1994, not counting the last 5 or so years. In theory, he has survived 2 or 3 generations of Hip Hop. His albums — 5 of the 8 have sold 1 million or more copies apiece — are regarded as classics, and though he hasn’t won many awards, he has been nominated and mentioned dozens of times during his career. And Busta has appeared in a truckload of critically acclaimed films, including John Singleton’s Higher Learning, Forest Whitaker’s Strapped, Halloween, and others.
So why are we blowing the whistle?
Woo-Ha. Gimme Some More. Fire It Up. Etc. What do these incredibly popular Busta Rhymes songs have in common? None of them were talking about a damn thing. That is most of his catalog. Busta Rhymes raked in tons of dough off of the sweaty backs of songs that made zero sense whatsoever. And we danced the night way to it.
His style of comeuppance is very similar to his kindred spirit rapper, Missy Elliott. They both dazzled and wowed us with fancy visual effects and frenetic vocal arrangements, sneakily deploying empty, calorie-less bars like diet chocolate. Busta knew it, too. Notice how each album’s lyrical content upsurges from the last. The wording schemes became more complex. He piled more syllables into his stanzas. That’s because, unlike his contemporaries who spat lines about money, hoes, and clothes, Busta seemed more like he just gathered a bunch of words together, and played Mad Libs over a beat. He distracted us like cleavage with robot dancing and pre-Meek Mill rap yelling. Scream Hop, if you will.
Who amongst us can forget that Busta started trying to convince us that Armageddon was descending about halfway through the last LONS album T.I.M.E? He carried that apocalyptic theme throughout the remainder of his career. Could he really see the future? Clearly, no. Perhaps it was a ploy launched as a safety net for the lack of raps. If he could make us believe the sky was falling, we’d be more concerned with him giving Last Day narratives than with him dropping clever bars and witty lyrics.
Or Maybe he believed his own end times hyperbole and based his level of lyrical output on the amount of time he thought we had left on Mother Earth. That actually makes total sense. Also of mention was his cutting edge sense of fashion. His clothing line Bushi didn’t last long, but that doesn’t matter. He made it OK for rap guys to rock Dr. Seuss hats, and that haberdashery-based achievement overshadows them all.
Further proof of Trevor Smith being a trailblazer was his hairstyle. He was surely rocking dreads before they became a fashion statement. By this account, Lupe Fiasco and Chief Keef should mention Busta Rhymes when asked who inspires them.
Kudos and touché, Trevor Smith. Sometime within the past few years, you have officially joined the ranks of rappers we can’t escape like LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg.
Make no mistake; Busta Rhymes is a legend. He’s responsible for dozens of still-listenable party anthems, gave us the Flipmode Squad, and introduced the world to Rah Digga and Spliff Star (the greatest weed carrier of all time). With his wide-mouthed, turbo-charged, often-off beat yammering and on-camera karate-chopping tutorials, Busta also changed the landscape of your run-of-the-mill rap video. For what it’s worth, he made rapping look fun.
So while we do blow the whistle on Busta for stealthily shoveling volumes of super-average raps into our subdued subconsciousness for years, his greatness can’t be denied. I bet you still say “Woo Ha!” from time to time, don’t you?
For more Blow The Whistle, click here.
Words by Tony Grands