Despite being one of the most prominent and unique emcees during what many consider to be the golden era of Hip Hop and transcending generations by remaining relevant throughout the 2000’s and beyond, Busta Rhymes is not often, if at all, considered for selection as one of people’s top five rappers.
With the number of gifted emcees that have emerged since Hip Hop’s creation, it’s a challenge for anyone to break into and solidify their position as part of someone’s top five, but when analysing what Busta has achieved over his extensive and successful career that began as a member of Leaders Of The New School in 1989, it’s interesting that his name is not discussed more frequently.
A year before the release of Leaders Of The New School’s second and final album in 1993, the group appeared on A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Scenario’, on which Busta made a show-stealing contribution, which included his iconic “Raah, raah, like a dungeon dragon!”
Busta’s performance created a tangible excitement around his name and he continued to build anticipation in the intervening years before his debut solo album The Coming in 1996 with further guest appearances on songs with artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Brand Nubian and KRS-One. He soon added ‘Oh My God’ – another track with A Tribe Called Quest – to that ever-growing list, supplemented by a spot on Craig Mack’s ‘Flava In Ya Ear’ remix.
The release of The Coming was preceded by Busta’s debut single ‘Woo Hah!! (Got You All In Check)’, which was an instant success, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance. Meanwhile, the likes of ‘Everything Remains Raw’, ‘It’s A Party’, ‘Ill Vibe’ and ‘Still Shining’ were also standout tracks on a solid debut effort.
Busta was in no mood to relinquish the momentum he had built with The Coming, as he quickly released his second album, When Disaster Strikes, the following year. Highlights included ‘Fire It Up’, which sampled the Knight Rider theme tune, the J. Dilla produced ‘So Hardcore’, ‘Get High Tonight’, the irresistibly infectious ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’, ‘Rhymes Galore’ and ‘Dangerous’.
Busta completed a trio of impressive projects with the Grammy-nominated E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front (1998), which included some of his most acclaimed singles; ‘Gimme Some More’ and ‘What’s It’s Gonna Be?!’, featuring Janet Jackson. As became common for Busta Rhymes, the album’s lengthy tracklist allowed for the inclusion of additional hits in his classic style, such as ‘Everybody Rise’, ‘Tear Da Roof Off’, ‘Do It To Death’ and ‘Party Is Going On Over Here’.
His career’s first minor blip was perhaps Anarchy (2000), despite a plethora of producers like J. Dilla, Just Blaze, Nottz and Large Professor contributing to the project. However, the album did produce the likes of the first single ’Get Out!!’, ‘The Heist’ that features Ghostface, Raekwon and Roc Marciano and the intensity of the M.O.P.-assisted ‘Ready For War’.
Busta made an impeccable return to form with Genesis (2001) – an album that not only blended the changing styles of Hip Hop at the time, but also achieved a similar feat of merging the best attributes of Busta Rhymes as an artist. With the sonic direction of the album being directed by Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, The Neptunes, J. Dilla and Nottz, among other notable donations from Pete Rock and Battlecat.
Genesis spawned the exciting ‘Break Ya Neck’, ‘Shut ‘Em Down 2002’, ‘Genesis’, ‘Betta Stay Up In Your House’ with Rah Digga, ‘We Got What You Want’, ‘What It Is’, ‘Pass The Courvoisier’ Part II’ and more that highlighted his versatility.
He continued his trend of albums in consecutive years – first seen in ’96-’98 – by building on the 2001 release of Genesis with It Ain’t Safe No More…(2002), which included the popular singles ‘Make It Clap’ and ‘I Know What You Want’ featuring Mariah Carey, in addition to slick album cuts ‘It Ain’t Safe No More’, ‘Call The Ambulance’ and ‘Turn Me Up Some’.
Despite a gap of four years until he released his next album – The Big Bang (2006) – Busta Rhymes returned with what will certainly be discussed among some of his best work. An assortment of distinguished names (Dr. Dre, Swizz Beatz, DJ Scratch, J. Dilla, Mr. Porter & Timbaland, to name a few) handled production and once again allowed Busta to deliver the most profound version of himself, while also making an obvious mainstream impact. Commercially strong singles ‘Touch It’ (and it’s countless remixes) and ‘I Love My Chick’ paved the way for solid album tracks like ‘New York Shit’, ‘In The Ghetto’, ‘You Can’t Hold A Torch’ and ‘They’re Out To Get Me’.
Admittedly, The Big Bang was his last album to truly make an impression, with Back On My B.S. (2009) and Year Of The Dragon (2012) often overlooked due to their uninspiring standard. Following The Big Bang, Busta’s consistency was made apparent through his outstanding guest verses, as he appeared on ‘Doctor’s Advocate’ from The Game’s album of the same name, DJ Khaled’s banger ‘I’m So Hood’ remix while collaborating with some of the hottest emcees of the time in T.I. and Lil’ Wayne.
When looking at an overview of his career to date – 9 solo albums, countless outstanding cameos and remarkable endurance – it would almost be disrespectful to omit Busta Rhymes from top five discussions, nevertheless, this is usually the case. This has lead to the conclusion that Busta Rhymes is the ultimate sixth man – often missing from top five selections, but equipped with the skillset, catalogue and longevity to be argued as one of the greatest emcees of all time.