Alex Floro
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Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: Busta Rhymes

WooHah! This week M.I.S.S. will be rockin’ with one of the best, Busta Rhymes. The Brooklyn-born rapper (originally Trevor Smith Jr.) has been gracing the airwaves with his witty lyrics, larger than life personality and signature rapping abilities for more than 20 years. One might even say he is the king of collaborations, laying down tracks with artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Mary J. Blige and Janet Jackson. Unlike many 90s rap superstars, Busta has been able to forever stay current, continuing his career by releasing albums and working with newer artists like Diplo and Tiesto.

Busta’s career started not as an individual, but as part of the classic crew Leaders of the New School.  He met other band members Charlie Brown, Dinco D and Cut Monitor Milo after moving to Uniondale, Long Island from his native Brookyln at age 12. It was a difficult transition from rough and tumble Brooklyn to the quieter suburb. A break came when they were chosen to open for another Long Island group, Public Enemy (who had just begun to get big). During this time, Trevor Smith had been rapping under the name “Chill-o-ski.” But Chuck D (being the OG that he is) called it “corny” and suggested Smith change it. From then on he was known as Busta Rhymes, taking inspiration from Vikings receiver George “Buster” Rhymes.

In 1991, Leaders was the only hip-hop group on Elektra Records 40th Anniversary CD (with the song “Mt. Airy Groove”).  That same year they joined the collective Native Tongues. The song that propelled them into popular consciousness was A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” Though they had had success with their debut, A Future Without a Past, the guys began to fight. Most agree that it was the shifting focus of the music industry towards Busta, and at no time was this more evident than on an appearance on Yo! MTV Raps. The group can be seen arguing over what member Charlie Brown describes as Busta’s hogging of the stage. Check out the performance right before that infamous interview below:

Can You Spot the Tension Between L.O.N.S?

The group broke up shortly after that. In 1996, Busta released his debut: the platinum album The Coming.  Critics praised it for the lyrics. Stephen Erlewine from Allmusic described, “Busta Rhymes has never had such an impressive showcase for his rhymes as he does on [the record].” The album itself debuted at #6 on the Billboard charts and the first single, “Woo Hah! Got You All in Check,” reached #8 on the Hot 100. It would also be the first Grammy nomination Busta had received; he has now had 9 nominations. The Coming had collaborations from many artists, including Zhane on the album’s second hit, “It’s A Party.” (Reminisce With M.I.S.S. on Zhane here)

Busta’s First Single: Woo Haha! Got You All In Check

Busta’s stardom did not stop there. Since his debut, he has released a slew of other albums and singles, each with its own personality and theme. Throughout the years, Busta has been praised for his individuality, never allowing current trends or phases to get to him. Most would be familiar with his signature dreadlocks, which had been growing since 1989. Proving that he is ever-changing and can’t be put in a box, Busta shed the locks in 2005 during a video shoot.

He has never been far from controversy either. In and out of courts for various reasons, longtime friend Chuck D says of the artist, “Busta has been dope for the long term… but you can taint your long term by making short moves” (Vibe Magazine).

What Busta does best is give his fans (and listeners in general) lyrically impressive tracks with visuals to match. When other rappers decided to go flashy and street in the mid-90s, Busta flipped that trend and presented his own interpretation. Seen in such videos as “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and “Gimme Some More,” Busta gave pop culture an alternative to club scenes. He created cartoon-like storylines, utilizing video editing software to give his videos life.

Anyone else think his red outfit could be the inspiration for Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I?

Another theme he likes to use is the concept of the future. His third album E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front was taken from the movie Deep Impact. Peep this classic Hype Williams-directed video with Janet Jackson:

Janet and Busta get hot and heavy in deep space

Some of the artists we feature in this column haven’t made music in a while, but what’s different about Busta is that he continues to make music and present his point of view. He is known for his talent for spitting rhymes at speeds most rappers can only dream about. Younger music fans were introduced to Busta with his speedy 16 bars in Chris Brown’s song “Look At Me Now.” The song has received much attention, spawning thousands of fan videos trying to emulate Busta’s part. Even Justin Beiber hopped on the train, reciting the entire verse at a recent concert in LA. So here’s to you Busta Rhymes, for proving that one really can stay in the game in the brutally competitive, ever-changing landscape of hip-hop .

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