Busta Rhymes raised the bar and helped broaden the scope of hip-hop at crucial moments in the genre’s evolution. The word “underrated” is overused. Even though I regularly write about underrated artists, I try to stay away from the term whenever possible–but it’s appropriate for Busta Rhymes.
While his cohorts from the Native Tongues collective are highly lauded and celebrated, especially A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, Bus–who enjoyed a longer and more commercially successful h-it making run than the others–has become the old uncle to hip-hop fans.
Maybe it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt, because he has continued to record
instead of falling into a DJ and production role with occasional features like Q-Tip, or releasing indie joints like De La, or pursuing his acting career and branching into other arms of entertainment like Queen Latifah, or just h-itting the old school circuit with the classics like Dres of Black Sheep.
But Busta was a pivotal artist in hip-hop. Because of his flow. Because of his live performance. Because of his features. Because of his videos. He raised the bar and helped broaden the scope of hip-hop at crucial moments in the genre’s evolution.
Busta’s been referred to as hip-hop’s “jester” several times over the years (primarily by mainstream outlets, but I think we know better). This is a severe misnomer; an indication of how Bus’s high energy, colorful presence, raspy growl and dominating smile were misunderstood. “That energy? It all comes from the appreciation I have for what I’m doing,” he explained in an interview for his debut solo album.
“I love the music creating something from nothing, adding the beats, the instruments. When I put the song together and it’s banging, that’s my best reward. And when I’m feeling that? Oh my God, I’m trying to make sure you feel the way I’m feeling.” The ability to convey that joy and excitement through every medium, to get you hype ‘cause he hype, is the uniqueness of Busta.
When telling Bus’s story, most start at “Scenario;” the game-changing posse track from A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory (Tribe’s defining album; I will d-ie on that hill.) which heralded Busta’s forthcoming solo career, even if we didn’t realize it at the time.
But if you’re walking into the story when Q Tip asks Mr. Busta Rhymes to tell us what he did in “Scenario,” h-it stop. Then rewind until you see a Long Island high school cafeteria with a slim, short-haired Trevor Jackson, Jr h-itting the East Coast Stomp, highlighted with red animated graphics. Now press play. This is where the story begins.
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This Article Was First Published On “vibe.com”