Busta Rhymes’ career path, from being the guy in Leaders of the New School with the truly unique voice and the rhyming method of hyper-articulation to a full-fledged hip-hop superstar, is one of those stories that gives me faith that talented musicians can rise to some level of fame, that not all celebrities are vacuous. The greatest thing is the way his rise into the public sphere parallels his journey toward greater creative heights; he’s getting more famous and becoming a better MC at the same time.
While the titles of Busta Rhymes’ four albums supposedly tell an apocalyptic tale, they just as easily describe the track Busta’s career has taken, from his introduction as a solo artist (The Coming) to his explosion as both an innovator and a celebrity (When Disaster Strikes) to his absolutely blowing up into a mainstream superstar (Extinction Level Event). The newest album, Anarchy, represents Busta reaching such a stage of popularity that he feels he can do whatever he wants without alienating his fans.
Anarchy finds Busta taking on all sorts of musical styles that he hasn’t done before. The main one is tackling the sort of sing-song, marching band-style anthem that’s popular right now, the sort of song the Ruff Ryders do. In one sense, Busta’s trying hard to gain more of a street audience, yet instead of sounding imitative or inauthentic, his unique style takes these now-standard hip-hop forms to an entirely new place. Tracks like “We Put It Down For Y’all” and “Live It Up” have a crazy amount of infectious energy and a real down-to-earth, pure hip-hop sound.
This album on the whole seems constructed to be the next thing you’ll hear blaring from neighboring cars at the stoplights. Busta takes the most infectious hip-hop sounds of today and improves upon them, with his superior rhyming skills and his knack both at picking talented producers and at helping them create musical tracks that are astoundingly good. The production throughout is right on-point, filled with sharp beats and interesting sounds. Whether he’s working with Jay-Dee (of the Ummah and Slum Village), Swizz Beats or a bunch of others, Busta seems to use what they do to push him to a new level.
Besides his tight collaborations with a variety of producers, Anarchy includes a slew of great tracks featuring other artists. Three of the best are right in a row towards the end of the album: “Make Noise,” where Lenny Kravitz and Busta make a true rock-rap collaboration (a real mixing of genres, not just someone rapping to a rock track), “Ready For War,” where M.O.P. and Busta play off each other’s revved-up, hyper styles, and “Why We Die,” where Busta gets both Jay-Z and DMX to reflect on the criminal life more seriously and introspectively than they’ve ever done on their own releases. I don’t know if Busta Rhymes is the hip-hop savior he makes himself out to be on the track “Salute Da Gods!!” (or if hip-hop’s even in the need of saving) but I do know that this is his most complex, varied and accomplished album yet, and the best hip-hop album I’ve heard so far this year.
// Notes from the Road
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