New Again: Busta Rhymes



Remember the days when MTV and VH1 were of some educational value? Pre-Perez, Pitchfork, Wikipedia—and, of course,—when MTV News was still news and you had to watch Behind the Music to learn about salacious music related scandals of days gone by? Before the glut of reality television shows, when MTV was still populated with quality programs such as Yo! MTV Raps? If this is ringing a very nostalgic bell, you’re in luck: MTV is airing a special Yo! MTV Raps Classic Cuts this Sunday at 12 am.

It’s a one-time deal worth catching, particularly since Busta Rhymes, the speed spitter extraordinaire, is one of the Yo! veterans who will be appearing in the special. Busta’s initial rap collective, Leaders of the New School, accidentally split up on the show in 1993 when member Charlie Brown announced that he’d had enough of the group, much to the surprise of Busta and the band (that was sort of mean, C. Brown). We thought we’d ease your trip back in time to Yo!‘s heyday (1988 to 1995) by revisiting our  December 1998 interview with Rhymes. We wonder if “people turning their backs on you and then you coming back as the Ironman with a vengeance,” is a reference to Leaders’ unfortunate end…

In other Busta-related news, Rhymes has recently announced that he will be joining Young Weezy’s Cash Money Records label. Looks like Rhymes is going to need a Cash Money moniker – too bad Breezy is already taken.

Busta Time
From gags to riches: Make way for rap’s new megamogul

Interview by Dimitri Ehrlich
Artwork by Ruben Toledo

With platinum record sales, forays into film, his own “Bushi” clothing line, and an emerging record label with the chart-topping act Flipmode Squad, Busta Rhymes is running on some powerful batteries. But it’s not just his drive that sets him apart; it’s his hyperanimated aesthetic and his unexpected moves as a performer and a mogul. He’s popped up on songs and videos for Missy Elliott, Noreaga, and the late Notorious B.I.G.; appeared on the big screen in John Singleton’s Higher Learning; and outdressed Martha Stewart on the MTV Video Music Awards in a screaming red frock he designed himself.

True to his wild style, his third album, E.L.E. (Elektra), which comes out this month, features cameos from an eclectic group of performers ranging from Janet Jackson to Ozzy Osbourne. His last album, When Disaster Strikes, has sold over 1.8 million copies, setting the pace for Rhymes to bust on through to the next level in 1999. “Nobody can bite my style,” he boasts.

DIMITRI EHRLICH: Of all the people in the world, how did Ozzy Osbourne wind up on your new record?

BUSTA RHYMES: I wrote a chorus for him to sing and he did it. Ozzy did his part over that classic melody from the song “Ironman.” It’s about people turning their backs on you and then you coming back as the Ironman with a vengeance.

EHRLICH: Was it written from personal experience?

RHYMES: Yeah. I take my experiences and I apply them constructively so that in the end I benefit from them. But I want to keep the package surprising. I really don’t want to release all the eggs out of the hatch.

EHRLICH: You did a lot of cameos in other videos after you left the hip-hop band Leaders of the New School.

RHYMES: I wanted to capitalize on opportunities.

EHRLICH: How do you feel about the way hip-hop has become so big it’s in Pringles commercials?

RHYMES: That’s good. That’s beautiful. Commercialization is cool, but I’m not trying to adjust myself to be commercial. Let the commercialism just come. My agenda is to make sure people feel what I do.