“Back in the days/ A n*gga used to be a*s out/ Now a n*gga holdin/ Several money market accounts…” – Busta Rhymes, “Dangerous” (1997)
Even with all of his years in the game, 2011 may have been Busta Rhymes’ best 365 days yet. On Chris Brown’s monster track of the year, “Look At Me Now,” Bussa Buss taught these rap kiddies some valuable lessons about the lungs-to-lyrics ratio between his skills and their amateur showings. It’s not that everyone had forgotten him until now – he rarely takes a more than two- or three-year break from the game. It’s just that everyone from cover duo Karmin to businessman Birdman himself can’t get enough of the fact that Busta is still around – and still this good.
AllHipHop.com reported the latest Busta Rhymes news early on, and in Part 1 of this interview, we asked him about the details behind his bonanza of a business deal – signing with Cash Money and getting backing from Google Music. In Part 2, we hear about his growth as a person, his respect for the elders, and why these young cats need to learn how to earn nine lives of their own:
AllHipHop.com: So, I witnessed a Busta Rhymes growth moment of at the BET Hip Hop Awards in October. I wasn’t sitting far from you, and there was a point when the audience stood up – I believe it was when we were clapping for LL, and everybody didn’t get up. And you turned around and like sonned the sh*t out of all of them! [laughter] You were like, ‘Y’all better get up!’ And I was like, ‘oh sh*t, I’m glad I’m standing already!’ That moment said, ‘he’s an O.G. now – everybody respects Busta!’ So, I do see growth. What do you think prompted that?
Busta Rhymes: I think just being a genuine fan of the music, that’s the seed of it all. I love my job, like, I love the fact that I was blessed with this ability, and I think that the highest way of showing my appreciation is by busting my *ss and never stopping, you know what I’m saying? I think it would be blasphemous to have the ability to do what I do and not maximize it in every way possible.
But that’s just speaking about me. Now, me speaking about being a fan of the music, I love LL Cool J, I love Run DMC, I love Beastie Boys, I love Jay-Z, I love Nas, I love DMX, I love Drake, I love Nicki Minaj, I love Kanye, I love Q-Tip, A Tribe Called Quest, I love De La Soul, I love Kool G Rap, I love Kane, I love N.W.A., I love Ice Cube, I love Too Short, I love, I could go on forever. But because of the love I have for all of these different artists, and just because I didn’t mention certain names don’t mean I don’t love them, because there’s just too many to keep that going in this interview…but my whole point in what I’m trying to say is, because of my love, is why I’ll turn around and tell people to stand up who ain’t standing up.
Do you know what LL means to Hip-Hop? F*ck what he means to me, I could talk about what he means to me all day, but that’s a little selfish, you know what I’m saying? And I’m only speaking about what he has done for me, and for what all of those artists have done for me – the inspiration they give me, and the drive to do the sh*t that I do, and to keep doing it. Them dudes had moments, and I wanted to have moments like them. I wanted to be like them. I want them to be like me. I want them to see moments that I’ve had and feel like, ‘damn, boy, I wish I did it like Busta Rhymes.’ There’s records that they made that I wish was my records, you know what I’m saying?
I want to be able to give other artists that same feeling an those artists did that for me. And when I know that there’s certain people – it ain’t necessarily their fault that they don’t value L. the same way that I might have valued him. It’s probably because they ain’t from that time where they can understand and appreciate his value and his worth the same way that I can, because they’re younger or because he hasn’t prioritized music as his primary source of revenue, so he ain’t putting out a sh*tload of music like he used to. So, there’s generation that might miss or might have missed what his significant value.
And it’s artists like me, it’s our job to me, and it’s our responsibility to me, to make sure that dudes don’t forget, and that dudes understand, and that artists and people in general understand the value of people like LL, and the value in people like a Queen Latifah. We’re all going to have to be given that accolade someday for our lifetime achievements.
AllHipHop.com: But, let me ask you this, though. Last year, I asked a lot of the Old School rappers and others about creating a new lane called Adult Contempo Hip-Hop. Because, let’s say that 10 more of your peers get these monster deals and suddenly we have a bunch of 40-year-old rappers who are doing their thing again real heavy. Do you think there needs to be another lane, or did you think it’s all rap, and we shouldn’t segment it by age?
Busta Rhymes: You can’t put a timeframe on greatness! You just can’t. So, I don’t think nothing, I think segregation is gonna weaken the whole sh*t, and it compromises the respect level, and you start creating these gaps that need bridges that we don’t need to have to struggle to find a bridge to bridge those gaps. I don’t want to do that. There’s no reason that there should be another lane for the artists that are a little older than the younger dudes, because once y’all separate yourselves, and once there’s a separation, there’s a respect level that’s compromised.
Older dudes need to respect younger dudes, because we needed to command that respect when we was the younger dudes, and we wanted that respect from the older artists that was looking at us like we wasn’t credible at the time, until we proved that we were. Sometimes I think it’s important that, well, it’s even more important that we embrace each other, because some of these younger dudes need help…
AllHipHop.com: For sure! [laughter]
Busta Rhymes: …in knowing what it is to become well-rounded artists, and not just be dudes that make one or two hot records and their career life is shorter than motherf*ckin’ [laughter]… I can’t even describe. Because I don’t understand short career lives. I wanna see dudes come up that can have careers, because ultimately, if the new dudes don’t have careers like me and Jay-Z and Nas and, you know, the dudes like us, the life of our genre is going to continue to dwindle, and it’s gonna die.
AllHipHop.com: Absolutely…there has to be some continuity. And I was thinking the exact opposite of your opinion, but you signing to Cash Money changed my mind. I said, ‘we don’t need a new lane. If Busta can get a crazy, monster deal like that, then the lane is open for anybody who wants to come back and is powerful and talented, you know?’ So, I give you kudos for that. You have the potential to change a lot of minds about whether the older generation of rappers who are still out here can actually continue to get their life in the industry.
Busta Rhymes: You know what? I thank you, and I really, genuinely appreciate that. I just want to point out something. The only thing that makes me an older artist is the time that I’ve put in. But my music…nothing about what I do, what Jay-Z does, what Nas does, there’s nothing about what we do that’s older, because if it was older, it wouldn’t be the sh*t! If it was older, these kids that you see, the millions of kids that you see go on YouTube to try and say my “Look At Me Now” verse, you wouldn’t see that if my contribution was old to them. You get what I’m saying?
Ultimately, if that’s the facts, then I don’t even see where the “older artist” category…how or where that fits in. The only thing that I see the “older artist” category or title or whatever we want to describe that to be being something that is of significance or value is what the people after us can learn from us, the “older artists.” With that being said, as long as the new dude is willing to embrace this new “older artist swag,” they’re going to have that to use to their advantage in addition to what they already are doing as their new sh*t.
But, the problem is, new dudes are gonna always have to compete with the one thing that they don’t have – that’s the new swag that the current and the timeless and the great older artists still can deliver. Not only are we delivering the new and setting the standard for what’s the next, but we’re doing it with the experience of a thing that we’ve lived that they haven’t. It would be to their advantage to pay attention and listen and, you know, embrace the veterans that much more gracefully.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I saw an example of that in the Tribe [Called Quest] documentary when you were in the scene with Q-Tip and Ali, and you were telling Tip that there was this song of theirs that you listened to that brought tears to your eyes. I think that experience is something that the new guys can’t ever get, especially from that era. So, what’s your single biggest piece of advice to these young guys who want to have a 20-year career?
Busta Rhymes: My biggest single piece of advice to them would be the one thing that I know hasn’t failed any artist that has actually lived through this…one thing, and that is DO NOT COMPROMISE facilitating and executing what your feelings dictate before anything. Like, don’t let nothing come before that. Whatever your feelings are, whatever your ideas are, you gotta facilitate and execute them sh*ts before you start letting people come in and mix and dilute and start tampering with it.
Ultimately, that thing is the driving force behind what is going to make people make you into who they know and grow to love. You know what I’m saying? We fail to realize – when we first got put on, or when we first get our record deals and are exposed in a major way – those first moments of exposure…they all came from you just trusting your extinct. You was just following your gut. It was no record labels involved, telling you what to do and how to do it. There was no bunch of people that was around you just being critics, because this Internet sh*t provides a platform for the most irrelevant opinions that f*cks with you and can discourage you as the newer artist. Because, all of these people got some sh*t to say!
Before you put your music out, you wasn’t paying attention to none of that sh*t, so don’t pay attention to it after the fact. Like, you can bear witness to what they’re saying, but don’t pay attention to the point where it starts compromising the way you go about doing the things, that ends up putting you in a position to where people want to start critiquing you in the first place. You wouldn’t have been in that position if you would have followed your own gut. So just do you, follow you, and don’t let nobody tell you nothing. After you share your music with other people and hear what they got to say, and you honestly feel like you need to go and make a change, or you need to make an adjustment, then and only then you do that. Outside of that, just do what you love, and it will allow you to sleep better at night. [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: Yo, the Internet is the devil! As much as I run a website everyday, I know that the ‘Net is good for doing that to people. Like, I was thinking about this being the 20th anniversary of you and Leaders of the New School on “The Arsenio Hall Show” – that was the only time we got to see you guys, other than the music videos. There wasn’t all this access and all these websites where you could say whatever nasty things you wanted to say. We just saw you on TV and we were like, ‘wow.’
But let me ask you about that – 20 years since Arsenio Hall! Did you have any inkling back then that you’d still be around?
Busta Rhymes: I mean, ummm, obviously you never know that you’re going to be around as long as you’re gonna be around, because you don’t even know if you’re gonna live that long! You know what I’m saying? [laughter] But, the fact that I’ve been blessed to wake up everyday, have my health and strength, that’s number one, and then to be able to go and do the sh*t that I love everyday, it’s an inbelievable blessing in itself.
And the fact that I’m able to hear you ask me about a 20-year Arsenio Hall appearance anniversary is crazy in itself. I definitely didn’t foresee none of this sh*t, you know what I’m saying? My father, my mother, they wasn’t…they respected what I did, and my mother was way more supportive than my pop. My pop was on some, ‘Yo, you gon’ come and learn this trade and be a licensed electrical contractor, and have that sh*t as a backup plan in case this little rap sh*t that you trying to do don’t work.’ Obviously, they didn’t foresee it neither.
I don’t think you can ever foresee – we’re not fortune tellers – but one thing that I can say is that my determination, my desire to want to do this for the rest of my life has only grown, and I think that’s a testament to what I’ve been able to display through my work and my career landscape. I can tell you, I’m not finishing with what I have to do no time soon, because there’s a lot of sh*t that I gotta do, and there’s a lot of great things that I have planned that I wish and hope that I’ll be able to successfully get off so that the world can experience the things that I got in mind.
So, I’ma be around for a while, and I hope, God willing, that everything plays out in a way so that I can even be around beyond those things that I have planned in the immediate and the long-term future. And I hope that another 20 years from now, when I’m like 57, 58, 60 years old, you know, you still doing ya journalism, and we can sit back and talk about the 20-year anniversary of this interview! [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: [laughter] Ha ha!!! That would be SO dope! And I want you to know you have some oldheads at AllHipHop, including me, who have followed you since the very beginning, so this is one of the cool moments of the year for us…to see this happen for you, Busta.
Busta Rhymes: Awww, wow. Thank you, Seandra. I’m at about 85 percent with finishing up this album, and then I’m gonna have some listening sessions. They’re gonna be real unconventional and intimate and everything, so I look forward to having you and the AllHipHop crew come out. Happy holidays and love to you, baby girl.