Bee Kind, Rewind

The exuberant wild style of Busy Bee still resonates three decades later

That scandalous night only cemented Busy's mythos, helping to land his role in Wild Style. Who can forget him rocking the mic with Funky Four's Rodney C, or fashioning the letter "B" from a sprawl of cash on a hotel bed as he, Fab Five Freddy, and graffiti marvel Lee Quinones are about to have a love-in with three groupies from the club? "Busy remains the most magnetic performer in hip-hop," Ahearn says. "Guaranteed to warm up any crowd, no matter. Busy kicks that old-school party style because that's who he is. In this age of bling, people need to reconnect to what this culture was about. The chief rocker Busy Bee gives people that glimpse at that legendary golden age of hip-hop, with its genuine innocence and creativity."

Fab Five Freddy concurs that Busy is a true original. "The scene where Busy asks the audience gathered at the band shell on the Lower East Side, tells them to clap their hands like whoever was murdering all of the little kids in Atlanta was between their palms, that speaks volumes," he says. "Busy Bee weaving that bit of social consciousness into a party rhyme—at the height of the Atlanta child murders in the early '80s—was nothing short of brilliant. He is a true MC in every sense of that word: master of ceremonies, mic controller. A few weeks ago, at the 25th-anniversary celebration of Wild Style in Central Park, there were a lot of incredible performances, but in my opinion, Busy Bee stole the show.''

The last few years haven't been all roses for the rapper, however. His beloved parents passed away in the late '80s, just when he was blowing up with his hit album Running Thangs and its hit single, "Suicide." Then came the arrest on the Nitro Tour—headlined by LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and NWA—where Busy was accused, along with two other suspects, of sexually assaulting a woman in Minnesota. It took six months to clear his name. "I could've been bitter," Busy says now. "But I knew God was protecting me the whole time. And I found out who my true friends were. To this day, Russell Simmons and Ice-T are two of the most stand-up dudes I ever met in my whole life. They put money on my commissary, sent me clothes, took my calls, kept my spirits up. They never once doubted my innocence."

Details

Chief Rocker Busy Bee: The Architect MC Vol.1,
a short film by Barry Michael Cooper

Chief Rocker Busy Bee: The Architect MC Vol. 2,
by Barry Michael Cooper

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Out of jail but now uncomfortable in New York, Busy and his wife, Michelle (one part of Kool Herc's Herculords crew), relocated to Baltimore. In a panic to make ends meet, he hustled weed—potent weed. He laughs at the memory. "People in New York thought I was getting shows, because I was still dressing fly and I had money in my pocket. It was crazy. I had firemen, bus drivers, even cops as my customers. I had an uninterrupted run from 1989 all the way to 1996, when one of my customers who was a detective told me I was about to get pinched. And that was the last day of me being the Branson of B-more. Thing is, none of my customers knew me as Busy Bee. They knew me as Scorpio. Scorpio with that fire 'dro and skunk."

The doting father of two daughters, Busy works with his manager, Roland Russell, and records for the Urban Gold label in addition to doing shows around the world. Mos Def is rumored to be interested in portraying him in a feature film that hip-hop and soul impresario Andre Harrell is producing. In October, Busy will be one of the performers at VH1's Hip Hop Honors 2007 awards show, as part of their Wild Style tribute. He's also a judge on The Next, an online hip-hop version of American Idol, sitting alongside his junior look-alike, Lil Wayne. Vintage concert clips available on YouTube have only broadened his folklore; he also recently guested on KRS-One and Marley Marl's Hip Hop Lives, a backward-looking CD that's nonetheless one of the best hip-hop albums in several years. But the most resonant praise that Busy gets comes straight from his wife. "Busy lives and breathes hip-hop," Michelle says. "It's not a game or a passing fad to him. Busy is a great MC, but more than anything else, my husband is a true survivor."

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