Busta Rhymes mentally prepares to eat his own dreads
Busta Rhymes was on 106 & Park yesterday talking about his new video, the one where Gabrielle Union lip-syncs Kelis’s parts and a lot of stuff blows up. The video is a parody of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a movie that wasn’t even good in the first place, and it’s terrible: sloppy, overproduced, incoherent. BET will probably play the hell out of it because they play the hell out of every video that obviously cost a lot to make, but it won’t make the video any less terrible. On 106 & Park, Busta did a lot of talking about how he always comes with the videos. Once upon a time, that was true; plenty of people who commented on yesterday’s post made sure to note that Busta made at least three classic videos (“Woo-Hah! (Got You All in Check),” “Put Your Hands Up Where My Eyes Could See,” and “Dangerous”). But Busta’s whole wacky-alien schtick got tired years ago, and we ended up with a lot of stuff like “Gimme Some More,” a hyperactive pileup of primary colors and stupid costumes and showy editing, the most egregious example of forced zaniness in a video since Soundgarden forced “Black Hole Sun” on the world. And he’s still corpse-fucking that persona years later, mugging like a fool whenever anyone’s dumb enough to let him. When he’s not too busy making funny faces, he’s biting LL’s god-awful “Headsprung” video in “Touch It” or giving Papoose camera time for that dumbshit New-York-in-my-hand bit in “Touch It (Remix).”
People keep sinking money into Busta Rhymes, and it’s easy to see why: five platinum solo albums, crazy industry connections, a famously diligent work ethic, a complete willingness to make himself look like an ass on camera. From a certain perspective, he’s a sure bet, and that’s why he’s supposedly going to drop a huge summer record on us in a few months, why Dr. Dre signed him to his label and recruited a laundry list of big producers to give him beats, why all those chumps wanted to be on the “Touch It” remix. But Busta is a waste of money. The Big Bang will probably go gold, possibly even platinum, just on the strength of “Touch It,” which appears to be a bona fide monster hit even though it’s butt. But it won’t justify the massive overhead it’s almost certainly already built up, and it might not even make enough to pay for that necklace Busta was wearing on 106 & Park, the one that had an appetizer-plate-sized map of New York made out of colored diamonds. I’m not really basing this on anything empirical, but I don’t believe the record-buying public really gives a fuck about Busta Rhymes. This guy wore out his welcome years ago by jumping on damn near every remix he could find for longer than anyone actually wanted to hear him. He was like X-Pac in the WWF a couple of years ago, when he was wrestling every interesting new guy who came into the company (Rob Van Dam, Tajiri), trying to cement his own star status but really only dragging those guys down with him. Every time a hot song bubbled up from the underground, Busta would predictably jump on the remix and make it sort of suck: “Simon Says,” “Ante Up,” “Gimme the Light,” “Never Scared,” “Get Low,” “Wait (The Whisper Song),” “Laffy Taffy.” For all I know, he was on some “Gasolina” remix that I never heard. All the while, he never once bothered to switch up his circa-93 rah-rah flow, growling and fuming like Onyx was still the biggest thing in rap. He never learned wit or subtlety or swagger. Listening to Busta in 2006 is the same as it’s always been; it’s like getting your face blasted with hot saliva, and that kind of loses its novelty after a while.
This has nothing to do with the murder of Busta’s assistant Israel Ramirez on the set of the “Touch It (Remix)” video. He’s gotten a lot of flack from the local press for refusing to cooperate with authorities on their investigation, and it may or may not be justified. I don’t know Busta or anyone else involved in the case personally, so I don’t feel qualified to speculate on his motives, though I have to say that he sounded like an idiot on 106 & Park a couple of weeks after the shooting, talking about how he was trying to do something positive in bringing all these people together for the video, like that matters at all now that someone died in the process. Busta may or may not be a great guy, but he’s totally run out of gas musically, and the three Big Bang songs that have made their way to the radio only drive the point home. “Touch It” is a naked grab at club-hit status, and it has succeeded, but I want to stab my radio every time I hear it; it’s maddeningly repetitive and hopelessly shrill, and the whole “get low”/”now turn it up” gimmick ensures that no good rapping will come of it. “New York Shit,” the local pride anthem, gets a ton of play at every NYC mix hut, but it doesn’t have anything to say about the city beyond the two minutes Busta spends shouting out rap names, and plus it has more of that unbelievably obnoxious Swizz Beatz hypeman shit. Weirdly, “I Love My Chick,” Busta’s ill-advised collabo with the Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am, may be the best song of the three, with a nice sidelong lope and a lyrical conceit that might actually pass for romantic in rap. Busta still sucks on it, though, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t suck on every song on The Big Bang. With Game’s The Documentary, Dr. Dre proved that he could put take a completely uninteresting rapper and make a truly good album with him. But Game was a blank slate, an empty bark. When he was surrounded by better rappers and amazing beats, he sounded just fine. Busta isn’t a blank slate. He’s actively irritating, and there’s only so much Dre could possibly do with that.
Voice review: Harry Allen on Busta Rhymes’ Genesis