Peak: #83 [R&B/Hip-Hop]
When it comes to MCs skating by on personality and connections, Busta Rhymes may be as guilty as Snoop himself. For sheer giving-it-all-you-gotness, Busta Bust never topped his first single, “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check,” and I’m not saying that just to be a dick–if I really wanted to be a dick, I’d say he never topped his breakthrough cameo on Tribe’s “Scenario.” As with many weirdos, the ’90s were good to and for Busta–he was like the Onyx member you could take home to meet mom. But genuinely unhinged competitors ODB and Mystikal better suited the role of crazed microphone id by decade’s end. And though fans of Mariah or Courvoisier might argue otherwise, Busta blustered through the much of the ’00s as a most unpersuasive high-roller.
Maybe the threat of a little jail time (rising out of an assault on a former driver with the temerity to demand back pay) helped the guy reorder his priorities. On his first disc after the headlines faded, Back on My B.S, he not only sharpened and accelerated his rhymes, but offered a bona fide comeback hit in “Arab Money.” With Middle Eastern caricatures (registering somewhere on the Offend-O-Meter between the Clash and Ray Stevens) either excused or exacerbated, depending on your perspective, by Ron Browz’s autotuned muezzin, “Arab Money” was both technologically au courant and nostalgically redolent of the early ’00s, when Timbaland was pirating North African hits for hooks.
The even rowdier “Don’t Touch Me (Throw da Water on ‘Em)” hearkened even further back, with Sean C & LV’s spare looped funk, built up from the tom roll on the Diplomats’ “I Can Give You Love,” a spry relief from modern rap’s ominous synth-pomp. I almost prefer the all-star remix, that rare instance of the form that didn’t end in babble: Busta’s Flipmode mates Reek Da Villain and Spliff Star spit merely serviceably, but Weezy and Nas aren’t just collecting checks, the Game shoots above his average, and Big Daddy Kane could teach all y’all a little something about how much skill skating by on personality requires. Still, the original version, all Busta alone, is where he returns to the spasmodic glory of his prime. If the frenzy of syllables fades in print (“You can give me yo’ standing ovation while I’m banging your face in”), for once he motormouths like he’s got something to prove. So ignore the song title–let the motherfucker burn.