With his seventh studio album, The Big Bang, being released this week via Aftermath/Interscope, you’d think you’d heard it all from Busta Rhymes by now. But not only does the leader of the Flipmode Squad have an arsenal of new tracks laced by Pharell, Dr. Dre, Timbaland and Just Blaze, he also has some strong opinions he wants to share.
Busta Bus, a New York native with almost fifteen years in the game as a rapper/actor, uses the music as an outlet to speak his mind, to be a voice in hip-hop to open the minds of the youth of urban cultures across the world. He sat down with Prefix – when the new album, not the Feb.5 fatal shooting of his longtime bodyguard Israel Ramirez, created the buzz surrounding Busta – and talked about New York hip-hop, the making of The Big Bang, and the Old Testament. And if you thought Kanye’s comments about George Bush were controversial, that was nothing compared to Busta’s sentiments on the current state of affairs in America.
Tell me a bit about The Big Bang.
A fuckin’ big bang is gonna hit the shit out of everybody in 2006. That’s really all that can be said. I’m gonna bang the shit out of everything moving. I’m one of the best representations of this quality hip-hop: three years in the making, Flipmode/Aftermath/Interscope, a lot of time to cook up some real crazy shit in the studio with Dr. Dre.
I know Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Dre and some other people have been mentioned as contributors, but how much of an influence does the Flipmode Squad have on the album?
They got a song on the album with me, like every other album that I’ve made in the past.
How did the songs with Rick James and Stevie Wonder come about?
They got legacies that are godly to me. It was an unbelievable honor to have them real interested in doing something with me. Shortly after my song was done with Rick James, he passed away. God bless the dead.
Stevie Wonder [and I are] both Tauruses, so when I reached out to him, he was already feelin’ me and what I was doin’ with the music. And of course I was feeling him with what he did with the music, and we just vibed for a good six to eight weeks together, just getting to know each other, getting to learn each other, getting to see how we put it down in the studio and just being around each other to be sure if we really wanted to do something with each other.
Stevie, he’s gotta feel a certain comfort zone, because at this stage in his career, he don’t gotta do shit. So when he finally was with it to get on this record with me, the shit was an unbelievable honor, man, and he came in the studio and I recorded in his Wonderland Studio and we made the shit a banger.
And the dope thing is that they [both] were so willing and so open-minded to come into my world and [see] what I’m trying to do in my universe with the music. They didn’t have no problem being a part of the concepts that I had for the songs, because the songs that I did with them were concept records. I didn’t wanna waste it just trying to make some shit that wasn’t gonna have substance. I wanted to make these songs really big-event records, not only because of their involvement but because of what we were dealing with as far as subject matter and issues. They made them shits real phenomenal and incredible, and that’s the shit that I like to do. I like to do the shit that people can’t compete with, stand-alone type of projects.
Southern hip-hop is a big influence right now. What do you think New York hip-hop has to do to reclaim the throne?
I think New York needs to balance the fuckin’ music out, man. That’s part of the reason we lost the shit in the first place.
I think it’s two reasons. The A-list rap artist in New York has no presence right now. There was a time when DMX, Jay-Z, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Notorious B.I.G. – we all had projects at the same time. That’s missing right now.
Number two, everybody became so tough that they forgot what it was to have fun and make records for people to party to. You can’t get no chick to go out with you all the time if every time you go out, you trying to slap somebody in they fuckin’ face. You talk so fuckin’ tough that it seems like every time you go out you wanna beat somebody’s ass. Ain’t no chick trying to go out with you when you’re fuckin’ vibing like that all the time. Chicks can’t dance to tough-guy records all the time.
You totally sacrifice what the whole meaning is of partying and having fun. Don’t get me wrong, I approve the street shit. The tough talk, the street shit – we need those movements and those pictures painted, especially if they’re being done in a mellow way and a right way, because this is the testosterone that hip-hop was built on. But you can’t have too much of one thing. At some point in the club you ain’t gotta hear, “I’ll shoot you and bust your fuckin’ head.” People get tired if you ain’t got some shit to balance it out with.
That’s part of the reason why I made “Touch It.” I just felt like it was straight feel-good energy, club banger, make people wild out, put a smile on your motherfuckin’ face, pour your drinks around, spend your money at the bar and just feel good about being out. That’s what “Touch It” is. Don’t get me wrong: You gonna get the street on the album as well, I’m just trying to re-establish what it’s like to have that feel-good energy in the club, in the street, and New York needs that.
Talking about that cohesiveness between rappers, what’s it like working with Raekwon and the RZA on Cuban Linx Part II?
That shit has been unbelievable. Raekwon is a genius. RZA, he’s the fuckin’ sensei. When you get an opportunity to work with greatness, man, I’m just such a big fan of the [first] Cuban Linx project that I came to Raekwon one day and was like, “Yo, man, this generation of hip-hop never really got a chance to digest that kind of quality music. We need to get back to that man.” Plus nobody has ever been able to finesse the drug talk better than Ghostface and Raekwon, and when they’re together they are an unstoppable machine.
That whole Wu-Tang movement has created such a milestone in this rap shit. I just feel that this generation is missing that presence that they once had, the whole movement they once had, the contribution they was makin’ to the music at one time I’m just trying to re-establish what real quality hip-hop music is supposed to feel like, with the New York logo on it. I’m just trying to pull it all together in whatever way that I can, and if I’m a fan of certain things, I’m just gonna try to bring that shit back to life. And right now Raekwon is one of my closest peoples in this rap shit, and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest is one of my closest people in this rap shit. That’s why they [both have a presence] on my album as well.
I feel like right now is one of the critical times in hip-hop, but we gotta lead by example ’cause motherfuckers is complaining so much about why New York ain’t poppin’. What we gonna do is re-establish that throne that we always used to hold down. We gotta contribute to each other’s greatness in whatever way we possibly can, and that is what the Dirty South is doin’. They’re puttin on a lot of their new artists; they’re all comin’ out with A-list producers to support and break in their new artists. But New York motherfuckers is scared to lose whatever title it is they self-proclaim themselves as having.
But on that ignorant New York shit that they don’t wanna put on the new niggas, ’cause they scared that these new niggas might come and smash whatever they doin’ and move them out of they spot. They ain’t really helping new niggas to come up the way they should, and I think that’s some bitch-move shit. I just wanna show motherfuckers how to do it. Big up to certain [rappers] that are bringing they cliques through and puttin’ on they new artists: G-Unit, Dipset for the most part, Flipmode without question. We’re tryin’ to re-establish the way the game needs to feel, from the way that we live and the way we feel to how the way the game needs to look and the way the game needs to feel.
You’ve always been recognized as one of the top lyricists and one of the most intellectual emcees. What’s your take on what’s going on in the world right now, from Katrina to the presidency of George Bush.
It’s all conspired shit. I’m real big on conspiracy theories man, but I’m also one that’s real big on facts – the facts and the show. The way things play themselves out is what I live by, because there’s a whole lot of talk and propaganda that’s thrown out here to keep us blind from what’s really going on and to keep distracting us from the truth, so we can’t really see how filthy the devil is in all of his affairs.
Them devils – I call them devils, the powers that be – they’re the ones that really own the motherfuckin’ United States corporation. Like most bosses of most companies, we don’t really get to see them or interact with them. The board of directors, the shareholders of major corporations, we get to see the bosses that they appoint to be the bosses to come in and deal with the staff, the employees and so on and so forth, but we don’t really get to see the hierarchy motherfuckers that really dictate the way shit is supposed to be.
Bush ain’t nothing but on some fuckin’ strings; he do what the fuck he’s told. He’s the president, just here to be president of a corporation. He’s an employee put on a salary. What he does to get his money and to get his power outside of that, of course, that’s what it’s about. Niggas is gonna hustle to try to do whatever they can, because it’s about seizing the opportunity while you got the moment to seize the opportunity, to capitalize on the shit that you can capitalize on while he’s in the position to do it. That’s what the Bush family is about. They’re about strong-arming shit. They got they little scandals goin’ on. They not gonna stop doin’ that.
The whole political system is about scandals and a bunch of bullshit. It’s always gonna be so they can control people. We’re nothing but a bunch of employees that run around and do slave labor to keep the company – the America corporation – functioning.
As far as the voting system, picture having a corporation that you’re the founder of. You got a business, you got like six or seven people; you got your president, your vice president, your treasurer, your secretary, your board of directors. It’s a corporate structure, the same shit that the United States is set up: president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, board of directors, so on and so forth. They need employees to work. Who are the employees? The American citizens. The American citizen ain’t nothing’ but slaves tied into the country. You ain’t got nothing’ that you own here. You buy your house. You pay for your house. You think you own your house, but you pay taxes for the rest of your life until you die, because you don’t own the land.
They knew the fuckin’ flood was gonna fuck the people up in New Orleans. The one way to justify moving people out, taking over that land so they can rebuild shit and then bring a new fuckin’ system out there is by letting that flood fuck those people up. Not coming, not helping them. Take their land, give them a little piece of money and tell them they really don’t have no choice of whether or not they can stay. They gotta bounce.
‘Cause don’t nobody own the land, and it’s real fucked up. There wasn’t really no other way for them to come in there and tell motherfuckers they can’t live there no more, so what they did was foresee a problem that they wasn’t gonna fix. But it really was all conspired shit. At the end of the day, they knew they had bigger plans for that property. It’s like when fucking [big developers] see a piece of land they want to build a twin tower on, [they] makes plans to go in and seize that property so [they] can do what [they] want with it.
It ain’t shit. They knew what they wanted to do with that land out there; they knew that they just can’t tell the whole city they gotta move. So they just let this little leak become a fuckin’ fast drip [and then become] a fuckin’ flow from a water faucet, [and it became] a flood that they knew they wasn’t gonna fix. They knew what their agenda was, and at the end of the day all [Bush is] doing is executing their plans. That’s really my take on that type of shit, man, and that’s the reason why all that voting shit is crazy to me.
How the fuck you gonna tell me that I got a corporation with employees, that I’m gonna allow my employees to vote me out of my business that I am the president of or that I own? You can’t vote me out of shit; that’s my shit. As far as the voting system is concerned, I think it’s psychological antifreeze. It’s just to keep people cool because they need something to make them feel like they got a say-so. People feel like they got some say-so, they cool.
It’s almost like when you’re talking to someone that you know and they’re ignoring you; what you say means nothing. Don’t that shit drive you a lot more crazy than an actual argument with somebody talking shit back to you? So they know they gotta fool people into thinking their word means something: You have some say-so. People know if you’re ignoring them and you have no say-so, they’re gonna be forced to do something to be heard. And what they’re gonna be forced to do to be heard, you may not be ready to deal with.
Devils don’t want you to know how filthy they are in all of their affairs, how corrupt they are and how scandalous they are in all of their agendas, ’cause they know we’re more of a morally, principally correct type of motherfucker compared to them. They don’t live based by morals and principals. That’s why they destroy their own to establish position and power.
What books have you read recently that have sparked your brain?
I liked The DaVinci Code. It just had the concept. The core element of the concept of the book deals with whether or not Jesus had relatives and how they had to hide in these paintings every connection that came or might have led back to Jesus, and it’s crazy to me that they do shit like that. Is it because Jesus really ain’t no white boy and he’s black? The Old Testament describes him as a black man. The New Testament, the King James version, is some ol’ funny-style shit. Just for the record, King James was, from my understanding, a homosexual. I don’t knock that, I just don’t live by that. I follow the Old Testament.
At the end of the day, this book – shit like that is just a sample of how much we are being kept from the truth. ‘Cause I think these motherfuckers really is scared of the fact that there might be a blood that exists today that’s black that could say he’s a direct descendent of Jesus Christ. I think that’s one of the most frightening things that could ever happen to anyone in a position of power as far as the hierarchy government is concerned and the powers that be. A motherfucker like me that could have my pants hanging off my ass with all types of diamond chains around my neck talking shit and rapping, that could say I’m a direct descendent of Jesus Christ. And that’s a threat that they don’t ever wanna have to face. So they keep us blind to shit like that and hide those facts.
I love to get into sciences like this, man, but primarily I wanna beat people in the head, just to spark people in a way [to get them] to read between the lines, to never take nothing at face value and that the facts and show is what it’s all about. One piece of interesting information connects to another, and it could go as far as you’re willing to research. The Big Bang is another display of how far we can take this music and take the information that I have and communicate it to the people.
Busta Rhymes Web site (streaming audio)