Off the Record with Nate Flannery

“Too much of us is dangerous” is the hyper-energeticallybelted hook to Busta Rhymes 1997 hit “Dangerous.” The mascot of hip-hop’s jiggy era, and already then a veteran artist, Busta was the only rapper of the time who was versatile enough to work with both Puff Daddy’s glamour and glitz artists and their antithesis, like underground sensation Mos Def.Well-respected within the industry, Buss a Buss is probablythe most sought after artist for a rock-solid verse or hook on other rappers’ albums. Although he garnered much acclaim early in his career, especially with a guest appearance on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 classic “Low End Theory,” the question before the much-anticipated release of his latest project, “The Big Bang,” was whether the veteran artistcould muster a listener’s attention for the duration of a full-length album.Busta went straight to the top, signing a deal with Interscoperecords and bringing on Dr. Dre as co-executive producer.Especially after the fallout between rap legend Rakim and Dr.Dre, the formula for this type of project is well known. The basic plan is to provide some great beats and have the rapper rhyme about the struggle of yesterday instead of the success of today.But, inking a deal with a major label and a producer like Dr.Dre can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand it opens doors and provides access to the best beat producers and guest artists, but on the other hand it brings tremendous pressure for commercial success which has the potential to stifle creativity.The album starts off on the wrong foot with a cookie-cuttersong about “hustling, robbin'” getting “money, clothes, cars, sexy broads,” but then transitions into the club banger “Touch It” which features an addictive bass-heavy beat which alternates between slow, low energy hooks, and manic, high-energy verses. This is the type of song that will cause you to involuntarily start bopping to the beat.”How We Do It” featuring Missy Elliot is a relentlessly sultryand sensual song destined for heavy rotation in the clubs. “NewYork Shit” makes use of a classic beat from D.I.T.C. crew member Diamond D, to create a feel-good song about hometown love which has proven to be the New York City anthem of the summer.”Been Through the Storm” is an utterly exceptional rap songwhich features a soulful hook from Stevie Wonder, whose line “See? My Poppa was po’, and my momma was young…” introduces Busta’s life story as the son of Jamaican immigrant parents who was raised by Brooklyn’s streets. Over a melodic piano beat Busta raps “Mom and Pop be worrying for their son. Despite their struggle and their honest living, look and see just what I’ve become: a scavenger… somebody trying to clap me up.”Not stopping the funk for a single track, The Big Bang then delivers “In the Ghetto,” an infectious and up-beat song which features a delightful horn ensemble and a guest appearance by the late Rick James. Busta delivers bouncing, mesmerizing, rapid-fire lyrics in which he nostalgically tells the stories of his youth.Two songs later is the cinematic “Goldmine,” which is aScarface-esque tale of the American Dream— the cocaineversion, that is. The song features rap-heavyweight Wu-Tang Clanmember Raekwon and Busta rapping about cooking coke, ducking the D’s, and pitching packs, over a chilling and melancholy beat.”Legend of the Fall Offs” is a truly disturbing song that featuresverses about literally and figuratively burying rappers alive and a beat that is entirely composed by horror movie sound effects such as a shovel digging in gravel and crickets chirping. The percussion for the bass-line is provided by a thumping heart-beat which, needless to say, fades by the end of thesong.Business-wise, the number of references to cocaine and streetlife are to be expected, but “Big Bang’s” potential for commercial success has left its creativity unfettered.The album demonstrates Busta’s versatility as an artist, astrack to track he delivers hard-hitting hard-core hip-hop, lurid love lyrics, bouncing bass-heavy bangers, soulful songs aboutstruggle, sin, and strife, as well as the rambunctious rap-musicfor which he has always been known. Too much of Busta Rhymes might really be dangerous, but on a full length album,it’s still a pleasurable listen.