Busta Rhymes

The Big Bang

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The hard-working Busta Rhymes feels he wasn't handled properly by the J label. He might have a case: 2002's It Ain't Safe No More was the first album he released that failed to reach the Top Ten of the Billboard album chart, and it didn't come close -- it didn't even see the Top 40. Now on Dr. Dre's Aftermath, which is sort of a story, he also chopped his hair (as evidenced on the cover of an XXL issue and throughout the booklet of this album), and has had to deal with the death of his bodyguard, Israel Ramirez, who was shot on the scene of his video for the "Touch It" remix. It's not a good sign for your career when people are apparently supposed to talk about your hair or your new label, and it's even worse when people are instead talking about a tragedy not directly involving yourself. Lead single "Touch It," released months ahead of the album, did well despite being a very polarizing -- i.e., either bangin' or, for example, piercingly aggravating -- club record. For the most part, Busta's acting like everyone's idea of Busta ("This is what I'm supposed to do, right?"), retracing old steps and not doing a very convincing job at that. A handful of hot beats are wasted here, including a couple from the boss of his label and one from the late J Dilla, and "New York Shit" is a blown opportunity if there ever was one, a mindless and empty quasi-anthem instead of a true rallying call to reclaim the spotlight stolen by the South. There's also Stevie Wonder, who drops in to sound like Wyclef Jean impersonating Bob Marley, as well as the late Rick James, who is sampled so heavily that he's given a feature credit. In fact, there's an average of just over one guest spot per track, and Busta does happen to remain the dominant voice. Though he's as loud as ever, he has never sounded more tired. The title of the album's last track? "Legend of the Fall Offs."

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