One of the most gifted and instantly recognizable rappers of the '90s, Busta Rhymes parlayed a madcap personality and seemingly inexhaustible energy into stardom during an era when hip-hop was dominated by gangstas and materialism. Busta's music sounded fairly distinctive -- herky-jerky funk laced with offbeat samples and eerie, apocalyptic production touches -- but the star of the show was his wildly off-kilter, dancehall-influenced flow, which was really like nothing else in rap. Still, despite many astounding individual moments, his albums were so sprawling that none really maintained their momentum from start to finish, making him an excellent candidate for a best-of. The 18 cuts collected on Rhino's chronologically arranged The Best of Busta Rhymes are chosen as well as one could hope, spanning all the singles and vitally necessary cuts from his four platinum solo albums (although diehards might find a personal favorite missing). There's also the hit non-LP reworking of "Turn It Up" (with new lyrics and a "Knight Rider" sample), plus two singles from the classic Leaders of the New School debut Future Without a Past. The leap in his technique from the LONS cuts to the brilliant "Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check" is startling, but the collection's true revelation is the way it brings Busta's versatility into its sharpest focus yet. There's plenty of his trademark mania, of course, but there are also softer collaborations with female singers, dance-oriented club tracks, and creepy, more subdued mood pieces. Since this is only Busta's best, things never fly off in too many different directions, and fans who might miss the out-of-control feel of his albums may also find it easier to realize that whatever Busta tries, his rhymes remain as dizzyingly intricate and witty as ever. The Best of Busta Rhymes paints as definitive a portrait as possible of one of rap's most electrifying talents, but, more than that, it's simply an irresistible listen.
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey