August 6, 2007

Busta Rhymes - The Coming (March 26, 1996)


The whole filmmaking thing, along with real life and my general malaise, have led to more infrequent updates on my blog. Rest assured, my two dear readers, the blog isn't dead, and I will try to write a little bit more often.

The former Cameo King, Trevor Smith, known to the NYPD as Busta Rhymes, used to be one of the most aggressive, idiosyncratic, and hyperactive personalities in all of hip hop, both as a member of the defunct Leaders Of The New School and as a solo artist. Nowadays, he's just known to readers of the New York Post as the rapper that keeps getting busted for D.U.I.'s. Which is a sad turn of events, considering how far he's come.

The Coming is Bus-a-Bus's first solo outing, and it was released on Elektra Records, home of the other aggressive, idiosyncratic, and hyperactive personality in hip hop, Ol' Dirty Bastard. (The two would later link up on a classic reimagining of Busta's first single, "Woo-Hah!! Got You All In Check".) Before he reached this point in his career, Trevor had released two albums with the Leaders, and weathered the storm of his group's breakup (on Yo! MTV Raps, of all places), and had reinvented himself as the go-to guy for a hot guest shot when your single needed to pick up steam, putting him in the same company as DMX and Canibus, who, around this time in 1996, were all still relevant. The Coming was Busta's attempt to prove to whoever would listen that he was charismatic and clever enough to anchor his own album, and just to make sure it moved units, it follows the standard blueprint of successful mainstream hip hop of the time: club song, street track, song for the chicks, crossover hit, thugged out track, R&B guest vocal, alignment with a new group filled with weed carriers (the frequently mentioned Flipmode Squad, which, at this point, only included Lord Have Mercy, he of the ominous and unique rhyme delivery, and Busta's cousin Rampage The Last Boy Scout), surprise collaborators (he brought his old group back for one more song!), etc. The album is buoyed by Busta's animated delivery, and you feel that he is genuinely excited to finally get his shot at the big time, unlike now, where he just sounds kinda bored with himself (see: almost any track on his latest disc The Big Bang).

The Coming is also the birthplace of Busta's obsession with the end of the world, which he believed would coincide with the end of the millennium. This is evident by his incessant shouting of "There's only five years left!" (on "Everything Remains Raw", which was actually released as a single in 1995). One can only imagine how silly Trevor felt after Y2K hit; maybe that's why he shaved off his trademark dreads, got caught up in a shootout on his own music video set (something that would have been unheard of in 1996, even though Busta bragged about being a thug back then like every other rapper ever), and drives around drunk on a regular basis. (Note to Busta: hire a fucking driver! No need to pull a Paris Hilton on us.)

I remember picking up this album the week it came out at a Sam Goody or Musicland of whatever the hell it was called at the time. I bought it at a mall, which means I actually paid the MSRP, which is a mistake nobody should ever make with any album ever. My friend, who reluctantly agreed to come with, picked up MC Ren's The Villain In Black, and mocked my purchase relentlessly. (I, on the other hand, thought The Villain In Black sounded pretty decent, although I was more intrigued by the fact that both MC Ren and Large Professor had singles called "The Mad Scientist" on the radio at roughly the same time.) At that point in time I believed Ren to be irrelevant to hip hop and considered Busta Q. Rhymes to be the wave of the future. I realize now that I was both right and wrong. MC Ren is irrelevant, which sucks, because I recently re-listened to NWA's Efil4zaggin, and he completely steals the show from Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, although it helps that Dre never writes his own rhymes. Conversely, Busta Rhymes went from being the future of hip hop to part of the reason the art form is dead, and by pure coincidence, is now signed to Dr. Dre's record label. I don't mean to imply that Dre killed hip hop, but he did sign off on Curtis Jackson, after all.

The Coming was ultimately a commercial success, guaranteeing Busta many more opportunities to stretch the boundaries of his own imagination, with crazy-ass videos (rivaled only by Missy Elliott's early work), elastic flows, and a knack for always selecting the hottest beat. It was also well received by critics and is considered to be a classic. Which, as we all know...

1. THE COMING (INTRO) (FEAT LORD HAVE MERCY & RAMPAGE)
Self-important rap album intro, which is a demerit in and of itself. However, it incorporates the word "motherfuckers" multiple times, which just makes it even more ignorant.

2. DO MY THING
"Ya'll think fast/Before I get hard in your ass". I like Busta, but I'm sorry, I can't ignore that line. This beat is exactly what you would not expect him to, well, bust his rhymes over.

3. EVERYTHING REMAINS RAW
This is more like it. Easy Mo Bee brings the album's best beat to the table, and Busta proceeds to rip it to shreds. It's so good, I'll even choose to ignore the line from the preceding song.

4. ABANDON SHIP (FEAT RAMPAGE)
In 1996, I was surprised to learn that Busta produced this song himself, because it's so damn good. Rampage and Mr. Rhymes have a great chemistry on the mic, and the back-and-forth presented here is priceless. Almost makes Rampage sound as good as his cousin. Almost. And the beat at the end, which leads into the next song, appeared in an altered form as the backdrop for the previously mentioned "Woo-Hah!!" remix.

5. WOO-HAH!! GOT YOU ALL IN CHECK (FEAT RAMPAGE)
The first single, which was a surprise crossover hit. The chorus plays to Busta's strengths; namely, yelling out random shit, like he did on A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario". Still sounds pretty good, though; it's one of those songs that will be stuck in your head for days.

6. IT'S A PARTY (FEAT ZHANE)
I never cared for this song, as it was an obvious attempt for radio airplay. I kinda like the beat for the interlude that plays between "It's A Party" and "Hot Fudge", even though Busta doesn't really rhyme over it.

7. HOT FUDGE
Boring-ass song, followed by your usual sex skit, which should have been avoided, but as this was Busta's debut, I guess he had to meet all of the required cliches, just in case he didn't get another chance.

8. ILL VIBE (FEAT Q-TIP)
Credited to The Ummah, but only Q-Tip provides the beats here. Tip and Busta also have a good chemistry, and Busta should get kudos for including Tip on his debut, as he could have easily went for the mainstream audience and had fucking Puffy appear instead. Wouldn't sound out of place on Tribe's Beats, Rhymes, & Life.

9. FLIPMODE SQUAD MEETS DEF SQUAD (FEAT JAMAL, KEITH MURRAY, RAMPAGE, LORD HAVE MERCY, & REDMAN)
Other than the fact that the song title is one of the most clunky and literal of recent memory, this song is pretty good. Where's Erick Sermon, though? Busta gives himself the last slot, a la "Scenario", but Reggie Noble swipes the show, which should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. At eight minutes and eleven seconds, this is easily one of the longer posse cuts ever released, especially in a musical genre known for its short attention span. The beat is...I'm sorry, what the hell was I talking about?

10. STILL SHININ'
Beat by the late J Dilla (care of The Ummah), chorus provided by one of Busta's standout couplets on "Scenario". (He sure likes to remind everyone of his participation on that classic song, doesn't he? Not that I blame him; I'd probably do the same thing.) A good listen, although it feels out of sequence sandwiched between two posse cuts.

11. KEEP IT MOVIN' (FEAT RAMPAGE & LEADERS OF THE NEW SCHOOL)
The other Dilla donut, on which Busta brings his old group members out of retirement. This song got absolutely no love in The Source upon the album's release, but I'll print it here: This posse cut runs circles around "Flipmode Squad meets Def Squad". There. I said it. This song rocks. It may just be the nostalgia factor, though.

12. THE FINISH LINE
Now that's more like it. And by it, I, of course, mean "boring ass song that would put an insomniac into a coma".

13. THE END OF THE WORLD (OUTRO) (FEAT SPLIFF STAR & WADE THOREN)
Features hypeman extraordinaire Spliff Star in a background role (an oxymoron if I ever heard one). As rap album outros go, this one is really fucking pretentious.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Coming isn't without its faults. As if Trevor Smith was an English major with dreams of writing the Great American Novel (which, by the way, why can't it be Chinese? Or Italian?), he crams his debut album with what seems to be every single idea he has ever had, with very mixed results. The crossover attempts, save for "Woo-Hah!!", don't work. However, the good songs still sound pretty damn good today, thus cementing Busta Q. Rhymes's place in the sixth editions of the hip hop history textbooks.

BUY OR BURN? The good songs outweigh the bad, so I would recommend a purchase. This album is in no way a classic, and should never be considered as such, but it is pretty cheap these days, and deserves a spot on your shelf.

BEST TRACKS: "Keep It Movin'"; "Everything Remains Raw"; "Abandon Ship"; "Ill Vibe"

-Max

12 comments:

  1. I remember getting drunk as a skunk during the height of the "Woo Haa" single and that would be all I would say for an hour or two. It was an ugly night.

    I agree with your review though, its not a classic, but it was entertaining for the most part. It got a lot of play from me that summer.

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  2. I bought this album cause I liked Woo-Ha but the album is not very good. The song "FLIPMODE SQUAD MEETS DEF SQUAD" is my favorite track though and I thought Jamal took this one away, but it's a toss up between him and Lord have Mercy. That guy's voice is insane.

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  3. pretty good summing up of the album. A very good one, but not a classic.

    'Still Shining' is superb, as are the singles took from it along with many great tracks and one or two fillers.

    I think most of Busta's albums are good listens without being spectacular. If he had some sort of quality control he could have released about 3 classics instead of 6 or 7 decent albums.

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  4. Buck-NasteeOctober 21, 2008

    This album is hot and cold for me. I really don't like the posse cut "Flipmode/Def Squad". I doesn't move me. My track thought is "Everything Remains Raw". I just love how he's like, "Yo, let me fuck up your mind please". I think I almost broke my neck a few times nodding to this track. Easy Mo Bee is HIGHLY UNDERRATED as a producer.

    Oh and I wouldn't a Busta Rhymes album nowadays. He's succumb to the industry influence. What a shame. Another veteran down...

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  5. You know I've only listened to each song, a few times, minus raw/ill/flipmode/finish line. Max, that coma of which you speak, is one that I'll let finish line take me to

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  6. busta rips shit on this record..his flow is untouchable, his lyrics funny but sharp and his delivery undeniable..oh, and the FUCKIN' BEATS are BANGIN' knawmsayn? this shit is hott....i don't give a f', but "E.R.R.", "Abandon Ship", "Flipmode Squad/Def Squad" and "Still Shining" oh and "Keep It Movin'" are superb...don't u forget it..and yeah... LORD HAVE MERCY FUCKIN' RIPS THAT SHIT!!!

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  7. I knew what real rap was meant to be when I heard this album first.

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  8. No, this is definately a classic. I've listened to most of the tracks hundreds of times and they dont get old. BTW Hot Fudge is a banger.

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  9. Busta's problem, solo or with a group, has always been that he cannot commit to the concept of a full album, despite his undeniable talent in songwriting.

    Eeringly similar to Eminem.

    However, this album's posse cuts fucking BANG!!

    Two of THE best posse cuts in hip-hop history!!!

    Oh, and Max..

    the Flipmode/Def cut rips "Keep It Movin'" cut assholes up its fucking spine.

    It is what it is.

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  10. AnonymousMay 21, 2014

    Flipmode Meets Def....


    The memories.....


    I actually think that there IS NO BEST VERSE on that cut.

    Everyone demolished that beat to fucking kingdom come.

    However, I wish Busta got off his ego trip and let Flipmode go first.

    Them Def dudes went the FUCK in.

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  11. AnonymousMay 21, 2014

    Keith Murray & Rampage were the weak links of their respective teams on the Flipmode/Def song.

    Otherwise, I completely agree with the anonymous who says it's better than Keep It Movin'.

    Max, get your head outta your ass's arse.

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  12. Easy Mo is easily the king with Everything Remains Raw. He told he made this song with a one guitar note and some tricks. Good album and good review!

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