(Today's Reader Review features longtime contributor Dag Dilligent forcing himself to listen to the eighth Busta Rhymes album, Back On My B.S., which evaporated from the collective unconscious shortly after its release in 2009. Leave some comments for him below.)
I remember standing in front of my television in 1996 absolutely awestruck at what Busta Rhymes had done with his first single "Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check". I was amazed, as everything was perfect. The guy who contributed the final verse to A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" had managed to blow my mind with one of the most innovative and out-of-control songs I had ever heard. Hip hop finally had a new hero. Fast-forward to the present day: I'm sitting at my desk looking at the cover art for Busta Rhymes' eighth solo album Back on my B.S., and I am disgusted. What in the flying fuck is this shit?
Poor Busta: he always has to act somewhat crazy to maintain his image, but this cover is just a gallery of funny faces without context.
Shit, I haven't even spun Back On My B.S. yet and I already hate it. It certainly doesn't help that Busta hasn't released a decent album since When Disaster Strikes, and even that one was hit-or-miss for me. I haven't purchased any of his albums since the massively disappointing E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event), so I guess I mainly picked this one up just to see what Busta has been up to over the past decade. He always talks a good game during interviews, and he usually drops an interesting single, which somehow manages to get me excited about his projects, but I've found his recent output to be highly disposable. I'll like a song for one or two plays, such as "Touch It" (from his previous effort, The Big Bang), but then I'll never listen to it again.
(Since I don't own Back On My B.S. and have no plans on reviewing it anytime soon, I'll break in to fill in the backstory here. This project, which was originally entitled B.O.M.B. (which could still be an acronym for Back On My B.S., technically), was originally scheduled to be Busta's second album for Dr. Dre's Aftermath vanity label: a single, “Don't Touch Me (Throw Da Water On 'Em)”, was even released to radio, video markets, and Hollywood (the song appeared in the background of many television shows and maybe a movie or two, most notably (in my mind) an episode of the failed NBC series Kath & Kim). However, unless my mind isn't just making this shit up, Busta got shitfaced at an industry party and chewed out Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine, who promptly removed him from Dr. Dre's stable out of (justified) anger. Deflated, Busta set up a deal with Universal Motown and changed his album title to Blessed: album art was commissioned and everything, but then Trevor fucked everything up again (I'm not sure how this time) and ended up eventually dropping this project instead, which Dag is writing about. Sadly, “Don't Touch Me (Throw Da Water On 'Em)”, which is actually a pretty badass song, failed to make the final cut, which made all the difference when it came to my general interest in the project. I'll now let Dag continue.)
I highly expect to not like Back On My B.S., but I'm still hoping to discover a gem, something I can pull onto my iPod, There has to be at least one good song, right?
1. WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Remember how The Coming ended with the "come suck on these" symphony? It was surprising and clever, and I liked it the first time I heard it (and then never intentionally listened to it again). Well, Busta is still on that bullshit, and he likes it so much he kicks off Back On My B.S. with it. Which is unfortunate, because if you can sit through the intro, he segues into one of the better songs on this project. If you dropped the introductory choir, this track would be vintage Busta and DJ Scratch: not great, but tolerable enough.
2. GIVE 'EM WHAT THEY ASKIN' FOR
Busta reworks the chorus from the Eurythmics hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" to create a hook that is way worse than I could ever describe: to make matters worse, that hook seems to take up most of the running time of the track. The beat sounds like a Swizz Beatz throwback, but it works whenever Busta is spitting, at least.
3. RESPECT MY CONGLOMERATE (FEAT. JADAKISS & LIL WAYNE)
I really liked the hook from this song the first time I heard it, as it is like nothing else on wax. However, upon repeat listenings, I've found that it also elevates my blood pressure. Our host and his two guests sound awkward together: Jadakiss (from The Lox) dominates and delivers a verse that rides the beat well, but Busta and Lil Wayne have trouble finding the groove and deliver weak bars. This wasn't a bad track, but you must mind the shelf life.
4. SHOOT FOR THE MOON
This song deserves an award for transitioning from an engaging break beat to absolute garbage within an instant. Seriously, what the hell is this hook: "We shootin' for the moon and land on the stars"? (Doesn't that imply that Busta missed his target and, as such, has failed?) At least the instrumental is mild enough that I can actually hear the rhymes, but Busta rhymes using his inside voice, and he fails to say anything worth paying attention to.
5. HUSTLER'S ANTHEM '09 (FEAT. T-PAIN)
You'll overdose on Auto-Tune with this shit. T-Pain delivers the same hook he had been vomiting for years at that point, while Busta sounds overwhelmed by all the singing. This track sounds like it was designed for the radio, and it can stay there for all I care: I don't listen to the radio for a reason.
6. KILL DEM (FEAT. PHARRELL & TOSH)
The Neptunes deliver another one of their standard radio cuts. Busta spits well with a reggae slant and sounds a lot better when I don't have a chance in hell of understanding him. If you add in a somewhat tolerable chorus, you've got yourself a reasonably good track. Cheers.
7. ARAB MONEY (FEAT. RON BROWZ)
Busta manages to cram in some more Auto-Tune, this time its applied to the chorus. On here, poor Busta is trying too hard to be off-the-wall: his lyrics are overwhelmed by the beat and hook, so I have no idea what he was rhyming about (I picked up the occasional name-drop of random Middle Eastern countries, but that was it). I've heard that it is illegal to play this song in Dubai because it is considered offensive to Islam (thanks to the execrable Ron Browz mispronouncing the word “Arab” during the chorus, turning a racial description into an offensive slur. He was forced to alter his chorus for the video version: it's always a good sign for a Busta Rhymes project when our host accidentally alienates a portion of his audience). Well, it is also illegal to play this song in my car, because it stinks.
8. I'M A GO AND GET MY... (FEAT. MIKE EPPS)
This song contains one of those innovative hooks that only Busta Rhymes would ever attempt. It's formed around a little speech comedian Mike Epps gives at the beginning of the track. The hook got stuck in my mind in much the same fashion as schizophrenics who hear voices in their head: I wanted it out and it just wouldn't leave. This is the track to check out to see what Busta's into these days: irritating shit.
9. WE WANT IN (FEAT. RON BROWZ & FLIPMODE SQUAD: SPLIFF STAR & SHOW MONEY)
Apparently the Flipmode Squad has been reduced to just Spliff Star and newcomer Show Money. Ron Browz handles the unremarkable chorus, which is so Auto-Tuned up that he sounds like an Apple II. Maybe Busta's strategy is to surround himself with questionable talent so that he comes off like an old tire a pile of dirt diapers: it's still garbage, but at least its not as appalling as the diapers.
10. WE MISS YOU (FEAT. DEMARCO & JELLY ROLL)
For fuck's sake, even more Auto-Tune. Ignoring the embellishments on the chorus, the beat is nice, and Busta's spitting ill enough. But the chorus is so terrible that there is no way I could recommend that anyone ever listen to this track.
11. SUGAR (FEAT. JELLY ROLL)
Producer Jelly Roll pulls double duty on this track: he works the boards on a strictly R&B beat and sings a lot about sex. Busta spits some sex rhymes and sounds about three miles high. The result is a sexy, sexy collabo that has no place in my collection.
12. DON'T BELIEVE EM (FEAT. AKON & T.I.)
The chorus includes the line, “You’re number one, you’re a champion”. The beat is the musical equivalent of the chorus (read: sappy). This is the type of song that plays at the end of a teen movie when the credits roll after a spectacular graduation. Sigh. You already know exactly what Akon brings to a track, so I won't dwell on him too much. Busta Rhymes spits some generically uplifting trash, leaving T.I. to deliver the best verse, which is really saying something.
13. DECISION (FEAT. JAMIE FOXX, MARY J. BLIGE, JOHN LEGEND & COMMON)
If you're a hip hop head and feeling blue, you might read the guest list on this track and give it a spin to try and feel better. You'll be greeted with a a wonderful mournful piano loop, uplifting lyrics, beautiful singing courtesy of Foxx, Blige, and Legend, and even a lovely verse from Common. Then you'll remember that this is appearing on a Busta Rhymes album (with that “break your neck”-type shit) and you'll feel worse. You shouldn't look to Trevor to solve your problems.
14. WORLD GO ROUND (FEAT. ESTELLE)
Busta has a "disco-rockin'" dance cut close out the album to make sure you'll never play this shit again. Which was helpful.
THE LAST WORD: Back On My B.S. is disappointing, even by Busta Rhymes standards. Almost every song feels like a novelty and follows almost the same formula: a sparse and yet, overly complex instrumental (which overwhelms everything else), a somewhat terrible chorus (usually performed through Auto-Tune, occasionally provided in an irritating accent), and filler in place of lyrics, which results in a project that is mildly uplifting, utterly disposable, and extremely radio-friendly, no matter how may curse words pop up. Back On My B.S. has a few Busta verses that would have made for amazing guest spots on other, more rugged albums, but when they are gathered together like this and laid over pop-leaning beats (with some of the worst choruses I’ve ever heard), they lose their strength. Pass on this mess.
(Questions? Concerns? Pissed that yet another Busta Rhymes review has run on HHID when there are still plenty of albums from (insert your favorite artist here) that we haven't gotten to yet? Leave some comments below.)