September 18, 2015

For The Max-Approved Mixtape: Busta Rhymes - "Abandon Ship"

Artist: Busta Rhymes featuring Rampage The Last Boy Scout
Title: "Abandon Ship"
Producer: Busta Rhymes
Album: The Coming (1996)

The fact that there are two songs on this playlist/mixtape thing thus far that feature Rampage The Last Boy Scout points to one of two explanations: either he's actually a pretty good rapper (which, we all know, he is not), or he was fantastic at being in the right place at the right time.  I, clearly, veer toward the latter option, with an addendum: the motherfucker was extremely lucky that his cousin is Busta Rhymes, hip hop cameo king of the mid-1990s.

It's difficult to recall today, since the only way Busta receives any press these days is either if he is getting charged with yet another DUI or if he's attacking people in public gyms while working through a bout of roid rage (seriously, one does not bulk up as much as Busta has without getting some form of assistance), but back in the mid-1990s, it was questionable as to whether or not the guy had what it took to sustain a solo career.  After disbanding his group, the Leaders Of The New School, on national television (on MTV, of all places), the man born Trevor Smith set forth building up his name the old-fashioned way: by impressing listeners (and industry heads) with frenetic, animated guest spots on a bunch of your favorite rap songs if you're of a certain age.  You know, like people should be doing.  None of this YouTube phenomenon shit or the ability to record and release an album from the comfort of your bedroom existed in the 1990s: in order to get a record deal, you had to prove that you were good enough to warrant a label taking a chance on you.  Which is exactly what happened with Busta Rhymes, who secured a deal through Elektra Records (which was also the home of fellow psychotic personality Ol' Dirty Bastard, which is a story for another time).

The Coming, Busta's debut album, isn't perfect, nor is it the classic many hip hop heads wrongly classify it as being, but it is entertaining, and besides, Busta was still trying to find his way through the solo album seas.  It's not always the easiest transition to go from pinch hitter to star attraction, but Busta had the energy level to fake it until he made it, for the most part.  But his finest performances on The Coming, save for "Everything Remains Raw", take place when the man is accompanied by a guest.  Take "Abandon Ship", for example: this collaboration with his cousin, Rampage, is playful, fun, and catchy enough to get folks to take notice.

"Abandon Ship" is built on a simple, pounding instrumental that was apparently crafted by Busta himself, in one of his not-quite-rare-but-still-infrequent-enough-to-surprise-you adventures behind the boards.  (There are remixes easily found online from the likes of DJ Scratch and the late J. Dilla, but I prefer the original album cut.)  Trevor and Rampage pass the microphone back and forth every few bars, talking so much smack that it's a miracle that they didn't deplete their reserviors entirely ("Abandon Ship" is only the fourth track on The Coming).  Decrying "n----s [that] talk shit, then abandon ship", Rampage and Busta quickly parse through various boasts, bullshit, and vague threats, both men sounding engaging as shit.  

"Abandon Ship" contains one of Rampage's best performances, even when he dives into ridiculous references ("I'm gettin' phone calls from my n---a Howard Stern / He wants to know about my Flipmode clique" - yeah, I seriously doubt Stern ever gave a shit about Busta's Flipmode Squad) and unrealistic expectations ("I'm getting five [mics] in The Source").  "Abandon Ship" is the reason there was renewed interest in the man after his failed attempt at his first debut album, Beware Of The Rampsack, was locked away in a vault.  (Well, "Abandon Ship" and Craig Mack's "Flava In Ya Ear" remix, obviously.)  "Wild For Da Night", the Last Boy Scout's finest moment of his entire career, would never have happened had Busta not snagged him for this particular track.  There's even the added mystery of why his verses are partially censored, although not enough of one to make a listener want to try digging up the original vocal track or anything.

Speaking of Busta, he's no slouch: the dude still had something to prove to the hip hop heads out there who were convinced that he should have stuck with the supporting roles.  His chorus, which opens the song, is pretty long, but not overly so, and it sounds good regardless, but once Rampage gives up the microphone for his first smoke break, Trevor Smith hits the ground running: "I always roam through the forest, just like a brontosaurus / Born in the month of May, so my sign is Taurus / Kick you in the face like my fuckin' name was Chuck Norris / Make you sing my chorus".  It's verses like that which propelled him to the forefront of the hip hop culture, at least for a brief period before everyone realized the man was obsessed with alcohol and Y2K.  

"Abandon Ship" is propelled by Busta's jumpy, catchy beat, which is simple, but effective, and is smart enough to not get in the way, whether Trevor and Rampage are spitting bars or if Busta is sort-of singing the hook.  It's easily one of my favorite tracks off of The Coming, and a moment I always find myself hoping that Busta Rhymes will return to whenever a new song or project drops from him.  Maybe the familial ties helped in this regard, who the fuck knows?  All I can say is that I love this song, and there are a lot of heads that agree with me, even if it's been several years since you've last heard it.

A few of you may also recognize that instrumental interlude that ends the track, as well.

Do you agree or disagree with this selection?  Discuss below.


Busta Rhymes - The Coming (review)


  1. Out of the original Flipmode, the only three I gave a fuck about were Lord Have Mercy, Rampage and Busabus himself. Evevrybody not named Spliff Star was bland as fuck, especially Rah Digga. As for Spliffy, the dude plain sucks.

  2. Got to comment, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. Always makes me want to go get on some roids and beat motherfuckers up!

  3. I would have chosen Flipmode Squad meets Def Squad solely on the strength of Reggie Noble's verse