Busta Rhymes has turned guest appearances into a sub-genre all in itself. No MC has been more prolific when it comes to making cameos and arguably no MC has a more unique arsenal or flow, vocal tone and charisma when it comes to checking in on a peer’s record.
Busta has transformed good cuts into great songs, and great songs into classics, dedicating an entire segment of his career to collaborating on other MC’s records. Though A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory was released in September 1991 this week marks 20 years since the single release of Busta Rhymes’s star-making guest spot on ATCQ’s timeless, “Scenario.” Here, the ageless vet recalls participating in one of the ultimate rap ciphers with Tribe and his former group Leaders of the New School. As told to Shaheem Reid (@Shaheemreid)
I remember it like yesterday. The first thing, that song went through a lot of changes. The first time we did that record, [Q-]Tip came up with the beat. It was originally supposed to be A Tribe [Called Quest] and Leaders [of the New School] record. We were at Battery studios and everybody was writing their rhyme. We were on some real competitive shit, so niggas ain’t really want each other to hear their verses, but still wanted to go around and see how everybody else verse sounded. At that time, when you caught a hot line, you started buggin’ out in your own corner. You get to boo hooing and everything like that in your corner and niggas would be coming around. You’d be like, “Nah, son. Gotta wait ‘till I get in the booth to spit mine.”
So, we did the rhymes. I had the rhyme one way first. Then we left the studio, Tip was doing some additional shit to it. We came back to the studio and somehow the record evolved into a lot more artists wanting to get on the record. The excitement of the record in its original state started to hit the street word of mouth. Black Sheep’s Dres ended up coming to the studio and putting a verse on the beat. I think De La came in there and put verses on the beat. The shit had a lot of different MCs on it. But the shit became overwhelming. And Tip decided to bring it back to it being just Tribe and Leaders. So at that point, you know other niggas is getting on it, you want to adjust your rhyme, you wanna change shit. When it ended just being us again, we went back in and wrote rhymes again. When Tip heard my rhyme, he declared it official that I was going last on the song.
Tip wrote my part that I said in his verse. [Raps: “I heard you rushed and rushed and attacked/Then they rebuked, and you had to smack/Causing rambunction throughout the sphere/Raise the levels of boom inside the ear”] He had his rhyme written and he told me to say his part. He did it in a Busta Rhymes style so when I did it, it sounded like I did it. He wanted me to come in on his part, set me up, so niggas knew I was getting ready to come after him. He handed me the ball. He was setting me up with a alley hoop. I could just dunk the shit on niggas. That was his idea. Once it got to the, “As I combine all the juice from the mind,” that was me all day. He heard that 16 bars of the verse I said, he said, “Nigga, I’m gonna set you up to come in so crazy. That verse is so retarded! Nigga, I got to set that bitch up right.” I was like, “Alright, big homie what you got in mind for me?” He said, “I want you to say this line in my verse.” I said, “Alright, cool.” Did it and went into my shit. My life changed dynamically after that.
It definitely was an immediate change. That record was the record that pioneered features. I’ve done features prior to that, but that record made me the number one go-to guy for features after that for a long time. I was doing so well off features, that when Leaders broke up shortly after the “Scenario” record, I wasn’t even thinking about doing a solo record for the next three years. “Scenario came out in ’92 and the remix came out a couple of months later in 92. Leaders broke up early ’93 right after we put out The Inner Mind’s Eye album. I didn’t put out another album until ’96 when I put out The Coming. For three years, I just was on some features shit. Eating very nicely.