Throughout his 15-year career, Busta Rhymes’ calling card has always been his raucous delivery and rambunctious lyrics. But after six solo LPs chock-full of apocalyptic prophecies and hyperactive flows, fans have finally had their fill. Stuck in a creative rut, Busta found a lifeline in Dr. Dre, who spent the last two years putting together The Big Bang. True to form, the legendary producer provides the energetic entertainer with a myriad of beats that inspire topical focus and complement his abrasive style.
Reining in the vocal pyrotechnics, Busta unveils his newfound storytelling ability on the Dr. Dre–produced “Legend of the Fall Offs.” Backed by the sound of a grave digger’s shovel, the cocksure MC shows considerable vulnerability as he vividly describes the inner thoughts of a rapper whose career is buried. Similar introspection can be found on the Stevie Wonder–featured “Been Through the Storm.” Over Sha Money XL’s woeful piano riff, tense cello and dramatic drum fills, Busta details his family’s oral history with precise lines like, “My pop was poor, stayed away from crime and malice/Hard living gave him hard hands and callus.”
Busta’s bars are equally pointed and sharp when he rhymes alongside peers like Nas (“Don’t Get Carried Away”), Raekwon (“Goldmine”) and Q-Tip (“You Can’t Hold the Torch”). However, not every collabo is a match made in hip-hop heaven. Missy Elliott’s standard coochie chorus on “How We Do It Over Here” results in lazy lyrical duds by Bussa-Bus, while his shallow back-and-forth with Kelis on the will.i.am–produced “I Love My Bitch” quickly wears out its welcome.
Criticism aside, The Big Bang is still a noteworthy comeback record for the Dungeon Dragon. With Dre’s pedigreed production arch omnipresent throughout the album, Busta makes the most of his strengths and tackles his weaknesses head-on. That’s the only way to make sure everything remains raw.—NOAH CALLAHAN-BEVER