Sometimes you have to go backwards to get ahead. That’s the approach hip-hop veteran Busta Rhymes is taking after once again signing with Sylvia Rhone over at Universal Motown (Rhone was the head of the now-defunct Elektra Records when the Leaders of the New School standout went solo in 1996). Despite bouncing from Elektra to J Records, the Brooklyn MC managed to release six albums since his solo debut The Coming (1996). But after the ink dried on his much ballyhooed deal with Dr. Dre’s Interscope-distributed Aftermath in 2004, label politics slowed the Flipmode general’s roll. So with the commercial disappointment of 2006’s The Big Bang, Busta decided to go back to the drawing board, which is why his eighth studio album, Back on My B.S., is such a fitting title.
Bussa-Bus stays true to form, meshing the same witty concepts and dope production he has been known for his entire career. Tracks like the DJ Scratch–produced “I’ma Go and Get Mine,” the superanimated “How You Really Want It” and the lyrically rich “Shoot for the Moon” could easily pass as lost recordings from 1997’s When Disaster Strikes. He also draws upon his Jamaican roots with the reggae-influenced “Kill Dem,” a barn burner where Busta rhymes in patois over Pharrell’s rollicking Wu-Tang–inspired production.
While high-energy anthems remain Busta’s calling card, he has been known to smooth it out on the R&B tip on a number of occasions. Check his catalog to find pairings with Janet Jackson, Rick James and Stevie Wonder, for example. “Decisions”—a heartfelt offering, with Jamie Foxx, Mary J. Blige, John Legend and Common in tow—is perhaps his best yet. On it, the Dungeon Dragon finds himself showing gratitude to a special friend (“Something I realized that I don’t even have to mention/Is whether or not you got me, that’s something I never question”) over Mr. Porter’s mournful piano-laced track.
The album’s guest spots range from Red Cafe and Uncle Murda, on “Please Gimme Me More Ammo,” to Young Jeezy and Jadakiss, on the sinister-sounding “Respect My Conglomerate,” to T.I., on the inspirational “Don’t Believe ’Em.” For the most part, the aforementioned collaborations yield positive results, but the T-Pain–helmed “Hustler’s Anthem 09” seems to miss the mark. Over Ty Fyffe’s bouncy track, Busta predictably brags, “We celebrating like we throwing money around/Bring a lot of ’Tron, I’m about to order a couple of rounds,” while Pain delivers a predictable hook.
Still, listeners and Stans alike will overlook such transgressions, as B.O.M.B.S.’s gems greatly outshine its rough spots. Say, for instance, the final track, “If You Don’t Know, Now You Know,” where the embattled rapper provides answers to the questions Big Tigger provides. Nothing is held back, as Busta addresses everything, including why he cut off his signature locks (“Just for the record, the reason I cut off the dreads/Is ’cause I got tired of carrying weight on my head”) and why his last album failed to go platinum (“The nature of the business is unstable/Especially when you album isn’t promoted by your label”). With such an illustrious career, many write off the MC’s accolades simply because they’ve become desensitized to his exploits. But if there was ever any doubt, with this album, Busta Rhymes proves that, when it comes to that Brooklyn bullshit, he’s still on it. —SEAN A. MALCOLM