Busta Rhymes Looks Back on 'When Disaster Strikes' & How His Life Changed in 1997

Busta Rhymes
Des Willie/Redferns

Busta Rhymes photographed in 1998. 

The rapper also discusses what he has in store for his forthcoming album.

Busta Rhymes has dropped countless hints that he has been prepping a new album for fans, and recently began the unveiling with the Tory Lanez and Vybz Kartel-assisted "Girlfriend." But while the rapper and his fans are excited for his first official studio album in eight years, Rhymes has another reason to celebrate in 2017: his sophomore album, When Disaster Strikes, turns 20 on Sept. 16.

"It was my sophomore jinx album where everybody was like, 'We don’t wanna hear another album if he doesn’t switch it up,' 'Can he do it again?' All of that talk was happening," Rhymes told Billboard at Crystal Pepsi's Throwback Tour stop in New York. "But that album solidified my legacy."

In light of the nostalgic event, Billboard chatted with Rhymes (whose real name is Trevor George Smith, Jr.) about the impact When Disaster Strikes?? had on his career and exactly how it solidified his legacy that's more than 20 years in the making, as well as where he's taking things next with his upcoming LP. Take a look at an edited transcript of our conversation below to hear Busta's take on ?When Disaster Strikes? and beyond.

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September 16 is my fathers birthday, and he’s been passed away for like three-and-a-half years now. At the time we put it out on his birthday, it wasn’t the plan, it was just the right release date compared to what was dropping at the time. But you know, in hindsight, one of my greatest bodies of work dropped on my father's birthday -- that's magical to me, to be able to celebrate that now. Super duper special. We gon' turn up in a major way for dad and for When Disaster Strikes' ??'20th anniversary!

I feel extremely great about that album. I feel great about all of my albums, and particularly that album. It was my sophomore jinx album where everybody was like, 'We don’t wanna hear another album if he doesn’t switch it up,' 'Can he do it again?' All of that talk was happening. But that album solidified my legacy and it also introduced me to an entire different living condition. I think that album was the album where I was really able to see my family smile in a whole new way, because I was able to provide in a whole new way. I was able to just really do for my family in a way that I had always dreamed to.

It also impacted my touring. I went on my first biggest tour with Diddy and Ma$e and the whole Bad Boy family. It was a little bittersweet, too, because '97 was the year when Notorious B.I.G. passed away and he was a good friend of mine. Me, him and JAY-Z went to school together, so it was a big moment for him and for me -- [Biggie] dropped Life After Death in '97, When Disaster Strikes came out in '97. We weren’t able to celebrate it together, [but] we were on tour playing his music and looking at his face every night.

It was a lot of great moments, incredible moments. Significant milestone moments for my career, my livelihood, my personal well-being, and I was able to share a real transitional period for myself with people, so it was significant in that sense as well, because the fans were growing with me. I could go on and on, because this really was a beautiful time.

The reason why [When Disaster Strikes] was called that was because for me, in the presence of having fun, I also wanted to spark order. I wanted to be able to think about things that we really aren’t conditioned to think about or look into, or between the lines of to get closer to the truth about. I just wanted to give all of the people that perspective so that they know in addition to having fun all of the time, take a little second to pay attention to some of this real shit that you maybe don’t take time to pay attention to as much as we should. That's why its been The Coming, When Disaster Strikes, Extinction Level Event, Anarchy, Genesis, It Ain’t Safe No More, The Big Bang. All of those titles, there's a silver lining that connects all of them, and it's never gonna stop with me -- that's something that's a lifetime obligation of mine.

[With this next album,] I want people to understand that the Busta Rhymes that you have known to grow and love is probably his best self that he’s ever been. Not putting out an album in eight years, I have taken the time and embodied the patience to really give the people my best moments. I usually made all of my albums just for myself, like once I’m happy, then I give it to the people, and I would just hope that they would be happy. This time, I made an album that was an album that was not only so that I was happy, but I did research, went out and did all the other necessary things that I'm not going to disclose, because I don’t want people to know the secrets to the anecdotes of what I do to improve -- making my greatness greater.

I went above and beyond to give people a moment and a feeling that's not abandoning anything they’ve known to grow and love, but there’s a whole new thing that's happening with what they’ve been getting with Busta Rhymes. And beyond that, I’m coming to bust everybody ass when I drop my music! 


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