“The rebirth of Busta Rhymes is manifesting currently,” the ever-confident rapper says of his new album, “Genesis.” “With this album, you’re getting everything from the best of what you already love me for to the best of what you’ve never gotten from me ever.”
Released Nov. 27, “Genesis” — which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 7 on The Billboard 200 — also marks a label shift for Rhymes. Following four releases (“The Coming,” “When Disaster Strikes,” “Extinction Level Event,” and “Anarchy”) on Elektra, the rapper left the label earlier this year to join Clive Davis’ J Records.
“I was a little leery at first because I’m Clive’s first direct hip-hop artist,” Rhymes says. “I knew that he knew what to do with Santana, Whitney [Houston], and Alicia Keys, but what is he capable of doing with Busta Rhymes? I was just a little concerned with that, but I continued to watch him add to his legacy, knowing that he hasn’t swung too many strikes. There’s something about his chemistry, whether direct or indirect, that works. I wanted to experience what that chemistry would feel like with what I could contribute.”
“I also felt like if I was going to get into another [label] situation, I wanted to be in one that is fresh, successful, and going for broke,” Rhymes adds. “Clive finally has equity — this is his s**t. It’s not like he’s running the ship for another movement, like Arista, which is cool, but you always go to bat with more dedication when it’s yours. I wanted to be part of that, especially knowing that I was going to bat with someone who is going just as hard as I am.”
Rhymes’ renewed passion can be felt on “Genesis.” “Everything being new and fresh, it allowed me to go into the studio with that approach every single day,” Rhymes says. “It was like I was making my first album again. I’m approaching a stage in my life where I’m encountering my next level of growth. I am comfortable in a new way with new money. I’m able to finally see my squad, Flipmode, feel better about what they’re now a part of. That contributes to my feeling better. I feel like a new being, but with the blessing of being able to have the experience of everything that you wish you would have had when you signed your first deal. It feels like a Craftmatic Adjustable — I can adjust things to fit my comfort zone.”
This new comfort level has attracted others to “Genesis.” “I have cameos in my video unlike any I’ve ever had in any other video that I’ve ever shot, despite having shot videos with bigger budgets,” Rhymes explains. “Puffy, Ludacris, Goodie Mob, the cats from FUBU, Swizz Beatz, Lil’ Jon, and the Eastside Boyz are all in this video. [Producers] Dr. Dre, Mel Man, Battlecat, MichaelAngelo, the Neptunes — cats that I’ve never worked with before, that’s been around, finally coming to the table for this album. I feel like I’m living a genesis.”
“Genesis” also features production from Pete Rock, Just Blaze, and Nottz. “I’m such a fan. To work with these cats was an honor,” says Rhymes. “I have the best of every era in hip-hop, from the newest hot cats to the old cats.
“Pete Rock did over the ‘Shut ‘Em Down’ remix that [Public Enemy] did,” Rhymes adds. “We went over it and flipped it by adding some new elements to make it current. That was my tribute to Chuck D., who’s my father in the music business. He gave me my name. He gave me a thorough understanding of what it means to be a well-rounded artist as far as the c.l.a.m.p. concept — to be conceptual, lyrical, having the right attitude and appearance, music, and performance. I apply that to this day.”
Dre produced three tracks on the album, including lead single “Break Ya Neck,” which currently rests at No. 16 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. “We’ve gotten a lot of calls for it,” says Darlene Prejean, PD/MD for Lafayette, La.-based KRRQ. “It just has a dirty South feel — it’s rough and gritty.”
To build on the growing popularity of “Break Ya Neck,” J Records plans to “put him in front of people and in situations where he gets to present, one, Busta Rhymes the artist, and two, this incredible album,” J Records senior VP of black music Ron Gillyard explains. “He has a tour bus, and he’s been hitting the road doing radio shows and hip-hop clubs. He’s also sitting with mix-show DJs and exposing people to the album on a more grass-roots level.”
That approach recently saw Rhymes appear on MTV’s “Total Request Live” and BET’s “The Blueprint” and “Testimony.” J Records also teamed with MTV to host “Genesis” listening parties on college campuses around the country.
Although he has added to his acting resume — appearing in the 2000 Sean Connery film “Finding Forrester” and landing the lead in the upcoming “Halloween 8,” as well as a part in Narc, an action drama starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric — Rhymes maintains that his focus is on his music, adding that “Genesis” is “all about maintaining a focus of taking it back to the foundation — which makes me who I am today — and being able to take that growth to a new place that exceeds my last album. This way, you have a well-rounded time line of my career summed up in one album.”