Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN welcome Busta Rhymes, who takes viewers on a journey through his career. A native of Brooklyn, Busta, after releasing a pair of albums with the group Leaders of the New School, broke out as soloist. Dominating the late ‘90s and early aughts with a string of hits, he quickly rose to the status of a legend. Having developed a crew (Flipmode Squad), founded a record label (The Conglomerate), and even breaking into the worlds of Hollywood and fashion, Busta has seen and done it all.
Over eight years removed from his last studio album, he has made his highly anticipated return with his latest offering, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, the sequel to his classic 1999 album. Featuring stars like Kendrick Lamar, Mariah Carey, Anderson .Paak, Q-Tip, Rick Ross, Mary J. Blige, Rapsody, and more, the album has already gotten rave reviews as one of the best bodies of work of his career.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Busta Rhymes “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On His Post-Apocalyptic Themed Albums
Embarking on a solo career after his split with Leaders of the New School, Busta released a string of albums centered around post-apocalyptic themes including The Coming, When Disaster Strikes, Extinction Level Event: Final World Front, and Anarchy. When asked of this aspect in his artistry, Busta said: “I don’t wanna say that I was prophesying some shit. What I will say, though, is the same information that I became a fanatic about, everybody was accessible to the shit. It was just I was fascinated by the shit that I was stumbling on and I was fascinated by the “what if” of the shit I was stumbling on. So, even if the shit never came to fruition, the fact that there were these ideas and these plans and these things set up to actually carry out, and someone took the time to create these ideas and these plans and they just were waiting to be executed, that shit fucked with me alone because I just always said to myself, as fucked up as this information was looking, ‘If any of this shit was to happen in our lifetime, we’re in some serious shit.’”
2. On George Clinton Introducing Him To Conspiracy Theories
During Busta’s conversation with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, he reveals that a run-in with funk icon George Clinton prior to the release of his ‘96 album, The Coming, played a huge role in shaping him as an artist. “Dallas Austin had us come down to Atlanta,” he recalls. “And at the time, he had a studio called D.A.R.P. Studio... And when we were down there going through our transition, George Clinton fucking with him a lot. So, George Clinton gave me this book called Behold A Pale Horse written by William J. Cooper...that’s like the greatest gift ‘cause that book gave birth to the mentality that Busta went into for the rest of his solo career.”
3. On The Prophetic Images On His Album Covers
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and according to Busta, if you pay attention to the details of his album artwork, those images can tell you a lot. “In ‘96, The Coming came out,” he begins. “We dropped ‘Everything Remains Raw’ in ‘96, and I’m getting information that some shit is gonna change forever five years later, as far as the world is concerned as we knew it. 2001 from ‘96 is when the World Trade happened. I was in Tribeca the morning that the shit happened, I wasn’t there when the shit came down, I was there when the second plane hit, and DJ Scratch woke me up and told me get the fuck outta there. I’m right by the Brooklyn bridge, so I just dipped on that shit and just skated out to Long Island and I went to my house in Long Island and saw the shit on the news...But the point that I’m trying to make is, on the third solo album, the album cover in ‘98 was what happened in the World Trade, Wall Street. You look at the cover, you see the whole Wall Street in flames, you see South Street Seaport, you’ll see the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge and everything is on fire. This is three years before it happened. Again, I’m not prophesying shit, I’m just looking at the information that I’m getting because, believe it or not, this information was out there and they was telling niggas.”
4. On His Induction To Native Tongues And Being The Flagship Artist On Violator Management
During his time with Leaders of the New School, the group’s members were considered honorary members of the legendary Native Tongues collective, which included De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and more. Busta gives the backstory behind his induction to them, as well as his role in the genesis of Violator Management. “It was Leaders, it was Tribe, it was Jungle Brothers and it was De La because we were all being represented by Chris as a management rep under Rush management,” he explains. “So when Lyor and Russell Simmons had Rush management on Elizabeth Street down — it was like near Lower East Side, Manhattan, the Alphabet City side — Lyor made an announcement one day that they were shutting down Rush. So Lyor told all of the management reps that was supervising whatever groups they were supervising, ‘You can take whoever y’all want and do what y’all want with ‘em.’ Chris said, ‘All right, I’ma take Tribe, De La, Leaders, and Jungle Brothers’ because they already had the Native Tongues shit moving. And we weren’t officially in Native Tongue, but we were, like, distant family members of Native Tongue, and Chris ran with that and started Violator. But then Tribe left, De La left, Jungle Brothers left and Leaders broke up. But, all I knew was Chris. So I wasn’t going no motherfucking where and I stayed with Chris. I did the solo album, The Coming, and the ‘Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check’ single went platinum in four weeks and then [the] album went platinum in like eight to ten weeks. So, the success that came from that shit attracted everything else that ended up coming to Violator.”
5. On Going To The Same High Schools As Two of The Greatest Rappers of All Time
New York City may be a sprawling metropolis, however, its rap world is small with many artists having attended the same high schools or hung in the same circles. According to Busta, he had that experience during the late ‘80s when he attended school with fellow rap royalty. “Me, Big, and Jay went to the same high school,” he begins. “Me, Special Ed and Chip-Fu from Fu-Schnickens went to the same high school, too. It’s two different high schools. So, me, Jay, and Big went to George Westinghouse Technical, and Vocational High School; me, Special Ed, and Chip-Fu from Fu-Schnickens went to Tilden High School...them experiences were golden, man.”
6. On His Lunchroom Battle With JAY-Z in High School
Years before the two collided on his 2000 album, Anarchy, Busta and JAY-Z once dueled lyrically in a high school lunchroom with Hov ultimately getting the best of his Brooklyn counterpart. “In Westinghouse, me and JAY battled [with] the speed rap shit,” Busta reveals. “He was killing it with the Originators and he was killing it with Jaz-O already. I was just getting my feet wet with the speed rap shit and he definitely got the edge on me in that particular battle in the lunchroom at Westinghouse. But, that’s what kinda inspired me to become so dangerous with the speed rap because I always was looking forward to my rematch day and I never got that. But, it’s cool.”
7. On The Importance of Respect In West Indian Culture
Hailing from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, which has a high concentration of Caribbeans, Busta, a proud Jamaican, speaks on the importance of respect in West Indian culture. “That’s the jewel at the end of the day,” he declares. “Even if the interaction is wrong, and I learned this the hard way, I caught a few assault charges. All of them shits was based on respect that I felt was being compromised. It wasn’t worth it, I went upside niggas heads for no reason, but that’s a pet-peeve of mine. When I was younger... see, respect is everything in my upbringing. My mother, my father, we’re a West Indian house. West Indian culture is a proud people... the proudness of the West Indian people is as a result of the great suffering and sacrifice that we have been able to rise from... at the end of the day, that’s how I was raised. So, respect is important. Proper manners is important, proper code of ethics is important and etiquette is important. So if we meet each other and because you want this picture, and I don’t give it to you, and you get disrespectful, 99% of the time, it’s not gonna result in a good way.”
8. On The Backstory To His Collaboration With Janet Jackson
Of all of Busta’s blockbuster collaborations, one of the first that comes to mind is “What’s It Gonna Be,” his duet with Janet Jackson from his third solo studio album, E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front. During his sit-down, he gives the scoop on how the record and accompanying video came to be. “Janet was on Angie Martinez when she was on Hot 97 promoting the ‘Velvet Rope Tour,’” the Flipmode general explains. “And Angie asked her what hip hop artist that she has never worked with that she wants or would like to work with, and she said, ‘Busta Rhymes.’ I’m in a whip driving, I had to pull over, I couldn’t take it. This is ‘98, [Twitter], none of that existed. I called Mona Scott, ‘Mona, I need you to get in touch with Janet. Tell Janet I have the song for her.’ I didn’t have no song. [I] went and found the song, and she got in touch with Janet, and Janet was with it to talk. We got on the phone and she was with the whole collab idea. We got the song done and sent her the ref[erence], she loved the idea. After that, now it was about coordinating.”
9. On The Influence of Caribbean Culture in Hip Hop
DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican immigrant, is credited as the godfather of hip hop. Yet, Busta believes that Caribbean islands don’t get nearly enough credit in the birth of the culture as they deserve. “Hip hop was given birth to by Caribbean culture,” he contends. “Jamaica gave birth to hip hop. Hip hop, he’s a yardman. So, with that being said, we do have to understand that there’s a lost history that is being significantly neglected by everyone in hip hop, as far as research is concerned. Nobody thinks to go to the West Indian culture to acknowledge how the birth of this culture was even conceived. And I think that that’s something that I take great pride in being able to bring to the forefront on this ‘Drink Champs’ platform because there ain’t no other place more deemed appropriate.”
And for more Busta, peep his one-on-one convo with T.I. during the 2020 REVOLT Summit x AT&T below!