It's been an interesting three years for Busta Rhymes. And by interesting, we're not talking about the usual interesting lifestyle that comes with being a rap star . Busta has dealt with legal and label troubles, the passing of his friend/bodyguard and just when he thought he was out of the controversy bubble, his latest smash "A-Rab Money" has churned up some chatter.
With his new album Back on My B.S set to drop March 24, we sat down with Busta for a candid interview where he spoke on the aforementioned issues, as well as Dre's Detox , Bill O'Reilly and who's verse he thought was the strongest (it'll surprise you) on the "Arab Money" remixes. Oh, and the "heated meeting" he had with Jimmy I that got him dropped from Interscope? Spoiler alert: it never happened. Read on for the real story...
Interview by Joe La Puma
Complex: How would you compare this album to your previous work?
Busta Rhymes: That's not such an easy question for me to answer because I hate the clichÃƒÂ© answer of "this is the best album I've ever made." But what I can tell you is I've recorded about three albums in the time frame since the release of The Big Bang and one of the albums titles was called When Hell Freezes Over. Another version of the album that I recorded was called Blessed and then I went back in and recorded an another album called Back On My B.S. I can honestly say that it feels like this is the album that is the more appropriate body of work for defining this moment in time for me as a man, for me as an artist, and also for the state of the music as far as hip-hop is concerned. With that being said, I don't think that I could have made a better album for this time frame, whether or not you feel it's my best album, I'm going to leave that up to you.
Complex: "Arab Money" was a huge hit in New York, and a lot of people jumped on the track. Whose verse do you think was the strongest?
Busta Rhymes: I'm going to be perfectly honest with you'Diddy shocked the shit out of me, and I think, everybody. Diddy just said shit that was dope to me and it was right. The timing of that kind of verse and just the cleverness of it was really outstanding to me. I can't front, he was one of favorites on the whole, on the three remixes he was one of my favorites, if not my favorite.
Complex: Obviously there was a lot of controversy about the song. As you were making it, did you ever stop and think that it might piss some people off?
Busta Rhymes: No, I didn't think that it would piss any people off because that wasn't the intent. The intent of the record was to embrace the awareness level that I felt needed to be embraced by the people about the greatness and the significance of this beautiful culture. I felt like the Arab culture and Arab people have exemplified being able to value the significance of the rich qualities in what they value as their spirituality and God all the way down to the financial and economic stability. I have a lot of friends that are Arab and I got a lot of friends from the Middle East in general, I just didn't think it was fair this culture was being subjected to so much that it just didn't deserve it.
Busta Rhymes: Being a black man, I understand that kind of targeting and that kind of agenda that's set out to really demoralize the value and the integrity and the beauty of the culture that I live and represent. You don't see white men or Spanish men or Chinese men or Indian men getting shot while they're handcuffed on the ground by police when they're 22 or 23 years old. You don't see Rodney King getting his ass beat in the white community or Indian or Spanish community, you don't see people getting plungers in their ass in all of these other cultures, you only see this shit throughout the history of time happening to black people. I just think that is something that I identified with when I started to see the Arab culture get shitted on the way that they were, and I wanted to change that. It's cool to be Arab, and we should embrace the culture.
Complex: How has the response been from foreigners?
Busta Rhymes: I have quotes from 36-year-old school teachers from Egypt all the way down to real estate developers from Kuwait, and engineers from Baghdad, Iraq, pediatricians from Syria, lawyers from Lebanon, etc, etc. A lot of great people came out to offer their support and make sure that it was clear that we understood that as much people out there shining a light on the negative of the song, there's quadruple the amount of people that support what the movement is. These are high-caliber people, it's crazy I could read the quotes from all of these people to you.
Complex: Was there one that stood out to you, like, above the rest that you could just say?
Busta Rhymes: The one that stood out to me in a major way was from a 60 year old investment banker from Morocco his name was Rashid Ali. And he said "If Justin Timberlake came out with a song tomorrow titled 'I'm Getting European Euros,' would anyone have a problem with it? Myself and so many other people in my country are so honored that Busta has chosen our region of the world as an inspiration for this new song." This is a 60-year-old investment banker from Morocco. That shit is unbelievable that a man of that age, that demographic, would even feel a need to come out and support something that is not even usually considered to be something that appeals to people of his age or demographic, and that's hip-hop music.
Complex: In 2008, you were dropped from your previous label Interscope. The rumors all said it was because of a heated argument with [label chairman] Jimmy Iovine. Can you speak on it?
Busta Rhymes: Absolutely. Just for the record, there was no heated argument with me and Jimmy Iovine, and I kind of tried to take some time out to investigate why that rumor hold so much weight. What actually happened was when I realized that I wasn't getting the things that I felt that I needed facilitated from the record company at the time, I set up a meeting to speak with Jimmy Iovine and we had a sit-down with each other and you know he really appreciated what I built as a legacy for 17 years before I even got to Interscope.
Busta Rhymes: So, he basically was like, "You know what, I understand and I respect your concerns and if you don't feel that we can facilitate what you need so that you can continue to grow and evolve as an artist and as a business man, then I don't want to get in the way of allowing you to be able to do that with someone else or do that on your own. It was kind of a mutual agreement and a mutual understanding. And with that kind of support and understanding, I actually sing Jimmy Iovine's praises because not only did he let me leave, but he let me leave with my album.
Comple: But you were in fact "dropped."
Busta Rhymes: I had to be dropped, because I asked to be let go. There wasn't any situation where I had to go in and fight to get off and they were trying to keep me from wanting to be let go. It wasn't that kind of a situation, it was really an understood discussion that we had and I kind of made it clear that I didn't want to put out my album out over there. There were a lot of things that were going on that could have went down differently, that could have been facilitative more effectively. I wish it could have transpired differently, unfortunately in that situation it didn't, but fortunately for me I'm in a much better space now.
Complex: Aftermath seems to be slow when it comes to putting out records. From your experience, what do you think is the biggest delay that they have over there?
Busta Rhymes: Dre's a perfectionist and he set a high standard. I've never seen a man that's so meticulous and so patient. I've been around the world so many times and I've been blessed with the opportunity to come across many walks of life, of different kinds of geniuses and people who have contributed so much on every level to music and art and culture. I've just never seen anything like this before, man.
Complex: Obviously people look at Kanye and say he's a perfectionist, but I mean, for Detox to be delayed so much, people wonder, What's really going on?
Busta Rhymes: I'm going to be honest with you, to this day I haven't really been able to put my finger on what's going on either. Because I've heard shit in that studio that almost is crazy to not expose it and share it with the world'it's phenomenal. So much shit, for years, he will make the most unbelievable shit. Yo, I've been in sessions where I've listened to beats and have cried because I couldn't have it.
Complex: Do you think it'll come out?
Busta Rhymes: I definitely believe that Detox is going to come. And I'm putting that energy out there because that's all I have to go on, and I want it as a fan. On the reality level, I cannot begin to tell you if that is really going to come to fruition, but I am going to wish for it. I'm going to do everything that I can on the outside to support the energy of Dr. Dre. I'm still one of his biggest fans and I'm still a friend, and whatever he needs from me to help push that along, I'm going to do it.
Complex: You said in a recent interview that President Obama makes you want to be respectable. How so?
Busta Rhymes: He pretty much exemplifies a greatness that we've never lived to see on this level of mainstream America. And I just feel like there's been a new standard that's been set as a result of him being able to successfully achieve the highest position in the world, not only in this country but as a leader for the world to follow and to embrace, support, and welcome as an example. He doesn't feel unreachable, he doesn't feel untouchable. He is someone that has listened to a Jay-Z album. He has listened to a Biggie album. He was around when Yo! MTV Raps started. None of these other presidents, even if they were around at that time frame, they had no interest in those things. They didn't even glimpse at those things a little bit to even see and say, well, we can identify with it, appreciate it and understand it. This man had Jay-Z perform at his Inaugural Ball. Beyonce, Mary J. Blige too. All of the people that we love, he loves.
Complex: How do you feel about Bill O'Reilly coming after Jay-Z and Young Jeezy for the "My President" performance in Washington D.C.
Busta Rhymes: I really think Bill O'Reilly, sometimes, like my mother always said, she said...sometimes it's best to let a sleeping dog lie where they lay. Because karma can come back and bite them way more severely than anything you could possibly do to them. I really have no feelings about Bill O'Reilly. I just think he needs to, at some point, come to terms with the fact that he's a dude that needs to find happiness somewhere, because...for a guy that's so negative, he's got to be a really unhappy dude. He kind of reminds me of J. Edgar Hoover.
Busta Rhymes: That dude [J. Edgar] was never married, never had any children. He was just an unhappy dude and he died a very unhappy man. You know, it seems like Mr. Bill O'Reilly, this is all he has and he has to do this kind of thing to garnish some kind of attention because he's ain't getting it from nowhere else. His life is probably really shallow and dull, man, and I hope that he can find peace in himself, in his life, and happiness somewhere so that way he can start sharing a little of that happiness.
Complex: So, on a lighter note, no pun intended, I heard that you challenged N.O.R.E to a weight loss competition. Are you concerned with your weight?
Busta Rhymes: Nah, but I'm concerned with being in shape, and I definitely experienced the results of being in shape. And I know how incredible it makes me feel, so when I feel like I'm gaining a little weight, I make a conscious effort to return back to being in shape. Being shape has given me a feeling and an ability to perform in many different areas. [Laughs]
Complex: How Internet savvy are you? Do you read the blogs?
Busta Rhymes: Yeah. Actually, I've been starting to develop my awareness level of how involved I need to be involved on the Internet level in the last 6-8 months and um...I'm not really technologically savvy, I still can't go on a laptop and log onto all of this shit myself. But I keep up with Kanye's blog a lot, I go on Q-tip's blog a lot, I go on Diddy's blog, Pharell's blog. As far as the websites that I usually go to, I usually go to Nahright.com, Allhiphop.com, Sohh.com, and Worldstarhiphop.com. But, nobody is fucking with Nah Right right now, that shit is crazy. It's actually been like that. They've been shitting on everything else for a long time. They're unanimously killing everybody.
Complex: You've been through a lot in the past several years. The death of your bodyguard, legal and label troubles. Is this the happiest you've been or the most content you've been in awhile?
Busta Rhymes: I am extremely happy. I haven't been this happy in years. I haven't been at peace like this in years. It's just an amazing feeling to be in this space at this stage of my life after all that I've gone through and still be able to make the music that is garnishing this powerful momentum in the game right now and you know, get the excitement of my record company and my family and my kids, coming home from school, talking about how their friends declare me the unanimously as the hottest artist in the game right now. All of that is the rewarding feeling you can't put a price tag on. I go to sleep every night like I'm a baby and I sleep so peacefully now, like, I wake up every morning and I don't have to stress. I mean, I'm on probation, and my probation officer is the coolest in the world, you know they ain't stressing me. I'm traveling the country, doing what I want. They ain't stopping my hustle, they ain't getting in the way of my work. I don't got the police following me around like they were. It's just, everybody that kind of tried to make me out to be an individual that I wasn't'the truth ended up being undisputed as it always is, came out on top and proved a lot of people wrong and it's just good to see how time tells everything.