Over the last decade, Busta Rhymes has been hip-hop’s chameleon. With each new album, he presented a new concept, a new look and new, monster hooks. With the past two years playing out like an American nightmare, Busta set out to document his personal view of his country in 2002. The result is his sixth album, It Ain’t Safe No More.
So what exactly do you feel is making things unsafe?
It’s obvious. Everything that’s been happening has been more than enough harmful or potentially threatening shit. Besides that, it’s almost not safe to be an artist, the way everybody is randomly picking people to feud with. Everybody is so busy getting caught up in so much other shit that they ain’t keeping their eye on the most threatening things. At the end of the day, man, you can’t protect yourself from a haymaker that’s coming in toward your face if you don’t see it coming.
Do you feel personally threatened?
The personal threat is something that’s always been a part of our lives. We’re experiencing a time based on a plan written by the powers that be, a time where the bullshit is supposed to occur more so than any other time of our living. People that want to acknowledge it for what it is will be able to identify what it is, and people who are unfortunately conditioned to not give a fuck, they won’t see what’s going on. At the end of the day there’s always the bigger picture. I touch on these issues in every song, not necessarily the party records but more or less the concept records, like “Branded,” “Struggle Will Be Lost,” or like “Till It’s Gone.” I try to deal with these things on a personal level, which I always feel is where things have to be intact before you can try to organize things outside of yourself.
How did you stretch yourself creatively on this record?
I feel like I introduce another level of my creative ability on every album. I base my new creative approaches on what I feel I haven’t done. The Mariah Carey song [“I Know What You Want”], for example, is something that people ain’t used to hearing me doing.
Did you write it with her in mind?
Yeah, I definitely thought Mariah was the perfect person for it. That was the initial idea. I just wanted her to add her sexiness to it. I didn’t want nothing over the top or nothing elaborate. I just wanted the right vibe and the right voice tone, the right feel and the right breathing — the right sexy overall feeling. She was perfect for that. She’s one of the greatest people I’ve met — she’s sweet. It ain’t no bullshit with her. It’s just real genuine love.
You worked with the Neptunes on “Call the Ambulance,” as well as several past songs. Talk about working with those guys.
We just get together and come up with the shit on the spot. If we love it, we move forward; if we don’t, we start from scratch. I respect their creative contribution overall to entertainment. I love what they do for hip-hop, R&B music, more mainstream poppy acts. We have a great chemistry. Everything from “Pass the Courvoisier” to “As I Come Back” to “What It Is.” Most of the songs I do with them are successful, so I don’t have to fix nothing that ain’t broke.
Tell me about your latest movie role.
I’ve got a new movie coming out December 20th called The Narc. It’s with Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. I’m a dude being accused of a murder I didn’t commit. And I have to go through the rigmarole and major extremes to clear my name. It was crazy. It was my first action drama. It was fun, challenging. I don’t think people have ever seen that dynamic from me.
I understand that you are going to be on that Jam Master Jay tribute album with Public Enemy, Queen Latifah and Jurassic 5. Do you know what song you’re doing?
It doesn’t even matter. You could put me on any track. I support that one million percent. Whatever the track is, I’m going to smash it. Believe that.