Chuck D of Public Enemy gave him the moniker Busta Rhymes, after NFL wide receiver George “Buster” Rhymes. Early in his career, he was known for his wild style and fashion, and today is best known for his intricate rapping technique, which involves rapping at a fast rate with a lot of internal rhyme and half rhyme. To date he has received eleven Grammy nominations for his musical work.
Busta Rhymes was both a member of Leaders of the New School and a founding member of the record label Conglomerate (founded as Flipmode Entertainment) and production crew The Conglomerate (formerly Flipmode Squad). In November 2011, Busta Rhymes signed a deal with Cash Money Records. He has so far released eight studio albums, with the first being the 1996 platinum-selling album The Coming. His list of hit singles include “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check”, “Dangerous”, “Turn It Up (Remix)/Fire It Up”, “Gimme Some More”, “What’s It Gonna Be?!”, “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”, “I Know What You Want” and “Touch It”, among several others. He is set to release his tenth album, E.L.E.2 (ExtinctioChuck D of Public Enemy gave Trevor Tahiem Smith, Jr. (born May 20, 1972) the moniker Busta Rhymes, after n Level Event 2), which will be a sequel to his 1998 album E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front.
Busta Rhymes was born Trevor Tahiem Smith, Jr., in Brooklyn, New York, on May 20, 1970 to Geraldine Green and Trevor Smith, who are from Jamaica. At age 12, he moved to Uniondale, Long Island and later attended Uniondale High School, graduating in 1988. Smith attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, alongside Jay-Z, DMX and The Notorious B.I.G.
In 1989, Smith, alongside fellow Long Island natives Charlie Brown (born Bryan Higgins), Dinco D (born James Jackson) and Cut Monitor Milo (born Sheldon Scott), formed the East Coast Hip Hop group Leaders of the New School. The group’s big break was when they became an opening act for fellow Long Island Hip Hop group Public Enemy. Public Enemy’s Chuck D gave Busta Rhymes and Charlie Brown their respective stage names. Leaders of the New School began recording in 1990 and released their debut album A Future Without a Past… in 1991 on Elektra Records. In early 1992, the group appeared on A Tribe Called Quest‘s posse cut “Scenario,” in which Busta Rhymes’s climactic verse propelled him into the cultural consciousness. In 1993, they released T.I.M.E. (The Inner Mind’s Eye). Soon after, however, internal problems arose because of Busta Rhymes’s increasing popularity, and the group broke up on the set of Yo! MTV Raps.
By the summer of 1992, Rhymes began making guest appearances on songs by several artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Another Bad Creation, The Notorious B.I.G., Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, as well on the interludes to Mary J. Blige’s debut What’s the 411? and R&B trio TLC’s Diamond-certified second album CrazySexyCool. He also appeared on the album jacket of fellow Hip Hop group A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, with a host of other fellow Hip Hop pioneers. In early 1993, he appeared in a cameo role in Who’s the Man? with his fellow LONS group members. That same year, he appeared as part of an ensemble cast in the Forest Whitaker-directed HBO film Strapped which also starred rapper and actor Fredro and Bokeem Woodbine and co-starred alongside Ice Cube and Omar Epps in the John Singleton film, Higher Learning.
By late 1994, after making appearances on the single “Oh My God” with A Tribe Called Quest, he teamed up with Puff Daddy, LL Cool J, Rampage and former classmate The Notorious B.I.G., on a remix to Craig Mack’s hit “Flava In Ya Ear“, soon after he would team up again with The Notorious B.I.G. among a plethora of rappers such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Coolio on a posse cut, “The Points” which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1995 film Panther. At this time, Rhymes engaged in a memorable freestyle battle rap with the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, rapping the first few verses of his future breakout debut single “Woo-Hah!!” in early 1995. Rhymes also worked on unreleased material with Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., The LOX, Fugees, Mary J. Blige, Foxy Brown, Mase, Jay-Z, Michael Jackson, DMX, Lil’ Kim and Snoop Dogg. Some or neither of the collaborations came to fruition, and Rhymes begun recording what would be his debut studio album in late 1995.
In the summer of 1995, Busta Rhymes began working on his solo debut album The Coming, and a month after recording the album, he released it in March 1996. A month before the album was released, he broke out with a hit single, “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check”. Later, he started work on his second album, When Disaster Strikes, which would not be released until September 1997. It produced the hit singles “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” and “Fire It Up”.
In 1998, Busta Rhymes recorded Extinction Level Event (Final World Front). Its lead single “Gimme Some More” — which sampled Bernard Herrmann’s theme from Psycho — reached number 6 in the UK singles chart in January 1999. Busta Rhymes enjoyed further transatlantic success in April, when the single “What’s It Gonna Be?!”, featuring Janet Jackson, reached the US and UK Top 11. The album received prominent notice for featuring the fastest rapping Busta Rhymes has ever performed, particularly on a song called “Iz They Wildin Wit Us?”, featuring a guest appearance by Mystikal.
That same year, the Flipmode Squad released their group album, and from there, they continued to collaborate.
In 2000, Busta Rhymes recorded his final album for Elektra, entitled Anarchy. After Busta signed to J Records, a label started by the then recently ousted Arista Records chief and founder Clive Davis, he released a greatest hits collection Total Devastation: The Best of Busta Rhymes, alongside a new album of original work. Continuing the Biblical theme of his previous albums, he titled his record Genesis. The album featured collaborations with Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy, Kelis, and others. Genesis was powered by the hit single with Kelis, “What It Is”, and his solo single released in November 2001, “Break Ya Neck”. The final single was the summer smash “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”, which featured Pharrell and P. Diddy. Despite the success of the two singles, this album did not sell as well as previous releases. Fellow Flipmode members were featured, but minor changes in the roster were noted.
In 2002, Busta Rhymes released his sixth studio album It Ain’t Safe No More. The album was moderately successful, with a hit song featuring Mariah Carey and the Flipmode Squad titled “I Know What You Want”. Another hit single was “Make It Clap”, featuring Spliff Starr. The remix of “Make It Clap”, features Sean Paul. After its release, Busta Rhymes left J Records. In 2004, he signed with American record producer and record executive Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment, through Interscope Records. Consequently, upon changing label, a new Flipmode album was cancelled and shelved.
His seventh studio album, titled The Big Bang, became the first #1 album of his career. The CD sold over 209,000 copies in its first week to earn the top spot on the US Billboard 200. The album also became his highest charting album in the UK, peaking at #19. Some of the album was previously leaked online, and as a result several songs were left off the album and new ones added. The Big Bang features production by Dr. Dre and Swizz Beatz, as well as appearances by Raekwon and Nas. The album spawned the singles “Touch It”, “I Love My Bitch”, featuring Kelis and will.i.am, “New York Shit”, featuring Swizz Beatz and “In The Ghetto”. Busta Rhymes also had a stint opening for Mariah Carey’s The Adventures of Mimi Tour. Also, he has performed with Eminem on “Touch It Remix Part 5” and performed a verse on the aforementioned rapper’s song, “I’ll Hurt You”. On July 17, 2008, Busta left Interscope and Aftermath due to a creative clash with Interscope head Jimmy Iovine.
In 2007, Busta Rhymes released a song featuring Linkin Park, titled “We Made It”. He also made an original song (“Where’s My Money”) for a fictional radio station in the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV. It was later revealed that Busta inked a deal with Universal Motown, where he released his eighth studio album Back on My B.S., on May 19, 2009. The album debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200, selling 56,000 copies, and was his first album to not receive an RIAA certification, selling 122,000 copies to date. The album was supported by the singles “Arab Money”, featuring Ron Browz, “Hustler’s Anthem ’09”, featuring T-Pain and “Respect My Conglomerate”. The song “World Go Round”, featuring British singer Estelle, was released in France on April 6, 2009 due to the heavy rotation of a leaked version. The single was released in the UK on July 13, 2009. Busta Rhymes also appeared on Asher Roth’s debut album Asleep in the Bread Aisle.
In September 2009, Busta Rhymes had announced that he was working on his ninth studio album, alongside Canadian producer Boi-1da, entitled The Chemo. At the time, he stated that the project was 80% finished. In May 2010, Busta Rhymes had reportedly changed the title of his ninth album from The Chemo to Extinction Level Event 2, making his ninth effort a sequel to his 1998 album Extinction Level Event (Final World Front).
In an August 6, 2010 interview on Conspiracy Worldwide Radio, DJ Premier, said Busta Rhymes received over eight beats which he didn’t want to use but Premier hoped his next beat would be chosen for inclusion on the album. On DJ Premier’s Live From Headqcourterz radio show Premier confirmed that one of his beats were to be included in E.L.E. 2. In 2010, Busta Rhymes formed his new label Conglomerate Records (With later on having rosters such as N.O.R.E., and Spliff Star). He was also featured on “C’mon (Catch ‘Em By Surprise)” by Tiësto and Diplo.
In 2011, Rhymes recorded “Look at Me Now” with Chris Brown and Lil Wayne on Brown’s fourth album, F.A.M.E., the song has received favorable reviews regarding Rhymes guest verse on the song, and is his highest chart entry on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number six, while reaching number one on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart, becoming his first #1 on that chart. On September 7, 2011, Rhymes received six nominations for the BET Hip Hop Awards, held on October 11, 2011.
On November 16, 2011, it was announced that Busta Rhymes signed to Cash Money Records. For his debut single on the Cash Money label and his Conglomerate Records, he reunites with Chris Brown to make the aggressive single known as Why Stop Now. In 2012, Busta collaborated with Jodie Connor, featuring on her single “Take You There”, but he did not appear in the music video.
A song with Twista, titled “Can You Keep Up” was leaked. Busta Rhymes was featured on Fat Joe’s single “Pride & Joy” alongside Kanye West and Jadakiss. His ninth studio album, Year of the Dragon, was released for free on Google Play on August 21, 2012. The album features guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Trey Songz, Robin Thicke, Maino, Gucci Mane and more. He also released a music video for the track “Doin’ It Again” which features Reek da Villian which includes a tribute to his manager that committed suicide, Chris Lighty.
He also later featured on YMCMB label mate Shannel single “Last Time”. In 2011 it was announced that Universal Motown was going defunct making Rhymes and other arists move to Universal Republic Records, in mid-2012, it was announced that Universal Republic Records was going defunct, making artists on the roster move to Republic Records making the label revived itself.
On December 21, 2012, members of The Conglomerate Ent., Busta along with J. Doe and Reek da Villan released a mixtape titled “Catastrophic”, their first collective effort. Busta Rhymes collaborated with Pharrell Williams, who produced the first single off his Cash Money Records debut, “Twerk It”, which was released June 6, 2013. A video was shot in Flatbush on June 3, 2013. The official remix was released featuring Nicki Minaj. On July 23, 2014, Busta Rhymes announced that he left Cash Money Records due to creative differences and he is no longer on Republic.