Busta Rhymes, ‘Back on My B.S.’ (Universal Motown)
One might expect Back on My B.S. — Busta Rhymes’ first batch of songs written since 2006’s The Big Bang and the shooting of his friend and bodyguard Israel Ramirez — to be more sober and confessional. Recently, too, he’s railed against the “dehumanizing” aspects of technology.
Yet Busta has always mixed deep thoughtfulness with king-size clownishness, and right from the intro (“Back on my bullshit” sung operatically to Beethoven’s 5th), he bounces between skittering beats and Dirty South synths, “throwin’ money around the room to please myself,” and flashing breezily dexterous wordplay. On “Respect My Conglomerate,” he’s a monolith rather than a mere entertainer, but post-Diddy, Jay, and Kanye, such branding doesn’t retain much punch.
After presenting competing manifestos (“Shoot for the Moon” prizes ambitious self-reliance, yet “Hustler’s Anthem ’09” is a Jeezy-style exhortation to do whatever it takes to “pop bottles”), things get more erratic, with dancehall whirlwind “Kill Dem” leading into the quizzical boast track “Arab Money” (with its questionable quoting of the Koran on the chorus). Finally, Akon collabo “Don’t Believe ‘Em” and the mournful “Decision,” with Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, and Common, address weightier issues. But two decades deep in the game, Busta is still beholden to a style that ping-pongs between silly and steroidal, making his stabs at honesty fall awkwardly flat.