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What Happened to Busta Rhymes?

To some he’s a hip-hop legend and to others he’s nothing special. Today we will take a look at Busta Rhymes hip-hop career and what led to his downfall. Today’s topic is “What Happened to Busta Rhymes?”


Trevor George Smith Jr, or better known as Busta Rhymes, was born on May 20th, 1972 in Brooklyn. His parents moved him around a bit, moving from Brooklyn to Long Island, then to England. While living in the U.S, he went to Uniondale High School in 1991, with other legendary rappers Biggie Smalls, and Jay-Z. In 1990, him and three other friends formed a East Coast hip-hop group called Leaders of the New School. The group earned their first opening act for Public Enemy, and this was the start to something bigger for them. Busta Rhymes got his nickname from Chuck D, who was in Public Enemy, and later in 1990, the Leaders of New School started recording their debut album.


The first album A Future Without a Past was released in 1991 through Elektra Records. In 1992, they worked with A Tribe Called Quest, and in 1993, the group released T.I.M.E (The Inner Mind’s Eye). Busta Rhymes started to outshine the rest of the group because of his “different” and advanced rap style. His parents were both Jamican, so he incorporated his culture into his music. He wore dreads and also used jamacian slang words when rapping and this was something that the New York rap industry has not seen before. The group ended up breaking up because of his overnight success and other problems within the group. They ending things on the set of the TV show Yo! MTV Raps.

In the summer of 1992, Busta Rhymes started collaborating on songs with Big Daddy Kane, Another Bad Creation, Biggie, KRS-One, and Brand Nubian. The following year Busta Rhymes made his acting debut and appeared in Who’s the Man with his old group members and another film Strapped, a crime-thriller drama, and another drama film Higher Learning, alongside Ice Cube and Omar Epps.

Going on to 1994, he continued to collaborate and appear on songs with A Tribe Called Quest, Puff Daddy, LL Cool J, and more. He teamed up Biggie, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Coolio to record “The Points” and it appeared on the 1995 film soundtrack for Panther.

In the summer of 1995, Busta Rhymes started working on his first album The Coming and it was released in 1996. The album featured hit singles “Woo Hah!!(Got You All in Check), “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” and “Fire It Up.” His first album became a success and the music industry predicted he would be one of the most successful rappers in the U.S.

In 1998, he recorded his second album Extinction Level Event (Final World Front). “Gimme Some More” reached sixth on the charts, while “What’s It Gonna Be?!” featuring Janet Jackson performed well on the charts too. Once again, his unique rap style was admired and fans released how fast Busta Rhymes can rap and were amazed by his speed.

So in 2000, Busta recorded Anarchy, which was his last album for Elektra Records. He signed to J Records shortly after the release. His next album was titled Genesis and featured appearances by Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy, Kelis, just to name a few. Hit single “What It Is” featuring Kelis, was the most popular song on the album. The album didn’t do well in sells, but his two singles “Break Ya Neck” and “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II” were hot singles.

Busta’s career was now slowly starting to decline, and the release of his sixth album It Ain’t Safe No More was a flop. Although the singles “I Know What You Want” featuring Mariah Carey and the how old crew the Flipmode Squad, and “Make It Clap” did receive some attention. He left J Records after this album and then signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment through Interscope Records. Busta was featured in a video game in 2004 called Def Jam: Fight For NY, as a fighter.

Busta’s next album is what got him back on top in the rap game. The Big Bang was his first number one album ever and sold over 209,000 copies in its first week. It even earned a spot on the charts, but unfortunately part of the album was leaked, which messed with the song line-up on the album. Although Dr. Dre and Swizz Beatz helped him produce some fire hits, they departed ways in 2008 after some creative differences.

Later in 2008, Busta made a deal with Universal Motown, and made a song for the video game Grand Theft Auto: IV as well. He released yet another album Back on My B.S. in 2009 and it debuted fairly high in the number five spot on the charts. But, he only sold 122,000 copies and the album was a flop. This was his first album to not receive a certification. He also ran into some problems with his single “Arab Money,” so it was banned from the album due to it being offensive.

So, moving on to 2009, he started working on his ninth album, but no word of it being released. In 2010, he switched album titles, but it was still not released. Busta decided to start his own record label as well, but this didn’t last too long.

He began working again with other artists in 2011, and featured on Chris Brown's F.A.M.E album on hit single “Look At Me Now.” The single became a hit, especially Busta’s verse, and this was the highest chart entry he’s ever had on the Billboard 100. He received six BET awards nominations for the single. He did some performances here and there and appeared on more collaborated singles from other artists. Later on in 2011, it was announced that Busta signed to Cash Money Records. He finally released his ninth album Year of the Dragon and featured some hit artists at the time like Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Trey Songz to name a few. The album wasn’t charted but released for free on Google Play in August of 2012.

So Busta had some more problems with his label and ended up getting moved to Republic Records and then left there as well. He left Cash Money Records in 2014, due to similar issues with creativity and because he wasn’t a part of Republic Records anymore.

So fast-forwarding to 2018, he released a single featuring Missy Elliot and Kelly Rowland, by Epic Records, called “Get It.” 50 Cent started some beef with Busta over Instagram, but it didn't carry on for too long. More on the childish end in my opinion, but Busta actually deleted the post so it's nowhere to be found anymore. He began working on yet another album in 2019 along with his long time friend Dr. Dre so maybe a new album in 2020? Will he make another comeback?

Busta Rhymes also had some run-ins with the law from 2006-2009 that we didn’t discuss earlier. But he’s appeared in multiple films, TV shows and video games, so how did his popularity seem to be so inconsistent? What are your thoughts? You can mention them in the comments below. Thanks for tuning in as we looked at the rollercoaster of a career Busta Rhymes lived. Busta Rhymes was definitely someone who faced a lot of adversity for his some of his controversial lyrics, but he helped break some hip-hop barriers down just by being his true, authentic self.

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