Trevor George Smith, Jr., (born May 20, 1972) better known by his stage name Busta Rhymes, is an American rapper, actor, record producer and record executive. Chuck D of Public Enemy gave him the moniker Busta Rhymes, after NFL wide receiver George "Buster" Rhymes. He is widely known for his outlandish style and fashion sense depicted in several highly-innovative music videos as well as his intricate rhyming technique, rapping at a high rate of speed with heavy use of internal rhyme and half rhyme, and to date has received 11 Grammy Award nominations for his musical work.
About.com included him on its list of the 50 Greatest MCs of Our Time (1987–2007), while Steve Huey of AllMusic called him one of the best and most prolific rappers of the 1990s. In 2012, The Source placed him on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time. MTV has called him "one of hip-hop's greatest visual artists."
Busta Rhymes was an original member of Leaders of the New School. He later went on and founded the record label Conglomerate (initially Flipmode Entertainment) and production crew The Conglomerate (formerly Flipmode Squad). In November 2011, Busta Rhymes signed a deal with Cash Money Records. On July 23, 2014, Busta Rhymes announced that he left Cash Money Records due to creative differences and was no longer on Republic. In 2016 Rhymes signed with Epic for his upcoming album due to be released in early 2017.
He has so far released nine 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", "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See", "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.
Busta Rhymes was born Trevor George Smith, Jr., in Brooklyn, New York, on May 20, 1972 to Geraldine Green and Trevor Smith, who are from Jamaica. At age 12, he moved to Uniondale, Long Island, and later moved to the United Kingdom, spending time in Liverpool and Morecambe, England, before returning to the United States to attend Uniondale High School, graduating in 1991.
The most known story of Busta's tenure at Westinghouse High School was battle rapping his fellow schoolmate Jay Z in the school's cafeteria one day, to whom he ultimately lost.
1989–1995: Leaders of the New School and rising popularity
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 late 1989 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.
1995–1999: The Coming, When Disaster Strikes, and Extinction Level Event: Final World Front
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.
2000–2004: Anarchy, Genesis, and It Ain't Safe No More
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. As a side note, Busta was also featured as a playable fighter in the 2004 Electronic Arts fighting game, Def Jam: Fight For NY.
2005–2009: The Big Bang and Back on My B.S.
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.
Due to controversial content, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has banned the album. Back on My B.S. was released internationally, but because of one song, "Arab Money", it cannot be purchased as a CD there, although the album can still be purchased via iTunes. According to the National Media Council, the lyrics were considered to be offensive to Arabs and to Islam, because it quoted the Shahada, a sacred Muslim profession of faith which translates to “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" and permission for distribution was therefore denied. The quoting of the Shahada in such a format is forbidden, the remix invoked further controversy by including some verses of the Qu'ran which similarly were stylized in a forbidden manner. Some DJs, artists and fans have lambasted the track, saying it portrays Arabs in a stereotypical way. The first part out of three of the remix by Rhymes contains verses from the Quran.
In November 2008, when "Arab Money" was released as a single, DJ Dany Neville and the Iraqi rapper The Narcicyst responded by recording a reply. Rhymes later apologized. DJs in the country said they had not received an order banning the record from being spun in nightclubs, and they had mixed feelings on whether the record was offensive or not. DJ Saif of Dubai said, "I don't play 'Arab Money' because it's disrespectful [to] Arabs. I don't think there is a ban on playing it in clubs, but many here don't play it anyway."
DJ Bliss, along with many other DJs in the UAE, refused to play "Arab Money" on Radio 1 in Dubai after it was banned in the UAE for offense to Arabs. He added, "I used to play the original version in the club, but out of respect for the laws here in my country, I haven't played it since."
In 2010 the track's producer Ron Browz defended Busta Rhymes in a Dubai interview with journalist Awad Mustafa stating that the track was misunderstood.
"For us, having 'Arab money' is a compliment understood like having 'Oprah money' or 'Tiger Woods money' - it's just street slang, and we were appreciating the amazing wonders that have been created here," Browz said.
Brow added that he had produced the track in a moment of inspiration while experimenting in his studio. "Growing up in Harlem I was always surrounded by Arabs and Muslims, we embraced their culture and they embraced ours and we always joked with each other," he said.
2010–present: Cash Money Records, Mixtapes and Extinction Level Event 2
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, American hip hop producer 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 May 1, 2011 Rhymes appeared on the launch show for MNET's Big Brother Africa 6: Amplified and performed some of his songs. In 2011, Busta Rhymes performed at the Gathering of the Juggalos. Busta Rhymes contributed to the 2011 Tech N9ne album All 6's and 7's, performing vocals on the single, "Worldwide Choppers," released on May 31. Canadian recording artist Justin Bieber featured Busta Rhymes on a song called "Drummer Boy" off Bieber's sophomore studio album, Under the Mistletoe, released on November 1, 2011. On November 11, 2011, a Heavy D tribute song titled "You Ain’t Gotta Wait Till I’m Gone" was leaked.
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 and includes a tribute to his manager, Chris Lighty who committed suicide in 2012.
He was later featured on YMCMB label mate Shannel's single, "Last Time". In 2011 it was announced that Universal Motown was going defunct forcing Rhymes and other artists to move to Universal Republic Records. In mid-2012, it was announced that Universal Republic Records was also going defunct, forcing artists on the roster to move to Republic Records, reviving the label.
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. On November 7, 2013, he released Thank You, a song featuring Q-Tip, Kanye West and Lil Wayne.
He was featured on "Devil" featuring Neon Hitch and B.o.B, a song by Cash Cash. It was released in August 2015.
In 2016, a movement to name a small, uninhabited lake island in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts after Busta Rhymes received viral publicity. The unofficial name of 'Busta Rhymes Island' was chosen by a town resident because the island has "rope-swinging, blueberries, and . . . stuff Busta would enjoy". A formal proposal was made to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to officially change the island's name, but it was not accepted due to regulations regarding the naming of geographic places after living people.
Busta Rhymes was also a featured artist on The Hamilton Mixtape, singing a remix of "My Shot" along with Tarik Trotter of The Roots and Joell Ortiz. The trio perfomed the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Rhymes has four children: three sons, T'Ziah (born 1993), T'Khi (born 1999), Trillian (born 2001), and a daughter, Mariah (born 1998)
On August 20, 2006, Busta Rhymes was arrested and arraigned for charges of third-degree assault after attacking a man who reportedly spat on his car in New York City on August 12 after the AmsterJam Music Festival on Randall's Island.
On October 24, 2006, Busta Rhymes appeared at Manhattan Criminal Court as the district attorney's office attempted to amend previous charges against him to include weapons possession for a machete found in his car. The judge refused to add the charge and adjourned the case.
On February 20, 2007, Busta Rhymes refused a plea deal offered by the prosecutor's office for the assault of his former driver, Edward Hatchett. The deal would have entailed six months in jail and pleading guilty to two assaults, the attack on Hatchett, and the attack on the former fan. The dispute with Hatchett is believed to have originated over back pay Hatchett felt he was owed. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Becki Rowe offered Busta another option, pleading guilty to third-degree assault. The conditions of the proposed sentence would include five days of community service, two weeks of youth lectures and six months of anger management classes, as well as three years of probation. On March 18, 2008 a judge in New York City sentenced Busta to three years probation, 10 days community service, $1250 in fines (plus court costs), and to enroll in a drunken driving program.
On September 25, 2008, Busta Rhymes was temporarily refused entry to the United Kingdom due to "unresolved convictions".
On October 14, 2009, a Brooklyn judge ordered Busta Rhymes to pay a concert goer $75,000 in compensation for an assault which occurred in 2003.
- The Coming (1996)
- When Disaster Strikes... (1997)
- E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front (1998)
- Anarchy (2000)
- Genesis (2001)
- It Ain't Safe No More... (2002)
- The Big Bang (2006)
- Back on My B.S. (2009)
- Year of the Dragon (2012)
- TBA (2017)
- Who's the Man? (1993) – Jawaan
- Strapped (1993) – Buster
- Higher Learning (1995) – Dreads
- The Rugrats Movie (1998) – Reptar Wagon (voice)
- Shaft (2000) – Rasaan
- Backstage (2000)
- Finding Forrester (2000) – Terrell Wallace
- Narc (2002) – Darnell 'Big D Love' Beery
- Halloween: Resurrection (2002) – Freddie Harris
- Space Ghost Coast to Coast (2002)
- Full Clip (2006) – Pope
- The Boondocks (2006) – Flonominal (voice)
- Breaking Point (2009) – Al Bowen
- The Unforgiven (2011) – Lick Wilson
- Club Life (2015) – Himself
- Master of None (2015) – Busta Rhymes – Ep. "Indians on TV"
- Fresh Off The Boat (2016) – Busta Rhymes | Episode: Hi, My Name Is...
- King of the Dancehall (2016) – Allestar 'All Star Toasta'
Awards and nominations
Billboard Music Awards
Busta Rhymes has been nominated for 1 Billboard Music Award during his solo career.
|2005||"Don't Cha" (with The Pussycat Dolls)||Top-Selling Hot 100 Song of the Year||Nominated|
BET Hip Hop Awards
|2006||Himself||Best Live Performance||Won|
|Move the Crowd Award||Won|
|2009||Himself||Best Live Performer||Nominated|
|2010||"All I Do Is Win (Remix)" (with DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, T-Pain, P. Diddy, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Jadakiss and Nicki Minaj)||Reese’s Perfect Combo Award||Nominated|
|Himself||Best Live Performer||Nominated|
|"Look at Me Now" (with Chris Brown and Lil Wayne)||Best Hip Hop Video||Won|
|Reese’s Perfect Combo Award||Won|
|Sweet 16: Best Featured Verse||Won|
|Verizon People’s Champ Award||Won|
Soul Train Music Awards
Busta Rhymes has won a Soul Train Music Award and has been nominated for 2 Soul Train Music Awards during his solo career.
|2000||"What's It Gonna Be"||The Michael Jackson Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video||Won|
|2006||"Don't Cha" (with The Pussycat Dolls)||Best R&B/Soul Single, Group, Band or Duo||Nominated|
|2007||"I Love My Chick" (featuring Kelis & will.i.am)||The Michael Jackson for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video||Nominated|
American Music Awards
Busta Rhymes has been nominated for 1 American Music Award during his solo career.
|2000||Busta Rhymes||Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist||Nominated|
The Source Awards
Busta Rhymes has won a Source Award during his solo career.
|1999||What's It Gonna Be?!" (featuring Janet Jackson)||Music Video of the Year||Won|
Busta Rhymes has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards during his solo career.
|1997||"Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check"||Best Rap Solo Performance||Nominated|
|1998||"Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See"||Nominated|
|2000||"Gimme Some More"||Nominated|
|"What's It Gonna Be?!" (featuring Janet Jackson)||Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group||Nominated|
|E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front||Best Rap Album||Nominated|
|2001||"Fire"||Best Music Video, Short Form||Nominated|
|2003||"Pass the Courvoisier Pt. 2" (featuring P. Diddy & Pharrell)||Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group||Nominated|
|2007||"Touch It (Remix)"||Best Rap Solo Performance||Nominated|
|2012||"Look At Me Now" (with Chris Brown & Lil Wayne)||Best Rap Performance||Nominated|
|Best Rap Song||Nominated|
MTV Video Music Awards
Busta Rhymes has been nominated for 16 MTV Video Music Awards during his 16-year solo career, but has yet to win one.
|1996||"Woo-Hah! Got You All in Check"||Breakthrough Video||Nominated|
|1998||"Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See"||Best Male Video||Nominated|
|Best Rap Video||Nominated|
|1999||"What's It Gonna Be?!" (featuring Janet Jackson)||Best Hip-Hop Video||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Nominated|
|"Gimme Some More"||Breakthrough Video||Nominated|
|2002||"Pass the Courvoisier Pt. 2" (featuring P.Diddy & Pharrell)||Best Hip-Hop Video||Nominated|
|2003||"I Know What You Want" (featuring Mariah Carey & Flipmode Squad)||Best Hip-Hop Video||Nominated|
|2006||"Touch It (remix)" (featuring Mary J. Blige, Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, Lloyd Banks, Papoose & DMX)||Best Male Video||Nominated|
|Best Rap Video||Nominated|
|2011||"Look At Me Now" (with Chris Brown & Lil Wayne)||Best Hip-Hop Video||Nominated|