If the hip-hop community released a yearbook, Busta Rhymes would no doubt be voted Most Likely To Be Elected President of the United States. He wants to be all things to all people and, as such, the manic, stylistically disheveled rapper doesn't always hit his mark. He continues his scattershot streak on his fourth solo album, Anarchy.
No one gets more mileage out of how he sounds than the 27-year-old Busta. He could rhyme about monetary exchange rates or dismemberment and still make his audience boogie. It's his raga-meets-rugged huff, cartoon outfits and disgruntled samurai facial expressions that afford him the opportunity to do everything from pitching soft drinks on TV to manning a float in New York's recent Puerto Rican Day parade.
His hip-hop persona demonstrates that Rhymes understands the aesthetic of entertainment. Unfortunately, that's probably why he feels compelled to please the streetwise hip-hop head who these days mainly wants to chant, wants to dance, wants to bounce his head to weak jack-in-the-box beats, and wants lots and lots of niggas and bitches.
Busta Rhymes brings those niggas and bitches to Anarchy by the busload. Are titles like "C'Mon All My Niggaz, C'Mon All My Bitches" and "Street Shit" blatant enough? He also falls prey to nearly every "street" hip-hop cliché.
He joins Raekwon and Ghostface Killah in a robbery gone wrong on "The Heist." He talks smack with M.O.P. on "Ready for War." And he becomes the latest in a line of "dedicated" rappers to put it down for y'all on "We Put It Down for Y'all." He also works with the hottest producers on the New York scene. Of course, hot ain't always good. Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze and Rockwilder are getting just way too much work lately; if it's got those corny horn keyboards, skittering drum beats, a three-word chorus and no melodic changes, chances are one of those guys did it (see albums by Jay-Z, DMX, the LOX and others for the proof). The misfires unfortunately obscure the touches of insanity that can make Busta Rhymes' music so thrilling; he's really at his best when formulas become skewed. As on his previous albums, Rhymes uses the apocalypse myths of the millennium as a framing device. On the opening skit, the listener hears a distorted, alien voice declare, "This is the world in which we live. This is anarchy." And when he actually adheres to the uncoded code of chaos, that's when Anarchy delivers the goods.
The title track's (RealAudio excerpt) chorus combines a haunted-house opera singer with creepy male voices that sound startlingly like Oompa Loompas (you know, those little orange dudes from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"). Even cooler on the reference front is "Get Out!," on which producer Nottz ingeniously uses a vocal sample from the 1950s Broadway musical The Ugly Duckling. Yes, it's childish, but Busta is supposed to be a ghetto cartoon character; if the kids in that sample are the Smurfs, then Busta's the evil sorcerer. It works well, and so does the appearance of Lenny Kravitz on "Make Noise" (RealAudio excerpt), a solid party cut that proves that hard-core hip-hop rhythms and acid-rock guitar aren't incongruous.
"Bladow!" (RealAudio excerpt) is the best song on the album and proves that Busta Rhymes was made for Mozart. Roots keyboardist and producer Scott Storch serves up a curveball of a chamber-music piano riff over a whip-crack snare loop, while Rhymes spits his words so furiously and so excitedly, he's almost unintelligible. But so what? This album is called Anarchy, right?