NEW YORK — Tuesday night was a double homecoming party for Busta Rhymes. Not only did he end an almost two-month run of his Genesis tour with opening act Fabolous, but the human live wire returned to his hometown of New York City after not performing here for quite a while.
Bus emerged onto the Hammerstein Ballroom stage in orange leather pants and a jacket to match, fittingly starting off with “As I Come Back.” “Ugh, Ugh, all over the track man,” he roared with his fist punching the air to coincide with his growls.
After he and arguably the rap game’s hypest hype man, Spliff Starr, warmed things up with a couple of more cuts from Genesis, it was time for the Bus to bust his guns with guest appearances.
“Y’all ready for some real New York n—– sh–?” he asked the crowd with an arrogant scowl on his face. Directly after, the triumphant opening sonic punch of “Ante Up” came on, signifying that a lyrical battle royale was about to take place onstage. Bus and Spliff personified rambunctiousness, jumping up and down like two kids throwing tantrums. Seconds later, M.O.P. came on to engage in verbal pugilism, attacking the beat like bloodthirsty bulldogs.
“Brownsviiiille, home of the brave/ Put in work in the street like a slave,” half of the duo, Billy Danze, said while standing on top of an audio monitor. Although the mics, which would impede Busta at various points in the show, were too low to hear the Mash Out Posse’s rhymes, the crowd fed off of their energy. Busta helped Danze keep his balance on the monitor, holding his waist while he rapped.
The first lady of the Flip Mode Squad, Rah Digga, came out a few songs down the line for “Betta Stay Up in Your House,” but it was a surprise appearance by P. Diddy and Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes that was the highlight of the set.
Before Busta could even think about rapping about toasting the night away with Diddy and Pharrell, however, he had to make sure he was properly heard.
“We did a soundcheck earlier and this don’t sound nothing like the soundcheck,” a disgusted Busta said to the sound engineer after he halted his performance. “More volume in my mic and monitor please!”
After the situation was rectified, Bus celebrated with a sip of cognac, segueing into “Pass the Courvoisier Part 2.” “Don’t this sh– make a n—a wanna jump,” he exclaimed, not only signaling the commencement of the song, but the entrance of his guests. With everyone in the packed crowd either on their feet or in the air (many were jumping with Busta), Diddy and Pharrell strolled out.
P.D. and Bus went back and forth exchanging rhymes and dance moves, while Pharrell stood off to the side popping and doing a dance where he moved his right arm and leg simultaneously like wheels on a train until it was his turn to sing the chorus. P.D. and Busta connected for “another classic” song, as Diddy did his verse from “It’s All About the Benjamins” before leaving.
Only at a Busta Rhymes concert could thousands of people chant “Yah, yah, yah, yah,” in unison without feeling the least bit juvenile. Still, hearing the throng imitate Busta’s call of the wild intro from “Woo Ha!! Got You All in Check” invoked a chuckle.
The beauty of watching Bus — hailed by many as rap’s best live performer — do his thing onstage is that he’s not afraid to laugh, cry, vent or show any other emotions. For almost every lyric, he simultaneously does a body gesture or facial expression to accentuate his words.
That is, unless he’s showcasing his breath control and vocal prowess on tracks such as “Gimme Some More,” “Dangerous” and the finale, “Break Ya Neck.” Rhyming like he’s auctioning off merchandise, Bus’ tongue moves too fast for the rest of his body to catch up.
Unfortunately for some of Fabolous’ crew, they weren’t as swift with their freestyles. After Fab fought through his own set of audio problems (most of his music was drowned in treble, cheating the fans of the thumping basslines they love) to rock the crowd with such album cuts as “Young’n’” and “Right Now and Later On,” he let some of his squad take the mic, and they were showered with boos.
In all fairness to the two rappers, one of whom was Fab’s brother Paul Caine, you couldn’t hear most of their lyrics because the mics were so low, but they kind of shot themselves in the foot — they rapped way past 16 bars and were completely unable to hold the spectators’ attention.
Read about all of the shows we’ve recently covered in Tour Reports.