For a person who has been depicted in some quarters as hiding out, Busta Rhymes was sure keeping a high profile on Sunday night on his home turf of Long Island, New York. As advertised, Busta headlined New York radio station Power 105.1's "Birthday Bash" at the Nassau Coliseum.
After the fans saw performances by Ne-Yo and Remy Ma (Juelz Santana and Keyshia Cole were also on the bill, although Cole mysteriously never came onstage and no explanation was given), Busta arrived accompanied by always his magnetic hypeman/sergeant-at-arms, Spliff Starr.
Two light structures resembling staircases stood on either side of Flipmode DJ Scratchator. The structures opened up, with Spliff emerging from stage left and Busta coming from the other side. The beat to the Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)" flooded the arena.
Bus, wearing a white snorkel identical to Spliff's, confidently strode to the front of the stage, reciting his openly sexual verse to the Ying's remix, which culminated in him gyrating and making an unsubtle comment to the female members of the audience. He set then segued into teases of the "Ante Up" remix and "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See."
He then stopped the music, told the crowd they were not ready yet and said he had to take his jewels off — and considering that he was wearing more precious metal than Slick Rick and Mr. T combined, it was natural that he would want to drop some before he began wilding out.
But surprisingly, he then got serious, telling the audience he wanted to dedicate the show to his slain friend Israel "Izzy" Ramirez, who was murdered last month during the filming of Bus' "Touch It" remix video in Brooklyn, New York (see "Busta Rhymes Issues Statement On Bodyguard Shooting").
"The media is trying to make me look like a real sh--bag!" he scoffed. "They got a n---a looking real crazy."
Busta then told the crowd that on the day Ramirez was killed, they were not wilding out at some club, or standing on some nefarious drug strip — they were putting food on their families' tables. "We went to work that day," he explained. "We were having a productive day when unfortunate situations transpired and killed my friend. But we're going to have fun honoring Izzy's name ... F--- the media."
With the frustration vented for now, Busta returned to what he is known most for: partying and performing. He dug into his catalog for hit records like "Woo Ha!! Got You All in Check," A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario," "I'll Hurt You" (from his forthcoming LP The Big Bang) and even the remix to the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha," turning the performance into a feat of physical endurance: He danced, ran in place, yelled to the top of the Himalayas and let loose his trademark rapid-fire rapping, all seemingly without losing his breath.
He and Spliff tore through "Break Your Neck" before Busta stopped the music again, just long enough to introduce "Touch It." During the song's "Get low, Bus" part, Busta and Spliff rapped from a crouched position before jumping up and down as the pace of the music and his rhymes picked up.
Brooklyn mixtape king Papoose came out and performed his verse from the "Touch It" remix. That video (which also features DMX, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Rah Digga and Lloyd Banks) premieres this week (see "Mary J. Blige Unveils Alter Ego 'Brook' In Busta Video").
Busta told everyone that the video was actually intended to support unity and he admonished the beefs going on in hip-hop.
"N---as running around beefing like they the hardest — I'm tired of it," he barked. He said that although MCs can't forget the streets, he was in the industry to get money, have fun and make the fans "feel good." Rhymes ended by telling everyone in the crowd to hold up a cup because it was time to toast. If they didn't physically have a cup, he told them to hold up an imaginary one so they can toast Izzy and any loved ones that they may have lost. He then flipped back into party mode with "Pass the Courvoisier."
As the house lights came on and the crowd began filing out, a message came over the P.A. that Juelz Santana and the Diplomats were indeed in the building and ready to perform in just a few minutes. People began running back to their seats, and after a few minutes turned to 25 minutes, the crowd started making their exit again. After midnight, the Dips (sans Cam'ron) finally came out to perform for about a 1/4-full house.