It was magnificent from beginning to end. From its deep soul-rattling bass and conga drums and its unforgettable opening line to its vividly wild video, Busta Rhymes' "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" was the perfect hip-hop joint. Catchy enough to be commercial and creative enough to be respected, it's the type of track for which the stars have to align just right before it is even recorded.
It all started 15 years ago with some caring criticism from Q-Tip and Sean "Diddy" Combs. "They were in there talking to me about why I'm 'screaming' on every record," Busta recalled to MTV News last month, referring to a conversation that he and his rap compadres were having in Diddy's storied Daddy's House studio in New York City.
Back then, Busta, the fire-breathing, self-proclaimed Dungeon Dragon, was best-known for his rambunctious rants on record. Busta's roaring guest verse on A Tribe Called Quest's classic single "Scenario" and his bellowing ad libs on "Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check" went a long way in cementing the MC as a certified riot starter. But on 1997's "Put Your Hands," he deliberately went in a new direction.
Diddy and Q-Tip may have sparked the idea, but it was an old-timer in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, who inspired Busta's monotone flow. As Bussa Buss explains it, people in the predominantly West Indian neighborhood would consistently use the word 'Yo' at the beginning and/or end of every sentence to sound more Americanized. "Yo Busta let me hold $5 yo, wassup yo, you chillin' yo,' " Bus mimicked.
As soon as the charismatic power MC heard the beat, which was produced by his friends Shamellow and Buddah, he knew that he had to take Tip and Puff's advice and deliver something much different than his previous work. "Hit you wit no delayin', so what you sayin' yo/ Silly wit my nine milly, what the dealy yo," Bus spit, breathing those now classic words on the track.
"That was the beat that felt like the right beat to experiment with that calm vocal tone," he said of the track, which samples Seals and Crofts' 1976 song "Sweet Green Fields." "So I took that and I went to the studio and combined that with the calm flow."
The record, which was officially released as a single in August 1997, was a hit, peaking at #2 on Billboard's Hot R&B/ Hip-Hop Songs chart and even bringing Busta a Grammy nomination. Sonically, Bus had delivered something unforgettable, but what he did with the video would rank him as one of hip-hop's greatest visual artists.
The Hype Williams-directed clip drew its chief inspiration from Eddie Murphy's 1988 comedy "Coming to America." While Busta's engineers were mixing down "Put Your Hands," the film played on the studio's television on mute, sparking grand ideas. "Things were happening in the scene as the movie was playing that was so perfectly matching what was going on with the record," Busta recalled.
The result was an over-the-top music video with regal costume changes, tribal-influenced choreography, Day-Glo body paint and an elephant. "That visual gave us the same feeling that the record was giving us ... and it was a marriage made in heaven," Busta said.
As for Diddy and Q-Tip's reaction, "They really made me feel like I made the best record in my life at that time," Busta remembered.