Sorry LL, but we gotta call this one a comeback. Busta Rhymes, who just a few years ago seemed to be sliding into semi-irrelevancy, has grabbed hip hop by the collar and demanded its full attention. All it took was a single verse — albeit an incredibly acrobatic one — on Chris Brown's 2011 hit "Look at Me Now," rendering Breezy and other guest Lil Wayne as mere background noise. In the wake of the explosive cameo, Busta has signed on with one of rap's biggest labels, Cash Money. But before he drops his anticipated album with Birdman, Weezy and co., Busta is looking to break necks once again, this time with The Year of the Dragon, a free album, which dropped today though the latest entry into the digital retail world, Google Play. It's just the fifth album released via Google Play, and the first hip hop offering (Maroon 5, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band and the Rolling Stones were the first artists to link with the new service), and much like Busta's collabo with Chris Brown, it's got everyone talking. And Busta is talking right back. Here, the veteran rapper sits down with BET.com to talk about the new album, the Nas ghostwriting controversy and his acting career.
BET.com: Why did you decide to release The Year of the Dragon via new platform Google Play instead of DatPiff.com, 2DopeBoyz.com or the other usual suspects?
Busta Rhymes: Me and Google came together and we pretty much just thought about how to do the most amazingly groundbreaking thing ever. It's just a new innovative way to share content. I'm the first urban artist that they're doing this with. Google is now going to be a primary platform for selling music, like iTunes and Amazon. Google has their s--t set up now where they're going to be doing that in a new way, and it just made perfect sense for them to do it with one of the original leaders of the new school. We're trying to continue to lead the new kids by this new way of sharing content.
And why didn’t you just release this album though iTunes or other money-making channels?
The beautiful thing about this situation is Google agreed to allow me to put this album out for free, which is something that I wanted to do because I felt that it was important that I give people a very huge thank you. It's for the ones that have been f--king with me from the beginning of my [career] till now. It's important that artists know that it's cool to give away music for free, but it's more important and more cool to give it away in a manner where the platform that's provided for it is not only going to help you campaign it in a much bigger way, but you can get monetary value for your free intellectual property. We're doing it in an infrastructure where we can track everything that's going on. It's important that we find new, unconventional ways to eat and be compensated for our hard work, because the old conventional way isn't accommodating us the way that it used to. The nature of the business has changed.
Tell us about some of the folks you recruited for this project.
A lot of major people came out: Rick Ross, Trey Songz, Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Reek Da Villain, Maino, Anthony Hamilton, Vybez Kartel, Robin Thicke. It's just some real phenomenal s--t.
On a different topic, you appeared on “Fried Chicken,” a standout cut on Nas’ Untitled album. As we’re sure you know, that album’s been the spark plug for some major controversy of late, with people claiming stic.man and Jay Electronica ghostwrote some songs. What was your initial reaction to the rumor?
I didn't believe it. I've known Nas for a long time. That "Halftime" beat on Illmatic was made for me. I sat in Large Professor's crib in Flushing, Queens, and watched him make that beat on the SP-1200 for Busta Rhymes. I didn't know what to do with it at the time, so he gave it to Nas and Nas knew exactly what to do with it. Nas never needed a ghostwriter. I don't care what anybody says; I'm speaking from witnessing the chemistry of his music firsthand. I've watched him work, and he has never needed a ghostwriter. Nas isn't the type of person to keep crowds with him in the studio.
What are your thoughts on ghostwriting in general?
It's not something I have to think about because I don't use them, but I don't knock anybody's hustle. To each his own. At the end of the day, your pen will never be respected if you don't own your pen. If you have a ghostwriter, you’re not really earning your respect, so you can't command it. That's the way I was grown, that's the way I was taught, and I strongly believe and live by that.
Your music buzz has had a serious resurgence in the past few years, but you’ve taken a break from acting recently. You were in some great movies back in the day. Are you looking to resurrect your movie career soon as well?
I'm definitely going to get back into acting, and when I do it’s going to be in such a phenomenally grand way [that] people will be blown away by my re-entry onto the silver screen. I'm just so in love with this music and the space that I'm in right now; I feel like I wouldn't be fulfilling my destiny by not sharing what I've been destined to do. I can't allow nothing to get in the way of that, and movies are something I'm so serious about. Acting is not a thing that you can spread yourself thin in. You have to focus and become a character; you've got to embody that s--t fully. It takes time to get into that mode and separate myself from who Busta Rhymes is, and I can't be trying to do a film while I'm being Busta Rhymes the rapper. When I get into that movie s--t, I'm going to have to put music down for a second.
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