Busta Rhymes

When Disaster Strikes

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Busta Rhymes' follow-up to The Coming, his 1996 solo debut, is a complicated suite about the end of the century from hip-hop's high-volume majordomo. Inevitably, rap's recent tragedies haunt the music: In "Things We Be Doin' for Money," a two-part jam, Rhymes finds himself in an escalating altercation, only to wake up in the middle of the night, recognizing the possibly murderous situation as a nightmare. He phones a sleepy friend, a guy whose chief concern is showing up at the studio the next morning on time; like all of When Disaster Strikes..., the tone of the song runs from life-threatening seriousness to goofy everyday intimacy. "Things We Be Doin' for Money" is quickly followed by "One," a track built around a Stevie Wonder sample, on which Rhymes and Erykah Badu do an angular prayer dance about respect and shared destiny. Afterward comes "Dangerous," which overhauls the notion of certain people's fear of black men, and the Sean "Puffy" Combs-produced "The Body Rock," about the joys of looking like Tyson Beckford. In different ways, these tunes are so quick minded, witty and rhythmically on that they blast through hip-hop's current impasse.

Still, for all of Rhymes' hardy stretches and keen juxtapositions – like the smoking sequence from "Turn It Up," with its great Al Green sample, to the slightly drum-and-bassy "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" – despair edges in. The first four songs are given over to premillennial jitters ("It's about to get real fucked up," he intones in the album's intro, "for everyone everywhere!"). As he nears the end of 1997, for all his cartoonish antics, Rhymes can't just always close his eyes and party. (RS 771)


(Posted: Oct 22, 1997)