Busta Rhymes has crafted an outstanding career as an emcee of the highest order. He has reinvented himself a couple times, enabling him anchor hits in the modern era. 2012 finds Bussabuss signed to Young Money, entering the next stage of his career. His latest release Year of the Dragon, is a freebie released on Google Play, serving as an appetizer to November’s Extinction Level Event 2.
This disk feels like a mixtape with the inordinate number of guest appearances and the lack of a coherent theme. Busta is overly enamored with his status as a legend and there is money talk in abundance. Thankfully, the album clocks in at a manageable 14 tracks.
Tears For Fears’ classic “Shout” is cannibalized for opening track “I’m Talking To You,” produced by Ty Fyffe. The rock-flavored track bangs hard and makes for a solid if unspectacular opening. Rick Ross and Trey Songz drop by for the been-there-done-that “Til We Die.” Busta is out of his element with the money talk and the slow organ paint by numbers production and construction removes Busta’s best talents from the equation. You’ve also heard this Ross verse a thousand times. “Do That Thing” features a circa- “Big Bang” era Busta on a Dr. Dre-lite track. The flows and Busta’s melodic delivery on the hook enliven the song while the M.O.P. vocal maintains the energy level.
Gucci Mane gets busy (for him anyway) on “Make It Look Easy.” His flow is sharper than I’ve ever heard him, rhyming over James Brown’s “Blues and Pants” sample. The highlight of the album comes with the high-energy “Pressure,” featuring Lil Wayne. It’s the best produced record on this disk and allows both Busta and his new labelmate to spazz out. Weezy specializes in these cleanup verses where his surprising cleverness keeps you off guard. It’s most radio ready and stereo certified track here.
Robin Thicke sounds positively Pharrellish in the falsetto on “Love-Hate.” As the title suggests there is the vacillation of emotion present in an unbalanced relationship. “I don’t like you even though I love you,” croons Thicke as Busta gives the various reasons why he loves her, loves her not. “Grind Real Slow” is a lil sumpn for the skrippas. There’s nothing to do for this one but throw money or clap your cheeks. Reek da Villian does his best impression of Meek Mill in role and song on “King Tutt.” Admittedly he’s a better emcee than Meek but if you heard this beat you would expect Meek to hop on this and Busta’s jewelry focused money getting raps don’t help. J Doe is passable on this but nothing special.
Meh is the word for “Sound Boy,” which despite a solid Cam’ron verse is a mixtape record. Reek returns with singer Chanel on crossover club attempt “Doin It Again.” Busta’s still talking money on a blah 90’s Queen Pen type track. Ditto “Wine & Go Down” except instead of the club, reggae weirdo Vybez Kartel takes us to the dancehall. J Doe returns on “Movie” with the cliché my live is a movie steeze. It’s played out and so is this song. Album closer “Bleed The Same Blood” uses Anthony Hamilton’s Black pain motif to add artificial drama to a pedestrian close featuring Maino. The track serves as apologist sentiment for hood hooliganism without charm or skill to raise it above the mundane.
Year of the Dragon isn’t wack. Busta’s Rhymes and the guests are too good for that. When paired against his catalog however, this record is not the business. Hopefully he’s holding out for a true extinction level event.
3.25 Out of 5
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