Busta Rhymes
Tues Feb 19
Crystal Ballroom

Towards the end of the 1982 hiphop movie Wild Style, the graffiti artist "Lee" Georges Quinones comes to this realization: The future stars of the hiphop enterprise will not be the breakers, or the DJs, and certainly not the graffiti artists, but the rappers. At the time, hiphop was more an urban fad than a substantial cultural movement, and so Quinones' pronouncement was unexpected and even laughable. But today, no one laughs, and Quinones' words are hallowed by an aura of prophecy.

The rapper did outlive and outshine all other elements in the hiphop realm. Indeed, one can argue that the rapper is all that remains, and the other forms (turntabling, dancing, writing) have all become historical. The rappers ended up stars because they offered something we love to consume: personality.

This is why we know who Busta Rhymes is and have no clue who "Sweet Daddy" Sammy B is. "Sweet Daddy" Sammy B was the DJ for the Jungle Brothers, and is now forgotten not because his band fell apart, but because DJs don't assert their personalities. Indeed, DJs don't need a personality; they deal with machines and not with people. Everyone, however, knows who Busta Rhymes is: He's a superstar who's made a career out of promoting and refining his eccentric presence.

If the mode of some rappers is to walk the "thin line between rap and reality," then Busta Rhymes' mode is to walk the thin line between rap and insanity. He is not the first to define his rap personality, nor is he the most accomplished at expressing all of the wild possibilities of this type of rap personality. But he has been marketed better than anyone else, including Mystikal, his archrival.

Busta Rhymes is now making a serious effort to launch his personality to the next level--Hollywood. But he has yet to meet success. When outside the fluid medium of music, his personality ends up nothing more than that of a dry sidekick, as has been his fate in such films as The Rugrats Movie, Shaft, and Finding Forrester. Busta Rhymes' personality has its limits: It can't prosper in books, video games, or cinema; it can only be sustained and projected by music.