Busta Rhymes recently inked a recording contract with Cash Money Records, home of Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, & a hundred rappers & singers waiting for their shot at superstardom. What’s notable about this particular deal is that Busta Rhymes is a virtual rap legend. Beginning with his initial jump into the fray with his group Leaders of the New School, Busta has always been a part of Hip Hop. His has been a visible face in every era that’s come & gone since I can remember buying “A Future Without A Past” for my Sony Walkman. Without digging through the digital crates, I can recall Buss-a-buss having hit songs, & by “hit,” I don’t mean songs the homies listen to. I mean songs with Janet Jackson, videos in constant rotation, etc. Speaking of which, the video for Busta & Janet’s 1999 single “What’s It Gonna Be?” from his “Extinction Level Event” album cost roughly $2,400,000 to make. They don’t even make videos of that caliber any longer, but that’s neither here nor there.
Today’s rap market is more open air swapmeet than metal detectored shopping mall. By that I mean there’s a little something to suit everyone’s taste, though some things may be harder to find than others. The reason for such an unrestricted market is the “Do It Yourself” ethos that has long outgrown the stuffy record labels it once shadowed. Entertainers don’t need chaperons anymore. Numerous individuals have become (arguable) stars without the help of The Machine or the consent of a proverbial check signer. Surely, then, a well respected rap veteran like Busta Rhymes – who once operated his own Flipmode Entertainment – doesn’t need the help of a recording house who is younger than his entire career. Or does he?
Even as the “old man rap” revival has occurred over the last few years, Hip Hop is still inevitably a young man’s sport. I can’t imagine it’s easy being a “rookie” in the game, yet having a wife, a couple legitimate kids, & a plethora of bills to manage. That, in essence, is why it’s considered a young man’s game. The amount of time, effort, & energy needed to successfully pursue rap as a career would surely infringe upon any real world responsibilities one would previously have. Real life wins that struggle everytime.
With Hip Hop’s zestful youth comes the impatience to match. Rap stars are created & burned out within millimonths, names are screamed & forgotten all within the same breath. Rap music’s current lack of boundaries has created an open world – if you will – where destiny’s are decided by the current contestant. Acts appear & disappear as a constant, but the legends stay the same. If said legend intends to stay “hot,” rather than just be a “boss,” signing to a “young” label (no pun intended) makes total sense.
From an executive aspect, all the ink & red tape are someone else’s to bear, & in the meantime, the artist is free to be an artist. There’s too much rapper/CEOing going in these days to begin with, & many rappers never get to achieve the musical greatness that’s otherwise easily attainable because they seem to get sidetracked with becoming the next Sean Combs. (Instead of the first whoever they are.) The less stress one houses is the more room for their creativity to bloom, so to speak. & as I always ask, isn’t that what it’s all about?
By the law of Hip Hop averages, expect more of today’s veteran rappers to follow Busta’s lead, in allowing themselves to fall back into the entertainer roles that got them where they are in the first place. With the record sales industry at an internal impass, there’s little to no reason to own a recording house unless you have a legitimate, money-making rapper(s) with guaranteed ties to revenue-generating streams of clientele. Otherwise it’s nothing more than something else to brag about – which may or may not be of any actual value, if you smell my cologne.