The Voice: What Busta Rhymes Has Learned After Over 30 Years In Hip-Hop

Pop Culture

The thing I say about saxophonists—a lot of people play tenor saxophone, there’s only one John Coltrane. There are a lot of MCs, but immediately, Busta Rhymes—there’s a sound, there’s an attitude, there’s an agility that only you do. Was that always in the making?

My voice was always what it was. My moms always told me when I was born I sounded like a little dinosaur. My father had a deep voice. The attitude, the charisma, the showmanship, and the animation, that always was a part of who I was. I’m of Jamaican descent, so reggae and dancehall culture, this is what was what I was raised on. Even watching rock bands, back in the days, the way them dudes would perform, jumping off of shit and laying down on the stage? I always wanted to be a part of those big, over the top moments. That’s just a part of my personality.

The way for me to be able to stay up past curfew, in particular when my parents were having company, was to be a showman. I mastered the James Brown split and did all types of different dance moves, so I became entertainment for the adults. And that spilled into me being introduced to hip-hop, falling in love with that and feeling like I didn’t have do the James Brown split no more just to the music my parents listen to. I could start pop locking and breakdancing, something that’s more for me, and my age group.

That turned into me wanting to learn how to DJ, which turned into wanting to learn how to MC. Whatever was the thing that was gonna get the most spotlight and shine.

So, your pops and your moms, they were both native Jamaicans? Which province? Clarendon? Trelawny?

My mother and father were country people. My moms was from St. Ann and my father was from St. Catherine.

Bob Marley’s from Saint Ann.

Yeah, absolutely. And I was always around that whenever I went to Jamaica. I went to my mother’s oldest sister’s crib to spend summers. My Aunt D and Uncle D, which is short for the Distin family, they stayed in Havendale, Kingston, in the “townside” of Jamaica. That’s where they would consider the upper echelon to live. But they owned a sewing factory which used to manufacture clothes and they owned this big manufacturing plant, so my Aunt D and Uncle D were the more wealthier and successful ones.

You also spent some time in England as well?

I didn’t live in England. My mother’s other sister Aunt Velma, she lived in Morecambe, England at the time, so we went down there to spend two summers. One summer when we went down there I was 12, my brother was eight, so my aunt made sure that we actually went to school in England. Regular school and then we went to karate school too.

We also were on some breakdancing that was so crazy, we ended up actually getting work to breakdance in clubs as minors. And our cousins used to run us around and they used to advertise us as TJ and Paul because my government name is Trevor Junior. We actually got memorabilia still from then, we got the flyers, a couple of newspaper clippings. My moms held onto all of that because she thought, “Wow, my kids are turning into little superstars.”

In terms of hip-hop, what was your revelation moment? What was the first record that you heard where you said, “I gotta do this”?

I would have to say it was “Rapper’s Delight.” When I heard that song, man, I just knew. That was the defining moment for me when I said, “This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life. And I’m gonna learn how to do it and Imma be nice as a motherfucker.”

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