Some rappers seem destined for Guest Feature King status regardless of their arguable merit as a solo artist and this is something that really does fascinate me. You look at someone like Nas, who releases multiple chart-topping albums and appears on other artist’s records but never really gives the impression that he’s anyone other than his own man dropping by for a moment or two and compare him to someone like Ludacris, who’s had as many hits and platinum records as God’s Son but has almost firmly entrenched himself in 30 second-spot territory. Of course, from a financial perspective, the Luda model is probably more viable; talk bullshit over an Enrique track, make half a million, do it all over again. After all, it’s what Snoop Dogg has been doing ever since ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’. But guest rappers usually funnel all their energy into their own work and leave the scraps for whomever pays them enough to get in the booth. That’s unless your name is Busta Rhymes, and you’ve got so much god damn energy that no matter what you do, it’s a revelation.
Nas’ Illmatic may be my favourite rap record but there is no doubt that Busta Rhymes is my favourite living rapper on this Earth. He quite literally wipes the floor with every single person foolish and/or impsired enough to put him on their track, whether that’s Chris Brown, Lil Wayne or even the ridiculous M.O.P back in the day. For some unconscionable reason, his records haven’t been getting much traction of their own, though his recent signing to Wayne’s YMCMB may change all that. But he’s been an inspiring, if not utterly mesmerising force in hip-hop for such a long time that every minute he spends on wax brings joy to my heart. And in an even better turn of events, with fiery newcomer Kendrick Lamar, he’s found a foil who’s almost as fast and dexterous as he is. Which means that this song is devastating.
‘Rigarmortis’, which works around the central premise that whoever your favourite rapper is has been killed stone cold dead by Lamar, works a minimalist tone around a looped brass line. There’s nothing generic about this tune; Lamar enters without any semblance of a beat on a syncopated trip that turns phrases on their heads by shifting the accents around with each line. His flow is so smooth that is almost seems like he’s having a relaxed conversation in double-time, no stops for breathing or pauses for effect just a constant, steady stream of words like ‘amorphous’ which don’t exactly roll off the tongue. The phasing in of percussive elements is excellent, and the bass line just stabs at the same note, putting the focus right back on the lyrics in that kind of old-school vibe. For his money, Busta Rhymes introduces the track and then all but disappears until the last eighty seconds. And just like on ‘Look At Me Now’, arguably the only worthy follower to Minaj’s turn on Yeezy’s ‘Monster’ in 2010, Rhymes does more in just over a minute than you’ll hear 90% of rappers do in a lifetime. It’s a blitzkrieg of vocal styles and sharp turns and tone changes. He could be ten different men with varying levels of aggressiveness, humour and intelligence, but once he goes into hyperspeed, all bets are off.
A veteran and a newcomer playing verbal tag and laying waste in minimal time?
Forget about your favourite rapper/He dead – Amen.
Kendrick Lamar ft. Busta Rhymes – ‘Rigarmortis’ (Remix)