After releasing two mediocre albums, The Leaders of the New School decided to call it quits and go their separate ways in 1994. At the tail end of the LONS run, Busta Rhymes started to emerge as the breakout star of the group (rumor has it that his rising stardom was causing conflict in the group and had a lot to do with why LONS broke up), which was jump started by his hyper-energetic cameo on A Tribe Called Quest’s classic LONS collab record, “Scenario” (I could use my Tribe Degrees of Separation here, but I’ll get it in a little later in this write-up). That memorable performance would be the beginning of Busta becoming, arguably, the biggest cameo whore in hip-hop history, and more importantly, lead to the start of his solo career, as he would release his debut solo album, The Coming in 1996 on Elektra Records.
Like Pac’s All Eyez On Me, The Coming was also a highly anticipated blockbuster level release. Busta would call on the likes of DJ Scratch, Easy Moe Bee, Q-Tip and J-Dilla to sonically shape the album and call on a few of his family and friends to contribute cameos to the album as well. The Coming would go on to receive positive reviews from critics and become a commercial success as well, earning Busta his first gold plaque that would turn platinum a few years later.
It’s been years since I listened to The Coming, so let’s see if it lives up to the blockbuster hype it originally came with.
The Coming (Intro) – The album opens with eerie chords playing softly as Lord Have Mercy, who has a great storytelling voice, gives a quick Busta Rhymes bio (I wonder why he chose to omit the year he was born) and shares Busta’s overall mission in this here rap game: “To bring the ruckus to all you muthafuckas!” This portion of the “Intro” is followed by epic movie like music and Rampage screaming as he hypes up Busta and the album. The music switches yet again, to a more subdued mid-tempo backdrop, as Rampage continues to clear the way for Busta, who finally makes his grand entrance and shares a few words once the music ends. Then one final music change takes place, and Busta dedicates this portion to all the “niggas that keep falling”, as a clever ODB vocal snippet plays behind him, emulating the sound of a man screaming as he falls from extremely high heights to his death, which I found amusing (yes, my sense of humor is a bit twisted). This concludes the extended and extremely busy “Intro” to The Coming.
Do My Thing – Now that we got all the dramatic opening formalities out of the way, we can get into the music. The first real song of the night features a simple DJ Scratch backdrop and Busta Rhymes on the mic, um, doing his thing. Busta wilds out on this one, threatening to bend wack emcees frames like plexiglass, go “King-Kong on niggas like guerrilla monsoon”, and my personal favorite threat: “I will endanger your species like an ostrich, hold you hostage, and crazy feed you swine sausage”. Were ostriches really considered endangered species in 1996? Regardless, it makes for an hi-larious bar. After the epic intro I was expecting Busta to follow it up with a track with a little more energy, but at least Busta gives the record a jolt with his vibrant voice and animated flow. If you’re listening to The Coming on tape, vinyl or cd, this track ends with a short interlude that finds Busta whipping (when I say whipping, I mean literally with a whip) the dog shit out a dude for: a) talking shit b) biting muthafuckin’ rhymes c) fakin’ jacks and d) frontin’ on his crew. For one reason or another, this skit was removed from the DSP versions of The Coming. But if you are streaming the album, fret not, you’re not missing much.
Everything Remains Raw – Now this is the record Busta should have followed up his epic intro with. Easy Moe Bee gets his first of two production credits with this aggressively raw backdrop that Busta matches in energy every step of the way. A lot of the bars that Busta spits on this track were previously used on his Funkmaster Flex 60 Minutes Of Funk Mixtape freestyle, but they still entertain, along with Moe Bee’s tasty instrumental. And remember: “There’s only 5 years left!” Oh wait…this was released over twenty-five years ago. The math just doesn’t add up.
Abandon Ship – Busta keeps the good times rollin’ and the energy high, as he’s joined by his cousin, Rampage on this one. The duo passes the mic, and the Red Bull, back and forth, dismantling this frantic Busta-produced instrumental with controlled hysteria and strong bars. Other than the slight mishap with the stuttering drum beat during Rampage’s second go, and the three Rampage censored lines, this was an incredible rollercoaster ride of a record.
Woo Hah! Got You All In Check – This track starts with (or the last track ends with) the original record playing that Busta and Rashad Smith would build this loony monster of an instrumental around for the album’s lead single. Busta builds the hook around a line from an old Sugar Hill Gang song (“8th Wonder”) and floods his verses with complete lunacy and insanity, but still delivers humorously solid bars, destroying the track like Godzilla. This is an undisputed classic record that sounds just as fun today as it did twenty-five plus years ago.
It’s A Party – This was the second single released from The Coming. Easy Moe Bee conjures up a creamy instrumental, dripping with feel good vibes, as Busta and Zhane seek to set the mood for a night full of partying and debauchery. The verses and hook are chock-full of generic lines and cliches, but Zhane’s vocals sound so delicious over Moe Bee’s melodic groove, you’ll overlook that minor shortcoming. The song is followed by Busta spittin’ a quick throw away verse (most of the verse is Busta adlibbing) over a semi-decent beat. This verse was also removed from the DSP versions of The Coming, which I’m sure had everything to due to Busta’s multiple shoutouts to Saddam Hussein, who he refers to as his “nigga”.
Hot Fudge – Now here’s a record that I completely forgot about. Backspin is credited with this dark jazz textured backdrop that finds Busta calming down just enough to sound sinister and slightly scary as he gets his shit off: “Ayo, I’m in this to win this, gets down to handle my business, while I be Busta Rhymes you still be…whoever your NAME IS! In my past life the world felt my mega blast, now in my present life Imma still BUST YOUR FUCKIN’ ASS!” Busta skatting on the soulfully creepy organ loop on the hook and repeatedly screaming “numerals of funerals everyday” as the song ends are the cherries on top of this hot fudge sundae (*rimshot*). This song is followed by an odd and random skit about a Jamaican woman getting sixty-eight from some naive chump, with no intentions of paying him back the one she owes him.
Ill Vibe – Busta invites his Native Tongue bredrin, Q-Tip to join him on this duet (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check), as they each get off a verse over a spaciously quirky but irresistible instrumental (credited to Q-Tip under The Ummah umbrella, which was the production collective of Q-Tip, Jay-Dee and Ali Shaheed Muhammad). Busta spits a wild tale about “getting caught up ‘em them freaky gold digger jamborees”, while Tip keeps it cerebral and drops off a few gems and plenty of food for thought. The duo’s verses couldn’t contrast more yet mesh well and sound great together over the mellow backdrop.
Flipmode Squad Meets Def Squad – In this corner representing the Def Squad, we have Jamal, Redman and Keith Murray. And representing the Flipmode Squad: Rampage, Lord Have Mercy (I wonder what happened to him) and Busta Rhymes. Backspin provides a gully backdrop, as all six emcees square up, with no hooks or gimmicks, and represent for their respective crews. I know it’s not a battle, but everything in hip-hop is a battle, and I’m easily giving this one to the Def Squad. Who you got? Hit me in the comments.
Still Shining – J-Dilla (on behalf of The Ummah) serves up an airy melodic canvas that Busta dedicates to all his “baby dragons” biting his style. Wait. If Busta has baby dragons, does that make Daenerys Stormborn his baby mama? If so, not a bad choice to procreate with, but I digress. Dilla’s instrumental sounds a little empty, but the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me.
Keep It Movin’ – It’s only right that Busta reaches back and gives his Leaders Of The New School brothers a chance to shine. Dilla gets his second and last production credit of the evening, sliding LONS a dark and rugged instrumental to reunite and rhyme over. The song is decent, but also a clear reminder of why LONS was always my least favorite group in The Native Tongue collective. This one ends with a skit to set up the next song…
The Finish Line – Busta uses Scratch’s bluesy bop to talk about a shiesty brother’s trife ways, which he explains will soon lead to his demise. It’s not the strongest song of the night, but it does show a more serious side to our host.
The End Of The World (Outro) – Busta brings back one of the beats from the “Intro” and uses it to show gratitude to his supporting fans and offers up a few parting words about using your time wisely. This is followed by a short skit of a man, who’s apparently on his death bed full of regret for not using his time wisely and accomplishing all things he wanted out of life. Then, in true dramatic movie fashion, the man slips into death, travels through the “dark tunnel”, where he meets Judgment Day like trumpets, then a portion of the medieval classic “O Fortuna” plays, while a distorted devilish voice laughs, which suggests that the regretful man went to hell, putting a super dark ending on what was mostly a light-hearted listen.
The Coming doesn’t live up to the epic intro and outro that its songs are sandwiched in between, which honestly, would be nearly impossible to do, but it does successfully accomplish the goal Lord Have Mercy mentions in the intro, and that is to: “Bring the ruckus to all you muthafuckas!!” Busta, who possess one of hip-hop’s greatest voices, grabs the listener’s attention from the jump and holds it throughout The Coming with his dynamic energy, spazzing on every track as he clowns around on some court jester shit, but just as quickly can get on some real emcee shit, impressing with his versatile flow and quality bars. The handful of producers involved on the production end of the album provide a sonically solid palette to support Busta’s “knucklehead flows”, as he either matches their energy or easily outshines them, making them sound doper than they really are. The Coming does come with a few scratches and dents, but overall, it’s an entertaining debut solo album from one of hip-hop’s most animated and colorful emcees. I don’t know if I would call The Coming a classic, but I wouldn’t argue with you if you do.