BUSTA RHYMES, Aug. 18, 1999

With loud cries of "Flipmode!" and a crew stepping on stage eight deep, Busta Rhymes and his squad made their presence felt as soon as they arrived in the press tent at The 1999 Source Hip-Hop Music Awards in Los Angeles.

That was quite an entrance.

"Everybody has their own level of expression of how happy they are. Hip-hop just makes me really express how happy I am."

Were you always that expressive?

"Yeah, pretty much. The only thing that's changed probably is how I think, but I love to do the same things. Communicating that feel-good energy, especially in the music and performance. You know, every time we make an appearance, we've got to make sure that it's a feel-good attitude."

How do you go about making that happen?

"Well, for one, I don't try to do things that are too alien. We're all human people, you know, civilized people trying to represent the better things that we can all identify with pretty much. That's all. If I've got a theory that I want to express with people that I might feel people can relate to or could identify with, I'll more or less lean to expressing those kind of things. I want people to identify with what I'm doing."

How do you respond to the negative critics out there?

"I love the studio. So at the end of the day, that's where I live. That's where I stay at. So when it's time to deal with things outside of the studio, unless it's concerning my music, or my clothing line that I'm getting ready to launch like sometime in the spring, or the shoe line that I'm getting ready to launch in September for the back-to-school season, or the short film deal that I've got with HBO, or the role that I got in the Shaft movie I'm doing with John Singleton, or the solo album getting ready to come out by Rah Digga titled Dirty Harriet, I ain't really concerned with it."

So what's up with the Shaft role?

"Actually we're still in the production process, so things are being changed here and there and we're waiting for John to confirm the final script. So until that's finalized, I really don't know. But I've got a strong role in it, and John Singleton had me in mind when he was doing that part, writing the script, and it wasn't too difficult to solidify my part because it was tying in with my business."

What's next for the Flipmode Squad?

"The Flipmode Squad is currently working on solo releases. The first solo release from the the Flipmode Squad is going to be Rah Digga."

Can you tell me more about your HBO deal?

"I have a short film deal with HBO that was secured for me thanks to Mona Scott, my manager from Violator Management. It's pretty much something that I'm doing alonside screenwriter and acting coach Tracy Moore. It's basically about artists and the different genres of music that Madonna hand-picked to write films from their point of view incorporating the music. Not necessarily making it the obvious short film that's just dealing with the spectrum of music, but incorporating music somehow in our own creative approaches."

How do you juggle all these projects at once?

"I grew up in a household that taught me the value of good work ethic and being self-sufficient, because at the end of the day, you can't rely on too many things outside of your own. In addition to that, I like to be the breadwinner of the family. I like working hard and I like providing. I like to do good and make sure the family's fed, make sure that nobody's got to struggle too much. Cause I'm securing all that, going out there and handling it myself. So at the end of the day, I'm moving the support system known as the universal Flipmode Squad!"

You've also had success with mainstream commercials like the one you did for Mountain Dew...

"The mainstream is just what y'all call popular or successful or has mass ability to communicate. It ain't changing what the formula is. It ain't changing what the essence is. It ain't changing the value of the cultural significance, which is hip-hop, and we're going to represent that regardless of how mainstream the outlet might be for us to channel it."

No worries about selling out?

"Nah, I just know that I like to do what I do. At the end of the day, if there's an opportunity to do it, I'm gonna do it. And if the people embrace it, that just gives us more of an opportunity to continue doing what we love doing."

How did the Flipmode Squad come together?

"It was a process that pretty much was destined. A lot of them were just friends that I met along the way when I was coming from Leaders of the New School, which is the group that I first signed to Elektra Records with back in 1989 -- Dec. 12. That struggle was going, and I met MCs like these that were not only thoroughly representing hip-hop music, but were also majorly morally supportive. They were always there to just contribute something that was always helpful, so I just kept 'em around. And as time went on, we grew together, got familiar with each other, and just established friendships where we were making sacrifices for each other. It really just showed that we were really here for each other's best interests. That was something I saw that wasn't really the norm, so I just called it Flipmode, because we were flippin' the mode of the normal activity. We was ready to do it, so we're doin' it!"

-- Paradise and Mason Storm, The 411 Online

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