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BUSTA RHYMES, The Big Bang, Aftermath
The first word that comes to mind is "underwhelming." An album by an incomparable lyricist on Dr. Dre's label and a title like The Big Bang? A classic was expected. Guests like Q-Tip, Nas, Raekwon, Stevie Wonder and Rick James did nothing to reduce the expectations. But the start is a struggle, with the first two tracks troublingly similar, although not without positives. "Get You Some" sounds exactly like what you'd expect from Dre and Bus, but that might be the problem. The Dre trademarks in the track are a little too familiar, especially with Busta complaining that other MCs' "sh-- sounds dated." And can Q-Tip put a verse together for once on a guest spot already? (Actually, he can and does on "You Can't Hold the Torch," but later for that.) "Touch It" follows with an equally simplistic beat and an even duller hook, but this time Busta uses his alternating slow-fast style that has worked for him in the past. Missy Elliott keeps the monotone streak alive right off the top of "How We Do It Over Here" before inviting listeners to look at her ass and 'nookie' and touch it. I respect Missy's talent, but I can safely say I've never had the desire to do any of that... unless she's offering cash. How much money Missy? "New York Sh--" offers an ill-advised Swizz Beatz turn on the mic and not much else, but the Big Apple will appreciate the love, no doubt. Improbably, the album actually starts to pick up when the R&B-tinged trilogy arrives next. "Been Through the Storm" utilizes Stevie Wonder perfectly, and the late Rick James on "In the Ghetto" works aside from an over-extended verse at the front. Closing with his classic "Chappelle's Show" line was a nice touch, though. "Cocaina" completes the trio with worthy contributions from Dre behind the boards and Floetry's Marsha on the vocals. The aforementioned "You Can't Hold the Torch" continues a theme of old school MCs dismissing the latest players in the hip-hop game. Q-Tip joins Busta full-time this time to complain about the status and duplicity of today's stars, saying they'll hold onto the torch for now because "they ain't got it in 'em to make a classic," show no love for hip-hop and "can't hold the torch, so why pass it?" From there, Raekwon arrives as a reminder of the right way to rhyme on "Goldmine." Kelis and the questionable serve as an interlude on "I Love My B----" before Nas shows up for the Dre-laced "Don't Get Carried Away." Easy to see why you might, because this track actually lives up to the hype and offers a glimpse of what could have been. As it is, though, The Big Bang is just fine. But shouldn't it be so much more?
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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