The Return Of The Dragon: Busta Rhymes Is Back With ‘Blockbusta Tour 2024’
Busta Rhymes in New York City.
Photo by Jason Kempin / Getty Images

As a shorty, I was always told that if I ain’t gonna be part of the greatest, I got to be the greatest myself…,” Busta Rhymes raps in the track “Gimme Some More” from his third studio album, 1998’s Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front. It’s once again the “Year of the Dragon,” in more ways than one with Busta’s “The Blockbusta Tour 2024” gearing up to hit venues across the country.

Flashback to 1991 – the last period bell rang and a Leader of the New School emphatically emerged and burst onto the hip- hop scene: “RAWWWWWWWWWWR!!!!, Busta Rhymes, the mighty infamous always misbehaving and mischievous, causing aggravation, I’ll never pause pushin’ out spitballs through plastic straws (in class) until I got caught at last, for lightin’ up the courtyard grass…” – “Case of the P.T.A.”

Arguably no one in hip-hop has so effortlessly walked through the various eras of the art form as Busta Rhymes. Born Trevor George Smith Jr. in 1972 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, to parents of Jamaican descent, Busta was raised in Long Island where hip-hop had its own explosive and creative rap scene.

In the mid-1980s, Busta co-founded the Leaders Of The New School with help from Hempstead, Long Island’s own Public Enemy and their legendary production crew The Bomb Squad. In fact, the great Chuck D himself gave Smith his Busta Rhymes moniker inspired by the NFL and CFL wide receiver George “Buster” Rhymes. He would become a member of the Native Tongues crew that included De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Monie Love and Queen Latifah. By 19, Busta made his own singular presence felt on the classic 1992 A Tribe Called Quest jam “Scenario” where we first heard him as “The Dragon.”

2021 MTV Video Music Awards Show
Busta Rhymes, who’s been
rapping since the mid-’80s and is one of the genre’s pioneers,
just announced his new “Blockbusta Tour 2024” promoted by
Live Nation. Here performing at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Sept. 12, 2021.
Photo by John Shearer / MTV VMAs 2021 / Getty Images / MTV / Viacom CBS

In the “Scenario” remix he rhymes: “What we gonna do in ‘92 even though we had fun in ‘91?”Busta Rhymes put every rapper on notice: I have arrived and I spit fire. That feature and many subsequent high-profile guest appearances and electric performances defined what it truly means to be a “featured artist” on another rapper or singer’s track.

Translation: Steal the show. These spots added the necessary rocket fuel to embark on his solo career in 1996, and changed what rap music and rap performances could be.
He made hit records with the greatest performances of a generation, harmonizing effortlessly with Mariah Carey (“I Know What You Want”) and Janet Jackson (“What’s It Gonna Be”). He has gone bar for bar with iconic pop and R&B stars and rappers like The Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, DMX, Q-Tip, Nas, Eminem and Chris Brown.

He has also shaped style and the culture with a rhyme pattern that can be slowed down, sped up or chopped and screwed but his real-life breath control is rivaled only maybe by the great Big Daddy Kane. (Listen to “Break Ya Neck” or “Look At Me Now.”)

His presence on MTV with strong, color-saturated videos and his in-your-face ethos on videos like “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” directed by Hype Williams and “Woo-Ha!! Got You All in Check” directed by Michael Lucero brought a new dimension and aesthetic to hip-hop videos that, along with Missy Elliott, helped revolutionize hip-hop and other more mainstream genres as never before seen.
Leaders of The OGs: Busta Rhymes (center) performing with his first group Leaders Of The New School in 1990 with Charlie Brown and
Dinco D at the “Hard To The Left” show in New York City.
Photo by Al Pereira / Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives

Rhymes’ discography is similarly untouchable. He blasted onto the scene with four consecutive platinum records. There was no first album disappointment, there was no sophomore slump, no third time’s a charm, and with 2000’s Anarchy batting clean-up, he brought his previous efforts – The Coming (‘96), When Disaster Strikes (‘97) and Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front (‘98) home with a grand slam.

The ever feared “sophomore slump” for Busta on his album When Disaster Strikes never occurred. Busta sang on the second track of the album: “The whole world looking at me, watching and waiting to see if I fulfill my destiny….”

Greatness and his destiny intersected with Seals & Crofts’ infectious “Sweet Green Fields” sampled baseline on “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” that filled every room and every dancefloor from Compton, California, to New York City. The DJ always ran that song back consecutively a minimum of five times. Then “Dangerous” dropped and a platinum album was basically solidified.

How do you define an artist that has spent a career breaking every single norm of what an artist in hip-hop is supposed to be able to do at this point in his career? There is a reason why the worst kept secret in the hip-hop world is to never perform after Busta. As those who watched “Verzuz,” the online rap battles that started on Instagram as a DJ battle between Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, know: NO ONE wanted to be paired with Busta. His name came up consistently because he is one of one, there are no carbon copies and he decimates all comers. It has been Busta Rhymes vs. everybody else for quite some time.

Busta Rhymes 2024 Portrait
Courtesy Live Nation

In the last couple of years, however, The Dragon is getting the recognition he so rightfully deserves, including the BET Hip Hop Icon Award in 2023. And then there was his show-stealing performance as part of the 2023 Grammy Awards salute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

The Grammy salute and performance featured everyone from Queen Latifah, Common and Public Enemy to Rakim, Doug E. Fresh, MC Lyte to Rick Ross, Jeezy and Jermaine Dupri to YG, Too Short, E-40 to De La Soul, Akon and Black Thought To Nelly, Gunna and Chance the Rapper.

Rhymes, dressed in a fire-engine-red pea coat, took the arena stage about tw0-thirds through the celebration and lit into his 1997 smash hit “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.” Spitting pure fire, he reprised his incendiary verses from Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” while breaking rap sound barriers that spurred Jay-Z and other Grammys attendees to their feet with wild applause.

In November, Busta closed out his run on 50 Cent’s “Final Lap Tour,” which found him similarly bringing entire arenas to their feet. And that tour brought in a number of seven-figure hauls. According to Pollstar Boxoffice reports, the “Final Lap Tour” brought in more than $1.5 million at both L.A.’s Arena on Aug. 30 and Chicago’s United Center on Sept. 16. The tour grossed a whopping $2.1 million for two shows at Montreal’s Bell Centre Aug. 1-2.

“Big up to 50 Cent for bringing us out there on his Final Lap tour,” Busta recently told the New York Post. “Not only was that probably the most incredible tour that I’ve ever been on … I’m saying that because every night, every arena was sold out.”

Now, with Busta and his “Blockbusta Tour 2024” set to kick off March 13 at the Masonic in San Francisco, the iconic rapper is raring to go out on his own headlining tour. The tour is being promoted by Live Nation, which clearly recognizes Rhyme’s rightful place in the pantheon of hip-hop.

Three Kings: Rap legends Busta Rhymes, Flavor Flav and LL Cool J perform during the Grammy Awards’ tribute to the 50th anniversary
of hip-hop at Arena on Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images / The Recording Academy

“Busta Rhymes is no doubt a hip-hop legend,” Colin Lewis, Live Nation’s Global Tour Promoter, told Pollstar. “His impact on the culture and the genre’s evolution is immeasurable. As we head out on his ‘Blockbuster Tour,’ fans can expect to see his lyrical prowess and electrifying stage presence at the top of its game.”

While Busta understands the import of this tour and is just doing what he always does, he knows he’s got a lot to do. “I’ve been having a lot of fun preparing for this because it’s the first time that people are going to get to see me give a real full Busta Rhymes show for 90 minutes to two hours,” Rhymes told the Post. “I’ve never performed that long every night for anyone in my entire career. The only challenging part is trying to squeeze all of the most amazing moments from this 34-year run in that little bit of time.”

Justin Hill, his agent at UTA, also recognizes Busta’s preternatural performance abilities and knows that now is his time. “He’s an entertainer to the core and is having a strong resurgence across the globe after being a part of the biggest hip-hop tours over the past two years,” Hill told Pollstar. “It’s only natural for him to step out on his own headline tour and give the fans what they want – more! The impossible task is for Busta to deliver his catalog in a 45-minute set. What he really needs is 24 hours – and daylight savings time too – to deliver all his hits. That’s because Busta is a titan in the industry, a living legend in hip-hop, and an artist that we are excited to work with day in and day out.”

“It’s going to be fun to watch the people that are just now becoming part of my journey all the way to the ones that have been there since the inception of Busta Rhymes,” the rapper continued to the Post. “And to just see that bridge between the generations, having fun singing my shit word for word, looking excited, feeling happy.”

But at 51 years old, what keeps Busta going? All the praise, all the awards? Is it the adulation? What does he have to prove at this point in the rap game? When you have legendary status for Busta maybe it’s the drive to put the final exclamation point on your career with a project that pushes you to your very limits. It’s clearly apparent that Busta has never been in competition with anyone but himself.