Busta Rhymes is a lyrical master and has been a hugely impactful figure in hip-hop. With a knack for formulating creative rhyme schemes and undeniable charisma, the emcee has delivered tongue-twisting verses that have blown minds and, to this day, continues to be one of hip-hop’s finest lyricists.
Busta Rhymes has collaborated with a plethora of artists. From DMX to Jay-Z and Diddy, the Brooklyn native (real name Trevor Smith) has an impressive catalogue, to say the least. That said, in 1998, the rapper released an exciting single with an artist known worldwide for his third studio album, Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front.
However, the artist wasn’t just anybody; it was someone whom Busta Rhymes had loved for years and instantly planned on collaborating with when he heard she was a fan of his via a radio interview.
Released in 1998, Busta Rhymes‘ ‘What’s It Gonna Be?!’ featuring Janet Jackson is arguably the track that transformed him from a mildly exciting newcomer to a star. It was a rap hit with mainstream appeal and did wonders for the musician’s career.
Speaking to Billboard magazine in 2018 about the creation of ‘What’s It Gonna Be?!’, the rapper explained how he was in his car listening to a Janet Jackson interview on HOT 97.0 when (after she was asked about future collaborations) he heard her name him as someone she wanted to work with.
Recalling that day, Smith detailed, “I was actually in my vehicle driving from Long Island to [New York City], and I had to pull over because I almost crashed. Janet’s one of my favourite artists ever to exist in the world! To hear her say that was one of the biggest highlights of my life!”
He continued, “I had Mona Scott Young, who was my manager with Chris Lighty, notify management. I told them to get [Janet] on the phone. [Mona] got Janet on the phone, and interestingly enough, I told Janet, ‘I had the perfect song for her,’ and I didn’t even have the song yet. With that being said, we found the perfect song once I said all that I had to deliver.”
You can listen to Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson’s single ‘What’s It Gonna Be?!’ below.