Listen to a rare unheard Busta Rhymes freestyle from 1998
(Credit: Alamy)

Old School Archives

Listen to a rare unheard Busta Rhymes freestyle from 1998

When he first rose to prominence, Busta Rhymes was one of the quirkiest and most exciting New York artists to come out of New York. Alongside artists such as Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Eminem, at the turn of the millennium, Busta Rhymes undoubtedly helped bring an outlandish and humour-infused form of rap to the forefront. However, before anything, he is known as a great emcee.  

A product of New York City’s thriving 1990s hip-hop scene, Busta is known for his tongue-twisting verses and lyrical skill. In a similar fashion to Jay-Z, Busta grew up in 1990s Brooklyn when the New York borough was at its pinnacle as the city’s cultural hotspot. With his Jamaican roots, he was happy to add more to the melting pot of hip-hop. 

With rhyme schemes that could blow your mind, Busta is undoubtedly one of hip-hop’s finest lyricists and has had his fair share of hits. The rapper can be compared to Snoop Dogg in the sense that the rapper successfully adapted his sound over time to align with the ever-evolving sound of hip-hop.

The Brooklyn native (real name Trevor Smith) has his beginnings rooted firmly in the mid-1990s. However, his mainstream success came a bit later, but he still made some gold with his early material. Busta has revealed in several interviews that his formative years began in Brooklyn. Still, at age 12, he and his parents moved to Uniondale, a small town on Long Island. It was here that his career would first take off.

As strange as it seems, Busta commenced his music career as part of a group. As an original member of Leaders of the New School, Smith kicked off his legacy in Long Island, where the collective was based. The group’s work slowly but surely began to make the rounds in the early-1990s, and soon they were getting attention on a statewide level. 

Keen to collaborate and help the New York hip-hop scene grow, Leaders of the New School were called upon to feature on A Tribe Called Quest’s track ‘Scenario.’ Following this feature, the ensemble received an invite to tour with Public Enemy. However, the outfit soon broke up due to disaccord.

This was when Busta decided to go solo, and as an adolescent in his late teen years, he moved back to Brooklyn alone to work its hip-hop scene. Showing promise, Busta made an unfathomable amount of guest appearances. From A Tribe Called Quest to The Notorious B.I.G., Smith paid his dues concerning guest appearances. 

Following his mainstream hip-hop ubiquity in early 1995, he signed a record deal with Elektra Records. From here, he began to work on his debut album, The Coming. As he became more and more relevant, Busta would move from Elektra to other, more prominent Warner Music Group imprint labels. Smith would work with legends such as J Dilla, Pharrell and Timbaland for his later projects.

In 1998 Busta Rhymes was one of New York’s exciting new gems. As a result, he appeared on the UK’s Tim Westwood show in 1998 to perform a freestyle with his DJ Scratchator; you can hear this previously unheard freestyle in the video below.