New York City was a hotbed for rappers in the early ’90s. At a time when hip hop was turning grittier, more violent, and more expressive, no place better illustrated the hard cut realities and creative breeding ground for some of the greatest groups and MCs to ever live. It’s crazy to think that The Notorious B.I.G., De La Soul, Nas, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, DMX, and Onyx were all within just a few miles of each other.
Each burrow had its own stars and kings, and when it came to Staten Island, nobody ruled like the Wu-Tang Clan. A group of family members and close friends from the Stapleton Houses combined murky beats and violent imagery with over-the-top references to kung fu and chess to create one of the most unique musical groups of all time. Each member brought a different style and flow to the group, but nobody was as immediately identifiable as Russell Tyrone Jones, AKA Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Jones was unhinged and performative, more than willing to play the fool when called upon but fierce and precise when it mattered. He gained a reputation for his erratic behaviour and drug-fueled lifestyle, but especially in the early days of the Wu-Tang Clan, ODB was as sharp as any of the members.
Just outside the city in Long Island, another group was starting to infiltrate the crowded and competitive world of New York City hip hop. Leaders of the New School were militant and aggressive, much like their guide, Chuck D of Public Enemy. Among the most ferocious the group was Trevor Smith, Jr., whom Chuck D christened Busta Rhymes.
It was inevitable that these two wild characters would eventually cross paths, and the duo became fast friends around the time that Leaders of the New School were breaking up. Rhymes eventually asked ODB to feature on a remix of ‘Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check’, but the two would occasionally entertain their respective entourages with impromptu flows and battles. Classic footage featuring the two rappers dated around 1994 shows two burgeoning superstars pushing each other to greater heights.
Check out the footage down below.