Busta Rhymes is feeling jolly this holiday season, and he’s showing his love by bestowing a new mixtape upon his fans. After teasing it with several promo videos (and a mysterious shopping cart full of hard drives ?!?!?) Mr. Rhymes finally dropped The Return of the Dragon: The Abstract Went On Vacation on Christmas day as a present to his fans for helping his Hot For The Holidays concert sell out on December 5 in Newark.
The tape is ostensibly a sequel to the pair’s 2013 The Abstract and the Dragon, but Q-Tip only appears on a few skits (the Low End Theory motif from the first tape remains, however). Instead, Busta Bus packed the tape full of guest artists, including Chance The Rapper, MF Doom, Raekwon, Gucci Mane, Mary J. Blige, Rick Ross, BJ The Chicago Kid, Waka Flocka, Sean Paul, Wiz Khalifa, Jadakiss, and even cats from Busta’s old group, Leaders Of The New School.
There’s few missteps across the tape’s 17 tracks; the only egregious mistake is the silly Wiz Khalifa collabo, “Shawty Go.” Highlights include early single “God’s Plan,” featuring Conglomerate members J-Doe and O.T. Genasis, and produced by Jahlil Beats, he of Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga” fame. Ted Smooth flipped the Club Nouveau sample from Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” for the Chance The Rapper-featuring “Hello,” and Chance’s verse is filthy: “I done took my time, now it’s time to take my turn/My curses been in verses since my firstest brain cells burnt/But I done been deferred to assistants and interns.” Busta seems to recognize, as he breaks out his legendary rapid-fire flow to close out the track, just in case you forgot who the big dog was.
The biggest name providing support for Busta might just be Pharrell Williams, who freaked an electric guitar sample for the Sean Paul dancehall banger “Tonight,” with a grimy bass line and the occasional trumpet blast. Sean Paul does his (admittedly impressive) thing, but the beat does most of the work, and it’s probably the tape’s best production. As impressive as his other guest appearances are, Busta may have scored an even bigger coup with the late great J Dilla beat he scored for “In The Streets,” which is blessed by bars from the ever enigmatic MF Doom and some crooning on the hook from BJ The Chicago Kid.
It’s a little weird to see one of the biggest major-label hip-hop stars of the 90s giving away new music online, promoting it not with a huge marketing campaign, but on Twitter and with hastily produced web videos. And when you consider the caliber of producers and guest stars, if Busta had cut this tape down to 13-15 tracks and released it as an album, could it go toe-to-toe with the J. Coles and Meek Mills of the rap game? Or is Busta a grandpa to the kids fueling Spotify stream counts? Regardless, we’re grateful for our Christmas gift, and we’ll be bumping it well into the new year.