1An easy one to begin with: who did you famously lose a rap battle to at high school?
“Me and Biggie and Jay-Z went to school together [George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn], and I also went to a separate school called Tilden High with Special Ed and Chip Fu from Fu-Schnickens. We were all getting incredible opportunities at young ages; everybody was still attending school and still edgy on the street level. We were all dibbling and dabbling in things on the street that could have got us in trouble and things could have taken a turn for the worse, but we were blessed enough to see our dreams though. We were competitive at school; everybody wanted to be the best – you wanted to be the best-dressed, the best rapper, the most popular – we compete for all that shit in the yearbooks in school. All of those moments created the greatness in us as individuals and collectively.”
2You were nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 2000 Grammys for ‘Gimme Some More’. Who beat you?
“Damn man! I can’t remember – you might have to help me with that one!”
WRONG. You lost out to your friend Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’.
“Em is one of my favourite MCs ever. We’ve done multiple records together and even on his latest album, ‘Music to Be Murdered By’, the track ‘Yah Yah’ used my vocals from ‘Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check’. He’s one incredible motherfucker! Wyclef Jean was the first person to play ‘My Name Is’ to me – before it was even out. We were on tour together and he had a six-song EP from Eminem. When he played ‘My Name Is’, I could not believe it. I went so crazy on his bus that I shattered his windshield with my head! I couldn’t believe the shit that Em was saying and Dre’s production was unbelievable – at the time, nothing existed like it in the whole game.”
3What number did your 1998 album ‘E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front’ reach on the UK album chart?
“I never knew that number ever – this will be the first time I find this out!”
“In hip-hop sampling, producers went to metal bands like Black Sabbath and Mötley Crüe to get the hardest snare drums. I always loved that Black Sabbath album [‘Paranoid’] so to be able to re-create their song ‘Iron Man’ and turn it into something for myself with ‘This Means War!!’ was a milestone moment. I’d wanted to recreate that song from my early days, but there was never an instrumental long enough to sample.
“We found a band, Lordz of Brooklynn, who recreated the song exactly, and we reached out to Ozzy’s wife Sharon Osbourne and she put the whole situation together. Ozzy came to my studio and didn’t want anything. He refused all the food and drinks I offered him – he’d only accept things to eat and drink from his own people. In the past, people had put shit in his food and he wasn’t going to let it happen again. He had super-good energy and sang whatever I wanted him to, and it’s still one of my favourite records in my catalogue.”
4Other than yourself, name any celebrity that the panellists incorrectly guessed that you were when you appeared on The Masked Singer this year?
“What’s the Olympic swimmer’s name? Michael Phelps? And they also thought I was DMX?”
CORRECT. You could have also had Snoop Dogg.
“DMX is my brother and I’ve never met Michael Phelps but I’m a fan and I hear he likes to smoke weed! (Laughs) I really love that show and you’d be surprised by how many of your favourite rap artists love to watch that shit. We all talk about it amongst each other. During these depressing times when it’s so stressful every day, it’s important we have fun and bring some feel-good energy. Even though we’re out there fighting for what’s owed to us or what we deserve, sometimes you gotta let the second-string soldiers go in fighting while you take a break and recharge. So it was important for me to be part of some feel-good energy before I return to the battlefield.”
5Which character do you play in Halloween: Resurrection?
“Shit! I remember the character so well but I don’t remember my name in that damn movie! It’s repeated every Halloween season, so I’ve seen that movie three times this week at different times on TV. Fuck this question! (Laughs) You caught me off-guard.”
WRONG. You play karate-kicking web producer Freddie Harris. Years before Black Panther, apparently Orange Is The New Black TV powerhouse Jenji Kohan pitched a TV superhero show that would star you in the lead role…
“I didn’t know that! She needs to send me the script so we can revisit that opportunity because I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in – I was 340 pounds; I’m only 254 pounds now. I’ve got my six-pack and I’m ready to be a superhero for real. I love acting, but I’m very selective, just as I am with my music now – my new record, ‘Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God’ is my first album in 11 years, so when I get back on the movie scene, it’s got to be similarly blockbuster.”
6Name the two teams that footballer Buster Rhymes played for.
“I can name one of them! In 1985, he went to play for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.”
CORRECT-ISH. HALF A POINT. The other was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
“Chuck D named me after him – Chuck’s a sports fanatic, and knew everything about football, basketball and baseball.”
What were those formative years of learning from Chuck D like?
“I looked at Chuck like a superhero. It was mind-blowing shit – it was like I was around the fucking Avengers. Chuck’s voice is already godly sounding and we were so small and looking up to these dudes; they just looked big. Like gladiators, warriors, giants – and with Public Enemy in the office, it was a black, powerful, very protective, enlightened, smart, militant environment. None of the guys smoked or drank so they were strong positive influences around us. Their work was like gospel to me. When Ice Cube broke up with NWA, he came straight to Chuck D and The Bomb Squad produced ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted’ – I was there to watch all this shit as a kid! That was fucked up – every single day. I’d go to school, go home, do my homework, then my mother let me go to the studio. I’d be looking at the other kids in school thinking: ‘You motherfuckers have no idea! I’m around superheroes and I’ve got powers too – you better not fuck with me! (Laughs)”
7Name any of the working titles for your 2009 album ‘Back on My B.S’.
“It might have been ‘Blessed’?”
CORRECT. You could have also had ‘Before Hell Freezes Over’.
“Interestingly, ‘Blessed’ was a whole separate album that I never put out. That’s what I was working on just after ‘The Big Bang’, but when I moved to Universal Motown, I decided to start a whole new album from scratch. So ‘Blessed’ never came out and I’d forgot about it. It’s still on a hard-drive, so I’m now gonna listen to what’s on there and see if there’s anything on there that’s survived the test of time that I can share comfortably with the rest of the world.”
8Which track is included on the European versions of your 1997 album ‘When Disaster Strikes…’ but isn’t on the US?
“’Wife In Law’?”
WRONG. It’s ‘It’s All Good’
“The real name of ‘It’s All Good’ is ‘Wife In Law’.
OK then, CORRECT – if you say so!
“It was a very sexually explicit record so they banned it in the States. [In Europe] you’ll see soap commercials with people butt-ass naked on the TV. I used to be blown away by that shit. I’m like: ‘Yo, I’m a little kid and here’s some free porno on the TV – this is great!’ (Laughs)
9You appear as a character in the video game Def Jam: Fight For NY. What’s your ‘Blazin’ Move’?
“I had braids in my hair, a black tank top, and chain with a little pendant on it – and a lot of fucking muscles, brother! But I don’t remember my Blazin’ Move.”
WRONG. It’s ‘Call The Ambulance’ – named after a track off your 2002 album ‘It Ain’t Safe No More..’. Did anyone in the game try to get the makers to ensure their character was more powerful?
“No, we just accepted our shit – and deep down, thought that we were the most powerful character anyway. (Laughs) True acknowledgment came from knowing what to do with your character – your powers don’t mean shit if you don’t have the skill!”
10Name three things you’re dressed as in the ‘Gimme Some More’ video.
“Yosemite Sam? In a mask? A police officer?”
CORRECT. You’ve always prided yourself on your videos – ever had an idea that’s proved too ambitious to pull off?
“I’m trying to execute an idea between my 25-years-ago self and my current self and being able to incorporate both in the same visual. I’m working on that and it’s going to be very interesting if I pull if off. It’s going to be a ground-breaking moment for the visual scope of the entire entertainment industry – and at some point, I’m going to successfully execute this play.”
The verdict: 5.5/10
“I’ve done everything in 29 years – it’s a lot to remember! (Laughs)”
Busta Rhymes’ latest album, ‘Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God’, is available now