Bragging in hip-hop has been long established since the days of “Rapper’s Delight” and Roxanne Shanté. The ability to make outlandish claims about money, controlling the crowd and ones swagger is made even more incredible when done over dope production. At this, Busta Rhymes is a master craftsman and a true one-of-one. His latest work, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, is a follow-up to 1998’s mega-apocalyptic and critically-acclaimed opus, and finds Bus-a-Bus still placing his bars atop pedestals 30 years into his career.
“It just happened young,” the rap icon shares about his self-confidence on the mic. “I was just going into my moment at the talent shows, wanting to entertain people and be a part of the feel-good energy. I loved it, I still love how it feels, and I continue to develop it into something that’s my own.” The ever-animated New York rhyme animal not only holds his own among today’s current superstars like Rapsody and Kendrick Lamar, he excels in proving that Father Time still can’t outlast the Dungeon Dragon.
“Roc Marciano, Jay-Z, Kanye [West], Raekwon [the Chef], and Nas are some of the slickest wordsmiths to ever brag on a beat,” Busta says to me via email. “When I talk my sh*t, I’m giving friendly reminders how much they can’t f**k with me. It all comes from the ultra-level confidence I have in myself and to aspiring MCs, prioritizing living in your truth should be the motto.” Even though I’m more of living room lyricist, this week’s edition of The Playlist is focused on the strength of the brag in song. Always on time, Busta Rhymes and yours truly share our favorite jams to get your brag on to.
1. Busta Rhymes — “You Will Never Find Another Me” (ft. Mary J. Blige)
Busta Rhymes’ first pick is one that serves as a testament to his greatness and undeniable skills as an all-time hip-hop legend and icon. “For ‘You Will Never Find Another Me’ exemplifies who I am as a MC and an artist,” the Brooklyn beat bully says. “[To anyone in this game] always consider yourself irreplaceable, a one-of-one, and you’ll never lose sight of your goals.”
2. Kendrick Lamar — “RIGAMORTIS”
If there is anyone who can brag with the elites it is the one and only, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth. “Rigamortis” is a classic that had everyone awestruck at how the Compton rap star was able to hold such force within his cadence, but impossible is nothing to the mind of Pulitzer Kenny. To compliment the sheer skill Busta Rhymes commands, choosing a song that features a hot line like “I’ll crack the egg in your basket, you bastard” is necessary when you can boast legendary status such as these two MCs.
3. DJ Khaled — “All I Do Is Win” (Remix ft. Busta Rhymes, T-Pain, Diddy, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Fabulous, Jadakiss, Fat Joe & Swizz Beatz)
Bus-a-bus is a savant when it comes to braggadocios lines. His style is diverse — especially with that double-time flow — and inescapable from anyone with decent hearing. On this DJ Khaled anthem, the former Leader of the New School offers listeners advice for how they, too, can be winners, saying, “Regardless of what lane you’re in, you should secure your victories everyday, no matter how large or how miniscule.”
4. Sampa The Great — “Final Form”
It’s easy to get caught up in the who’s-who when it comes to women in rap, but you’re fooling yourself if you sleep on Sampa The Great. Boasting through beats, bars, and Blackness — the Zambia success story is in the constant chatter in my group chat when it comes to artists you cannot mess with on the M-I-C. On “Final Form,” Ms. Tembo expands on her 2019 level up over Silentjay’s anthemic production, and shows why her greatness is Super Saiyan-level awesomeness.
5. Meek Mill — “Dreams and Nightmares”
The third pick for Busta Rhymes’ is right in the rapper’s pocket. It comes as no surprise that Meek Mill is on this list since according to one of the architects of the god flow feels that this joint is “pure adrenaline theme music.” He’s not wrong and with 2020 and 2021 feeling like daunting, dangerous adventures — this song still keeps our energy high to navigate these stressors with ease.
6. Leikeli47 — “Zoom”
Friend of The Playlist, Leikeli47, really needs to let her new record Shape Up go for the people. In the meantime, I added “Zoom” to this co-curated selection because the Brooklyn-Virginia talent has never been the one to waiver when it comes to checking reckless MCs. The lead single finds her talking big, bad and brolic with her crazy fire wordplay and impressive flow as main ingredients to add to your own flavor-filled playlist.
7. Busta Rhymes — “CZAR”
Would it really be “bragging rights” if there wasn’t a track like this on the list? Busta Rhymes called in a few fellow hometown heroes on this track called, “CZAR,” in the forms of M.O.P. and Chris Rock. “This [song] is the purebred anthem for the high exalted ones,” Busta says with conqueror-like confidence. “We [Black people] were meant to live like kings and queens,” which makes this one royalty music to adorn your living room speakers with.
8. Problem — “Keep Ya Head”
Sometimes being a great braggart isn’t about how much money you got. As Compton’s own Problem shares on “Keep Ya Head” from his Coffee & Kush Vol. 2 project says, “It ain’t what you got, it’s who you put on.” This bit of free game from the rapper and songwriter is important because no one moves forward in this life alone, and this joint is one to pass around to friends and family who could benefit from this lyrical session.
9. LL Cool J — “Mama Said Knock You Out”
A classic record chosen by a classic MC. Busta Rhymes’ last pick for ESSENCE’s The Playlist is by the equally incomparable LL Cool J. “This record always inspired me,” Busta shares. “The fire, the passion, the dedication — you can hear it all in L’s voice. He wants to win and win as decisively as we all should be focused on doing.” If you have someone in your clan who hasn’t heard this yet, please put them on to this one and saved them from becoming Night Night Nate.
10. Kamaiyah — “Pressure”
Throwing back to earlier this year, Kamaiyah closes out this week’s episode with “Pressure,” a song that is a direct shot to the haters. The first single from her Got It Made album is littered with not-so-subtle jabs at her past deal with YG, but the main crux of this song is the fact that she — like us all — shouldn’t let the doubters cloud our glow. This song is specifically for the underdogs whose bark is as big as their bite and want to prove they’re number one on the block.