Busta Rhymes - Year Of the Dragon

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"Year of the Dragon" feels more like a mixtape than an album, but if Busta bills it as an album, then that's what it is.

It’s hard to be underrated when you’ve had five consecutive platinum albums followed by two gold, but somehow Busta Rhymes has done it. It’s similarly difficult to be one of Hip Hop’s most talented and recognizable emcees, yet have no truly signature release to point to as the crown jewel in your discography. Still, Bussa Buss can lay claim to these dubious distinctions, while enjoying a career that has spanned over two decades. While fans wait for his Cash Money debut, the Brooklyn emcee offers up a “free album” (read: mixtape), Year of the Dragon.

“Til We Die” adequately rides the Rick Ross gravy train, with forgettable contributions from Trey Songz. “Do That Thing” sounds like it was a leftover from Big Bang-era recordings, and could’ve remained on the cutting room floor, it stands out amongst what’s offered here. Undeterred by Lord Finesse’s frivolous lawsuit against Mac Miller, Busta raps over the same James Brown sample utilized by Notorious B.I.G. on “Dreams (Just Playin’).” The fact that Bus is so comfortable on the cut isn’t surprising—he is a staple of the ‘90s, after all—but Gucci Mane actually serves as an outstanding feature, from the attitude he brings on the cut to his raspy, laid-back Southern sensibility on his verse. “Grind Real Slow” features a beat that could easily be a hit in the clubs—if it hadn’t already been made by Far East Movement with their hit “Like a G6.”

“Sound Boy” gets off to a dubious start with questionably synth-y production, but all is forgiven with that good old-fashioned NYC ignorance that only Cam’ron can offer. As a bonus, Cam references the best line from Fat Joe’s heavily underrated Darkside Vol. 1, a bonus for any heads who’ve been paying attention for the last few years. “Doin It Again” takes it back with Hi Tek’s beat from Jonell’s “Round and Round,” but the reference only makes it awkward with Busta’s and Reek’s harsh rhymes—it’s a square peg in a round hole. “Crazy” is an awful reach, sounding like some of the garbage Bangladesh submitted for Back on My B.S.

Year of the Dragon feels more like a mixtape than an album, but if Busta bills it as an album, then that’s what it is. As such, it’s disjointed. Many may see features such as Wayne and Gucci as reaches to remain relevant (and lord knows that Busta’s tried extremely hard to reach the younger crowd over the past five years or so), but that’s not what drags this project down. In fact, the features show out pretty well, save some maddeningly corny lines from Weezy. The problem is the same one that’s plagued just about every single Busta Rhymes album: the Dungeon Dragon cannot decide on a direction for the project. It’s not cohesive in production, styles, or subject matter. Busta’s all over the place, and does nothing to improve his reputation as one of the greatest emcees to not have a great album to his name. Here's to hoping the real album will be better.

43 Comments

  • PInner

    The Coming... is a classic in my mind. It was one of the first albums I ever bought, when all my friends were listening to Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana at 12, so that might have something to do with it, but man, I was just banging that album in the Jeep last week and I still know all the lyrics! If only Hands Where My Eyes Could See had been on it...

  • Npmusicman

    Why is every one so bent out of shape? Busta is truly a groundbreaking emcee that never dropped a groundbreaking, classic album. That's not to say his albums sucked or were just decent. He's got some great stuff, classic songs, classic guest verses, but a classic album??? Nah man. Illmatic. Ready to Die. It takes a nation of millions to hold us back. The chronic. Doggy style. Paid in full. Has Busta ever put out an album where people were like "holy shit..." ? I don't think he has. That's why it's so interesting. He's a great emcee with classic material scattered throughout his career, but no one defining classic album. Seeing how he's been content to get it in with Chris brown and lil Wayne lately, I doubt we'll ever get one.

  • BLACK CHINESSE

    I like this album :), girls stop hating please or I will beat all your asses :) haters gonna hate yeah

  • Sihle Da Illmatic

    I'd rather bump Anarchy,E.L.E or When Disaster Strikes. That's when Bussa Buss was Bussa Buss. Fuck YMCMB

  • Industry Advocate

    Honestly....this really sucked for a few reasons. Boring, beats, sounds out of his element, no direction. Love Busta, and my favorite album from him seems to be The Big Bang (and I have boiught every album the day of release since T.I.M.E.) but this right here....Busta deserves a do over!

  • jg

    This album wasn't amazing by any means, but almost all the tracks are hot and can be bumped. Its a success by Busta to me.

  • Anonymousretiredrapper

    I actually thought The Big Band was really good... maybe even classic.

  • Anonymous

    The coming is a classic album. If you don't think so you ain't heard it Period

  • Mario

    This review is fair. I downloaded this album and it was a complete waste of time. Every song sounds like it's missing something, Lil Wayne is just horrid with the feature and Busta just can't get it right. Even though it is "free" it's not even worth the download. This album is trash and will be forgotten in about a year or so.

  • AON_HipHop

    This album was horrible

  • Its Um

    I say E.L.E. is his best one I've from him, and even that has its down moments but still good. This started off high energy then gets sketchy, Busta has that Nas problems when comes to beats on albums.

  • Taze007

    HHDX is fucking crazy!!! This album is better than Ross new shit...Slaughterhouse new shit...and Dj Khaled's new shit.. Busta in his prime... THIS REVIEW HAS TO BE BIASED CAUSE THE ALBUM IS FUCKING HOT!!!

  • Lionel

    contrary to what was said I still think Busta has given us classics Like The Coming When Disaster Strikes ELE and Anarchy ....This may not be one of his best but hey will see what he got cooking on ELE 2

  • SDK

    YEAH ,BUSTA IS ABOVE AVERAGE RAPPER BUT NO CLASSICS

    • Anonymous

      Big Bang was a classic album ... Been through the storm,They're out to get me etc Probably a little mature sounding for you teenage /under 25 listeners

  • Azup

    It's a free album, what is everybody complaining about, this was just to hold us over until his next album "E.L.E 2", be more appreciative for free music.

    • red telephone box

      nah, theres no excuse for crap like this mate. lloyd banks gave uz V6 for free and thats sounding like mixtape of the year so far. cmon busta, as a life long fan i want u to make a classic album please!

  • Anonymous

    go suck Lil wayne dick you ymcmb snitch

  • ELjay

    Busta never should have cut his hair. Now he lost all his powers

  • Anonymous

    When disaster strikes and ELE are stand alone albums. Not sure what dude is talking about.

  • staten

    Yo, if you don't recognize When disaster strikes as his solo hit album and E.L.E. as his continuation then your a biased writer. Those 2 are Busta staples period.

  • N.B.

    Just a couple of quick comments here. First off, learn the name of the album (even though I heard Busta call it a mixtape the other day) you are reviewing. You call it "Dungeon Dragon" in the last paragraph. Too bad the name of the mixtape/album is "Year of the Dragon." Do you even care about what you are doing? And as far as great albums go, I think both "E.L.E." and "When Disaster Strikes" are excellent albums. I'm not a big Busa Buss fan but you have to give it up to him on those two albums.

  • Anonymous

    this shit was classic

  • W9D

    I can't believe the writer (along with everyone commenting) doesn't see E.L.E. as Busta's crown jewel. Both The Coming and When Disaster Strikes were great albums as well, but when it comes to cohesiveness and direction, E.L.E. is the best by far. That album introduced Busta's signature double-time flow and featured a production style that, to this day, hasn't been duplicated, on tracks like "What's It Gonna Be," "Gimme Some More" and "Party Is Going On Over Here." All that being said, Year of the Dragon panders to the mainstream for the most part, but has a few gems.

  • diggle

    "The Coming" is a classic album no matter what anyone says. This album isn't bad, ya'll just too young to enjoy the Tears For Fears sample....

  • firealarm

    I didn't think it was awful. Actually better than the expectations I had set for it but definitely has its' weaknesses.

  • Anonymous

    year of the lili wayne kiss ass

  • tomr

    The coming and when disaster strikes are 2 full on 5* albums. And genesis had more bangers on 1 album than most so called stars have in a career! Fair is fair this is a shit mixtape, but don't forget the past DX. Stop slipping!

  • Assassin221

    "Its similarly difficult to be one of Hip Hops most talented and recognizable emcees, yet have no truly signature release to point to as the crown jewel in your discography." I have to take issue with this. First of all, isn't it a good thing to not have a single "crown jewel" in your discography? That just means you only had one classic in you. Almost 20 years later, Nas still takes shit for not reaching the bar he set with Illmatic. Besides, The Coming? When Disaster Strikes? Both classic hip-hop albums in my book, and E.L.E. is up there as well.

  • lilwaynesucks

    Busta is a prime example of a sell out. mixtape is garbage. fuck ymcmb

  • Anonymous

    No Classic Album? I know it is not a Busta Album persay, but that Flipmode Album was Crazy.. Start to finish, that album was FIRE!.. Busta is a Performer, not an Album maker...

  • Anonymous

    amazing yall don't like this but yall give that 50 alica keys crap all the stars for being crap

  • Anonymous

    i thought the album was iight haters gonna hate

  • outtahere

    Really fantastic that DX insists on so many mixtape reviews when there's albums pouring out. This shit sucks any fuckin' way.