V Exclusive! Busta Rhymes Talks ‘Year Of The Dragon,’ Google Partnership, Olympic Training, & ‘Leaders’ Reunion

The original Dungeon Dragon is back, and spewing flames with his new project Year Of The Dragon—available now for free, via Google Play, by clicking [HERE]

With the new album, Busta Rhymes—who’s been killing this rap game for decades now—brings us something that’s fresh, well thought out, and a body of work that, as he puts it, “people will see it and know that I really gave a fuck.”

Just a couple of days before releasing his first project in three years, Busa Buss took time out of his busy schedule to talk with VIBE about his partnership with Google Play, cutting his dreads, his new Olympian regimen, and what it meant on a personal level to unite with the Leaders Of The New School at this year’s Brooklyn Hip Hop Fest after 19 years apart.

VIBE: You’re back with this Year Of The Dragon album. What made you make the decision to do this as a free download on Google?
Busta Rhymes: It’s my thank you album. After 28 years of doing this shit, I just wanted to thank the people that’s been rocking with me all this time and also thank the new fans, new supporters and new consumers that’s now rocking with me. I garnered a lot of new consumers in the last few years since I put out my last album, and was able to be a part of the incredible Tha Carter 4 album, plus meeting Lil Wayne and Chris Brown again on “Look At Me Now.” It’s a bunch of shit I’ve been able to do within the last few years that’s harnessed a lot of new fans. I wanted to put out an album for them and say thank you, and give it to them for free. I didn’t want to put out a mixtape. I wanted to do a real album and give it to the people for free. I just thought it was important that the people get a real substantial body of work of real quality, fly shit on a traditional hip hop level with the ‘now’ swag and the boom-bap—the shit that I’m used to. I just wanted to give it to people in a way that embodies that, but just the ‘right now’ music. Google was very much willing to do that, so it was just dope to get it done with them supporting it.

Dope. In what way do you think this can be lucrative to you?
It’s definitely lucrative because I’m able to monetize my intellectual property. It’s being put out through an infrastructure and a real machine. It’s not like a random mixtape that’s just being thrown out there with a million blogs posting it and you can’t really monetize your shit properly. A business deal was done for this project in particular. It’s not me putting together some music and just throwing it out through Google because that’s the machine that I chose to have post it first—nah. We we did a deal, we negotiated business and we creatively discussed how to campaign, market, and promote to make the fans really happy. The fans are first. That’s why I decided to give it away for free. The other business is between me and Google.

Speaking on Google, they’re such a big company that pretty much has their hands in everything. For example, I’m conducting this interview with you right now from my Google Voice number. What inspired you to partner with such a powerful brand?
It’s because I’m always about doing powerful shit. Everything that I’m trying to do, I want it to have a powerful impact, like the “Scenario” line, “Powerful Impact—BOOM! —From the cannon!” I’m just always about approaching shit in a powerful way. It was just a very unique situation that has never been done before, and a very ground breaking situation. It’s allowing me to continue leading the ‘new,’ being that I come from an introduction to the world being called Leaders of The New School with my original group. Twenty years later, still being able to do that, is a blessing. Having the most powerful record company in the industry embrace me and be willing to do business with me like Cash Money and Young Money, and then be able to have the most powerful search engine in the Internet universe willing to do business with me, spoke in volumes—not just to me but to my peers. It was an unbelievable situation and an unbelievable opportunity. It just makes sense to be able to do something that was gonna be exciting for me at this state in my career. Finding a new way to share content, share music, and also be put in a position where I can spearhead that new way with my peers and with the consumer is just a wonderful position to be in. If it works in an amazing way, I’ll forever be a part of something historic. [This can be] a groundbreaking moment in entertainment, both creatively and professionally. It’s cool to be in a situation like that.

What does this new partnership with Google mean for your future projects? Like, is it just exclusively for Year of The Dragon or are you going to continue this relationship going forward?
The situation is so new for the both of us. Google never sold music or shared music content before, so this is new for them and new for me. We wanted to definitely test the waters with one project for now, see how the nature of it all plays out, and then determine from there what we’re going to do in the future. Right now it’s for the Year of The Dragon project, but we’ll see how the future plays out. So far it’s been really an amazing experience.

When it came to picking features on this album, where was your mind frame at as far as choosing who you wanted to assist you on album cuts?
My mindset was in the same place that it’s always in when I’m creating. It’s always about who’s the best person for the song, sonically and feeling-wise. I’m not putting you on record with me just because it’s the cool thing to do or because you’re popping right now. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re gonna make an amazing record because your name is hot. What you do is what garnishes me wanting to do a record with you, and how you do it. It depends on how well you are at what you do, and is it gonna fit the idea of the song that I think I would like you to participate with me on. As long as you feel like you can deliver, we’re good. [There’s been] people that I had on songs that I thought might fit the record, then they get on there and do something and then the world will never hear it because I don’t like the way they sound or I don’t like the way they felt. I got a million verses from people sitting around that, unless they say the rhyme on somebody else’s record, I’m not gonna put it out. It just didn’t feel right on my record. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to do that this time [on Year Of The Dragon] because everybody that I thought felt right for the songs that they’re on came and delivered on stellar levels. I’m extremely happy with the way this album came together and extremely happy with the people who came out to be a part of it.

As you know, today artists are always one step ahead of themselves. Have you been recorded anything for your next project or is that still in the works?
Yeah, I definitely recorded for that. I’m pretty much at the 75-80% mark of what the next album is gonna be. I just don’t know what I’m calling it yet. I don’t know what it’s gonna be as far as when it’s finished. I don’t know what’s gonna be the thing that warrants the project’s title. So right now, I’m focused primarily on campaigning Year Of The Dragon, but I’m still recording for the next project. However, I’m not really ready to disclose what I’m doing in that area until I know for sure that I’m married to what I’m calling it.

Now, it’s one thing to do a mixtape and an album at the same time, but to do a Google project and an album simultaneously is totally different, given that the Google project is a whole fresh new thing. What separates the tracks on Year Of The Dragon from the material you plan on releasing in the future?
The album’s turn out the way they turn out based on what the themes are, and what the concepts are for those projects. The silver lining that’s going to connect all of the projects so that you got that traditional Busta Rhymes shit is Busta Rhymes being true to who he is. I know how to be Busta Rhymes better than I know how to be anything else, so you always gonna get that energy, them hard slapping ass beats, and some interesting collabs. I’m always about working with artists and making shit that can be classified as eventful moments on my projects. What differentiates them is again the themes and concepts of the project. With the Year of the Dragon album, I wanted to make sure that I give people a body of work that comes with me putting the same attention into an album that I would put into my albums. It’s very few artists that can give you a mixtape that feels like albums. Most of the time you get a mixtape and it’s like a compromised quality of work. Shit is getting slapped together and niggas are rhyming on other niggas beats all day. I’m not mad at that—don’t get me wrong. I do that throughout non-stop anyway—remixing or rhyming on another niggas hit. However, that’s what I do as a regular workout recreationally, keeping my blade sharp as a MC. I ain’t put out a project in the last three years. I felt like people deserved more than a mixtape. I wanted to give them an album. That’s the reason why I did it this way by doing this deal with Google. I’m giving people a real album with real album artwork, real production credits, publishing, hits, acknowledging every writer on every song, special thank you credits and people appearing ‘Courtesy Of’ whatever label they’re on, you know what I’m saying? My shit is being packaged that way. If you see the artwork, you’ll see it’s being packaged as an album—it’s not a mixtape. I felt like the fans and the consumers deserved an album, and that’s the way I wanted to show my appreciation. By putting in all that time and effort into this shit, people will see it and know that I really gave a fuck.

(Continue On To Page 2 Where Busta Talks About Recording At Platinum Recording Studios, Healthy Dieting, and Cutting Off His Dreads)