Review: Busta Rhymes’ All-Star “Hot For The Holidays” Concert Was A Fitting Hip-Hop Victory Lap

Busta Rhymes is well-connected and well-respected. Last night (Dec.5), the former Leader of the New School gathered a slew of hip-hop family and friends of yesteryear and this year for his “Hot For The Holidays” concert, presented by Hot 97 and Footaction.

Legends like Mary J Blige, Jadakiss, Lil Kim, Puff Daddy, Capone N Noreaga, Naughty by Nature, Redman, Method Man, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Rah Digga, Rampage, Sean Paul, Jr. Reid, and Mariah Carey took concertgoers down memory lane with their respective hits and verses.

But it wasn’t just an affair for ‘90s R&B and hip-hop heads. Riding shotgun with the vets were a couple leaders of the new school such as French Montana, Jeremih, J. Doe, Sevyn Streeter, O.T. Genasis, and hip-hop’s current favorite newborn, Fetty Wap. The new stars brought us back to the future with thier hits and sixteens of their own.

VIBE was able to peep the picturesque hip-hop mash-up from a suite at Newark, N.J.’s Prudential Arena before a packed out house of fervent fans.

A little before 9:30 p.m., Busta–along with Spliff Star–decked in a white sailor’s suit, made his way to the stage to ear-splitting applause. Playing the background were a bevy of dancers draped in what appeared to be African garb, a la the rapper’s “Gimme Some More” video. Along with the 1998 hit, the Native Tongue member also ran through verses from “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See,” and “Every Body Rise,” a song from his E.L.E. album.

After his grand and lively entrance, Busta had some choice words for New Jersey. Apparently, the crowd of Hennessy, Ciroc and Effen chuggers lacked enthusiasm.

“I see y’all over there, sitting down. Get the f**k up. I’m not tolerating that sh** tonight,” Busta barked. “This is a proud moment. I’m a happy n***a, I’m a happy n****a, I’m a happy n****a.”

And just like that, the tone was set for a recollecting and vivacious evening filled with 25 years of hip-hop and #BustaRhymesFamilyAndFriends.

With the quickness, Busta dived in. First, he brought out M.O.P. The Brownsville duo ran through their street favorite “Ante Up.” Capone N Noreaga followed through by tearing open N.O.R.E.’s “Super Thug (What, What).” Busta even unearthed the DJ Scratch-produced Rotten Apple anthem, “New York Sh**.”

It didn’t stop there, though. Classics flowed like a fusillade of shots busting from twenty-five Uzi’s. There was no chill inside the Prudential Arena. Once round two commenced, Raekwon and Method Man ran through “C.R.E.A.M.” “Incarcerated Scarface’s” and “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man.” French Montana kicked in the back door with “Ain’t Worried About Nothing,” and “Off the Rip.” Hometown legends Naughty By Nature even surprised the crowd with “Hip Hop Hooray.” And, Redman and Tical unearthed “Blackout.”


Busta Rhymes & Friends | @methodmanofficial + @redmangilla #Hot4TheHolidays

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But before New York’s finest transformed the Prudential Arena into the infamous Tunnel Club, the stunning Mary J. Blige sashayed on stage cranking the energy up a notch, yet giving it a touch of refinement and an unclenched vibe. Dipped in blue jeans with holes at each leg and an all-black leather shirt, MJB rolled through classics “Real Love,” “Be Without You,” “Take Me As I Am,” and “Love No Limit.”

Other than seeing MJB’s signature dance moves, Mary’s triumphant and authentic story permeated her presence. In fact, she represented the streets better than some of your favorite rappers. That’s why her performance held so much prestige; she even had thugs two-stepping. Before exiting the stage, a visibly thicker Lil’ Kim reunited with Blige for their collab, “I Can Love You.” And of course, the “Share My World” crooner linked with Method Man for “All I Need.” Mary was so live and into the moment that she let concertgoers bellow a good portion of her hits while she got her boogie on, which was straight eye candy. It was as if Mary wanted the moment to last forever.

READ: Busta Rhymes Had #HotForTheHolidays On Tilt With Mary J. Blige, Redman And Method Man, Lil Kim & More

The highlights continued with Lil Wayne, who was as stoked as a little kid and draped in a white sweatsuit. He let off “A Milli,” and his sixteens from Chris Brown’s “Loyal” and “Look At Me. Weezy did irk the crowd however, when she stopped rapping after asking “What’a goon to a goblin?…” on “A Milli.” But it was soon forgotten, and all was forgiven.

Wayne’s set was special because of the story that Busta attached to it. With his arm wrapped around Weezy’s neck in a brotherly embrace, Bussa Buss recounted the night Wayne won four Grammy awards (2009). Immediately after the Grammys, the Young Money boss went back to his tour bus where he continued recording music.

“It was me, Keri Hilson and Soulja Boy outside his bus. You know what this n***a did? He said, ‘Come here Bus’, give me your sh**. Here you go. Keri, give me your sh**, here you go. Soldier, give me your sh**. Here you go. He knocked them verses out right there, and went right back to working on his sh**.”

The arena erupted with cheers. This served two purposes. One, it was motivation for Weezy to keep fighting and working through his legal woes with Cash Money Records. Secondly, it’s proof that the general consumers of hip-hop want to see the Young Money shot caller walk away with a “W.”

Busta Rhymes & Friends | Weezy F. Baby. @liltunechi. #Hot4TheHolidays A photo posted by VibeMagazine (@vibemagazine) on Dec 6, 2015 at 2:48pm PST

Now, Busta’s praise didn’t stop with Weezy. After Jersey native Fetty Wap–whose leg didn’t seem to bother him–ripped the stage with his ubiquitous “Trap Queen,” and “My Way,” Busta told a story of how the Zoo Crew honcho stopped what he was doing to come perform at his son’s college graduation party at Manhattan’s Space Ibiza. This just further solidified Wap’s genuine character that he’s portrayed to be his contemporaries and media.

After Busta ended his emotional salutes to the youngin’s the hits continued. Rick Ross ran through “I ‘ma Boss,” and “Pop That” with French Montana. Puff Daddy diddy-bopped through “Workin,'” where he damn near re-created the Money Making’ Mitch track’s video on stage. The Bad Boy general flowed in and out of his verse on “Victory” and “It’s All About The Benjamins,” alongside Jadakiss and Lil’ Kim. He also performed his verse from “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” The only drawback to Puff’s set was that the DJ didn’t let B.I.G.’s verse from the latter roll out.

The evening concluded with Busta Rhymes performing with his day-ones: Leaders of the New School and A Tribe Called Quest. On one stage, this set of Native Tongue members’ spazzed out to “Case of the PTA” and “Scenario (Remix),” respectively. This mash-up with LOTNS and ATCQ was a lesson in hip-hop history for some, which prevented them (us) from rapping along. As fans of the culture, it was common knowledge as to how special that moment was. And to witness LOTNA and ATCQ together on stage is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Furthermore, what made this performance a hip-hop love story was seeing Busta drop to his knees at the end of his verse on “Scenario (remix).” He looked to be in a trance, and desperately trying to hold back tears. That wasn’t animated (sorry Hov). It was nothing more than twenty-five years of raw passion and love for the culture.

Busta Rhymes and Friends | Leaders of the New School x A Tribe Called Quest #Hot4TheHolidays

A photo posted by VibeMagazine (@vibemagazine) on

Yes, we’ve seen Busta on television showing off his humorous animation, but seeing it in person, with his demanding presence and tone of voice, one gets the sense that his supercharged vigor isn’t a put on. It’s real, which made the “Hot For The Holidays” concert all the more special. Seeing his family and friends perform some of his favorite songs, his own catalog of hits, and embracing a few of the current standout class of MCs was just as much as a treat to Busta as it was for was concertgoers, and for the culture.