From Snoop Dogg to 50 Cent to The Game, Dr. Dre has excelled at making superstars out of rappers with little to say but a charismatic way of saying it. Busta Rhymes is already a superstar, but like so many once-thriving one-man brands, he'd devolved into something of an afterthought until he hooked up with Aftermath and Dre, arguably the most respected producer/icon in rap. Rhymes' dungeon-dragon cartoon rasp is immediately identifiable, but what he does with his voice—the rubber-band elasticity and manic versatility of his hyper-animated flow—makes him a star.
On his Aftermath debut, The Big Bang, Rhymes makes a few stabs at substance, like the hood sociology of "In The Ghetto" and the autobiographical cinematic drama of the Stevie Wonder-assisted "Been Through The Storm." But his virtuoso style is what makes Bang a stunning return to form. Well, that and the beats. Like nearly every Aftermath release, Bang benefits from the perfectionist sheen that is Dr. Dre's unmistakable trademark. Dre produced five of Bang's tracks, mixed or provided additional production on many more, and lined up a who's who of top outside producers. Dre even raises the dead on "You Can't Hold The Torch," a standout track that finds Rhymes reliving his Native Tongues roots with Q-Tip and producer Jay Dee, who revisits the blunted chill-out sound of A Tribe Called Quest's underrated final album.
But mostly, Dre, Rhymes, and friends threaten to give radio-friendly dance-rap a good name with inspired collaborations bursting with energy. Call it a comeback: Busta Rhymes has long had a weakness for grandiose album titles, but with this monster of an Aftermath debut, his hyperbole seems wholly appropriate for once.