Though not often acknowledged as one of hip-hop's best duos, Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre have a collaborative track record that never misses.
The relationship between producer and rapper is one of the most important in hip-hop. Sometimes, the dynamic is explored across entire bodies of work, with some artists opting to work near-exclusively with one specific beatmaker. Other times, artists cross paths only to discover chemistry well worth exploring. It's not often that you see Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre, who originally joined forces for three songs on Busta's 2001 Genesis album, named among the great rapper-producer duos in hip-hop. Yet together they have built up a strong and consistent catalog -- unsurprising, given Busta's brief tenure on Dre's Aftermath label.
Having worked together on eleven songs, it feels appropriate to highlight and celebrate the joint output of one of hip-hop's most slept-on partnerships. Here are All Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes Collaborations, Ranked; share your thoughts in the comments below.
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HONORABLE MENTION: OBIE TRICE FT. BUSTA RHYMES - OH!
Obie Trice’s “Oh!” may very well be one of the best songs to come out of the Shady/Aftermath camp in the early millennium. Though the Cheers highlight does indeed qualify as a collaboration between Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre, the former’s limited involvement ensures “Oh!” a spot in the honorable mentions. That’s not to say Busta’s presence isn’t felt; his melodic chorus is a welcome addition to Obie’s masterpiece and if he had a verse it’s probable that “Oh!” would earn a higher position on this list.
10. HOW WE DO IT OVER HERE FT. MISSY ELLIOT
Busta Rhymes is no stranger to delivering heavy club bangers, and Dr. Dre stepped up to try his hand at the format with The Big Bang’s “How We Do It Over Here,” featuring some sultry guest vocals from Missy Elliott. There’s something strangely unsettling about the final result, which might have been expected given the parties involved. On a production level, Dre drowns the mix in smothering synthesizers, bringing tension to the dancefloor with a repetitive alarm drone. His tendency to embrace the unconventional is certainly seen even here, as he breaks up the arrangement with a mysterious and exotic riff.
Behind the mic, Busta Rhymes is surprisingly subdued over the wild instrumental, his unfazed cadence creating an interesting juxtaposition with Dre’s sensory overload. Though he doesn’t exactly require much creativity in his lyrical approach, Busta’s technical prowess ensures that even his most smut-fueled fantasies are vividly rendered. Yet with so many incredible collaborations in their repertoire, “How We Do It Over Here” feels a little low-stakes in comparison. That’s not to say it doesn’t have merit -- in fact, certainly original when compared to similar tracks from its era -- but placement in a stacked ranked list of this nature won’t do the song any favors.
9. RAEKWON FT. BUSTA RHYMES - ABOUT ME
Three years after collaborating on The Big Bang’s “Goldmine,” Raekwon would enlist Busta Rhymes to return the favor on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II. Fun fact: the acclaimed sequel was originally intended to be released on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment, though that never came to fruition. Fun fact number two: Busta Rhymes was actively involved as an executive producer throughout Cuban Linx Pt. 2 II’s creation, and while he eventually left the position, he retained a credit upon the album’s release. Perhaps, under that lens, it’s fair to assess “About Me” as the byproduct of a greater vision that might have been.
Unlike the livelier “Goldmine,” “About Me” is far more methodical in its pacing. There’s a detachment in Dre’s production here, with plodding drums and piano, a progression that culminates in a frostbitten arpeggio. By this point, Busta was no stranger to navigating the Doc’s instrumentals, opting for restraint without sacrificing his tempo; a machine gun slapped with a suppressor. “And if you look funny to me, and there's a problem then, I put you under an ultraviolet light or a halogen,” he warns. “As if I was busy deciphering counterfeit dollars and posing like some kind of Biblical figure, King Solomon.”
Though examples are sadly few and far between, it’s evident that the combination of Raekwon, Busta Rhymes, and Dr. Dre is a winning one, and it would be most welcome to see them round out the trilogy when Cuban Linx Pt. III arrives in due time.
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8. BUSTA RHYMES FT. Q-TIP & MARSHA AMBROSIUS - GET YOU SOME
To say Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes found creative success on Genesis would be an understatement. Together, they managed to tap into an interesting sonic space, one that seemingly embraced Busta’s more ominous musical urges. When it was eventually announced that Busta would be joining Dre’s Aftermath label, many were rightfully intrigued to see how the pair would evolve as collaborators. The answer was eventually revealed upon the release of The Big Bang, which queued up with the Dr. Dre-produced “Get You Some,” a tone-setting slow-burner with guest appearances from Marsha Ambrosius and the legendary Q-Tip.
What makes “Get You Some” so interesting is the way the beat is given space to unfold. Beginning with an unsettling keyboard loop and a detached vocal hook from Ambrosius, it’s not entirely clear how Busta aims to attack it. As he enters, so do the commandeering piano chords. Once again reiterating his desire to have these Dre-laced bangers played on truck speaks, Busta establishes his presence from the moment he starts rapping. Opting to highlight strength over dexterity for this particular run-through, Busta maneuvers over the beat with the spatial awareness of a rampaging giant. “You trying to compete? You better be INCREDIBLY GOOD!” he shouts. “Ni*gas you want heat? I figured you would!” Somehow encapsulating both the calm and the storm, “Get You Some” effectively continued the streak between two rap legends while effectively opening new creative doors.
7. BUSTA RHYMES - COCAINA
It feels like there are a few similarities between Dr. Dre’s Big Bang instrumentals and his work on Jay-Z’s Kingdom Come. After all, both albums released in the same year, which might suggest why a sonic throughline rears its head on occasion. Busta’s “Cocaina” is the perfect example, with Dre lacing up an introspective and uncharacteristically uplifting piano instrumental that sounds like a cousin to Jay-Z’s “Lost Ones.” It’s straightforward in the best way, providing a reliable and pocket-filled groove for Busta Rhymes to attack however he sees fit.
He proceeds to put on a flow clinic, catching a pocket and building a continuous scheme that carries throughout both verses; it’s an impressive approach that only a select number of gifted emcees can pull off, though few lack the clever sense of humor and imaginative imagery found within Busta’s bars. “The God of the block, y'know me killa had you spreadin' the spot wet and twisted like Olivia,” he raps, everything converging on that final recurring syllable. “Oh shit, flow so sicker than Chlamydia.” If there is any track in which Busta toys with the malleability of linguistics, it’s this one. Should a word not serve its intended purpose of ending his punchline, Busta will simply alter its phonetic DNA to suit his cause.
It’s no wonder Dre chose to insert several instances in which triumphant, heraldic strings score the scene -- “Cocaina” is a resounding victory over the English language.
LISTEN: Busta Rhymes - Cocaina
6. BUSTA RHYMES - TRUCK VOLUME
There’s a case to be made that “Truck Volume” features one of the most original beats Dr. Dre has every produced. Though the signature elements are certainly present -- namely the vaguely unsettling progression, minimalist, hard-hitting drumline, and emphatic orchestral hits -- there’s a medieval quality to the main synth loop that makes this one feel simultaneously uplifting and unsettling. It’s the sort of instrumental that a lesser rapper might have stumbled on, uncertain of how to approach the Baroque arrangement. Not only does Busta contribute an explosive performance, but he convincingly sells “Truck Volume” as a quintessential cruising banger.
Though Busta can certainly shine on the basis of his dexterous flow alone, “Truck Volume” finds him focusing on hard-hitting punchlines. His violent urges were certainly accounted for, as evidenced by early threats that he’ll “sick his bitch on you that'll bounce with your dick on a fork.” Likewise is his landowner status, flexing that he’s the proud owner of a “farm with cows.” And of course, it wouldn’t be Busta without a few vivid images that can’t be left unseen. “I own the moment when my ni*gas run deep through crowds, like how a pregnant woman breast milk leak through her blouse,” he raps, sparking curiosity as to what he ultimately witnessed to inspire that particular gem.
With a simple formula that shines on the basis of two experts doing what they do best, “Truck Volume” is an easy Genesis standout, though it ultimately falls a little short of Dre and Busta’s other collaborations from the 2001 album.
LISTEN: Busta Rhymes - Truck Volume
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5. BUSTA RHYMES ft. RAEKWON - GOLDMINE (CO-PROD W/ ERICK SERMON)
Though the liner notes indicate that the Raekwon-assisted “Goldmine” was co-produced by Erick Sermon and Dr. Dre, it feels appropriate to highlight given how notable the Doc’s presence is. Appropriate, given the track’s thematic subject matter, that he’d come heavy on the keys. Capturing a mafiosos spirit previously explored during Dre’s time with The Firm, the track hangs a delicate balance between distinguished and dangerous. In other words, the perfect backdrop for Raekwon and Busta Rhymes to exhibit stellar penmanship and dexterous flows. Following their previous collaboration, which transpired on 2000s The W with “The Monument,” “Goldmine” feels grandiose in comparison.
“Three for tenement we in the lobby with the big den-denna-dens, don't move cause I'm a representative,” spits Rae, over Dre and Sermon’s pristine keys. After declaring him and his ilk to be “gangsta republicans with them big thangs,” Busta Rhymes slides through to match his intensity with a foray into the image-laden world of coke-rap. “See I was always good at science, in the class I was dope, ask 'em for the chemistry temperature now I'm cookin' the coke up,” he raps, long before the world was introduced to Heisenberg. “Used to sit and watch them older nig*as for hours / And did acknowledge how cold water quickly hardens the powder.” A stellar track through-and-through, with a structure that positions two formidable lyricists on equal footing -- not to mention the two legendary producers working behind the boards.
4. BUSTA RHYMES - HOLLA
The most accurate descriptions of “Holla,” another of Busta and Dre’s Genesis concoctions, are best observed by the rapper himself. “This shit sound like one-two o'clock in the morning with the full moon out,” muses the rapper, over a ghostlike wail. In other words, spooky hours. For the occasion, Dr. Dre conjures up a beat that is haunting in a traditional sense -- which is to say, as close to the haunted house atmosphere a hip-hop instrumental can conceivably get.
Moving at a methodical pace, “Holla'' invites Busta to snap over the minimalist arrangement however he sees fit. Once again borrowing from his own vernacular, it’s a “whole cathedralish bounce.” Despite having evolved and adapted to the shifting sound of the new millennium, Busta takes it back to his formative roots and absolutely snaps with two extensive and lyrically-sharp verses. Lined with vivid imagery, shifting cadences, and flows that few emcees could ever imagine, the quotables and highlight moments are prevalent. “Wave the torch, cut the head off the Leviathan,” he raps, taking it back to Biblical times. “The terminology I'm rhymin' in cause a frenzy up in Ireland.” And later, he ups the ante with some cultural references that would make Jay-Z crack a smile. “Busta Rhymes, the great renaissance artist and architect, like how a Filippo Brunelleschi portrait is so hard to get,” he muses, shifting his voice into nasal territory.
Though it arrives in a notably unique package, “Holla'' captures the essence of hip-hop, displaying the potent combination of Busta Rhymes’ sharp intellect and phantasmagoric imagination.
LISTEN: Busta Rhymes - Holla
3. BUSTA RHYMES FT. NAS - DON'T GET CARRIED AWAY
Given that Dr. Dre was actively involved in the production of The Big Bang, a few darker instrumentals were inevitable. And while it’s not quite the project’s darkest -- that honor is reserved for “Legend Of The Fall-Offs” -- the Nas-assisted “Don’t Get Carried Away” is sinister to the point of villainy. Insofar as the production goes, Dre summons a twisted orchestra to unleash a hellish barrage of strings, a loop that forms the skeleton of the track. Additional elements add a touch of intrigue here, a touch of menace there. A brilliant stroke of production occurs when he actively places a melancholic violin over Nas’ scene-stealing verse, almost as if Esco were the reaper himself.
That’s not to say Busta Rhymes is outdone entirely, though the excitement of hearing Nas over Dre production always makes for a compelling spectacle. In fact, Busta appears emboldened by the devilish beat, forsaking his morality altogether as he fires off an explosive flow. “Watch me run in your spot, fiends coming in flocks, add a little cut to the coke when I'm cooking the pot,” he raps, donning a blood-spattered chef’s hat. “DRUGS, BITCH! I got what you want, come and get what I got.” Busta’s blunt delivery is a reminder that while he’s certainly capable of adapting to a mainstream sound, he’s equally comfortable with the brutalities of street life. And yet, somehow he and Nas both appear refined in their villainy -- more inclined to sip blood from a skull than to smash bones in a feral frenzy.
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2. BUSTA RHYMES - LEGEND OF THE FALL OFFS
Dr. Dre is no stranger to minimalism, but his work on The Big Bang’s disturbing album closer is as sparse as it gets. Atmosphere is the priority on “Legend Of The Fall-Offs,” a dark narrative depicting the death rattles of a once-mighty rapper forced to reckon with the fatal demise of their career. Busta dons the black cloak and sits patiently beside the casket, his calm cadence soothing in spite of the grim circumstances. It’s among the more conceptually-driven songs of his career, exploring similar thematic territory as the Genesis closer “Bad Dreams.” There’s an elegiac quality to his penmanship, and while Busta’s direct approach leaves little room for interpretation, there remains a deep sense of profundity for those willing to dig deeper.
For one, the fact that Busta opted to conclude his Aftermath debut on such an evocative note is a statement unto itself. Where victory laps often feel triumphant, “Legend Of The Fall Offs” offers a high-stakes perspective of the potential perils. Though Busta relishes in his enduring relevance, the song highlights his deep-rooted fear of failure. Moreover, the song paints a truly bleak picture of death, stripped away of romanticism and instead highlighting brutality and isolation. It’s a miserable end, emphasized by the desperate screams of a man being buried alive. How many have spent their final living moments making sounds of a similar nature? As close to a horror film as Busta and Dre have ever come, “Legend Of The Fall Off” is a bold and ambitious collaboration, an all-too-real scenario rendered with nightmarish clarity.
1. BUSTA RHYMES - BREAK YA NECK
We’ve grown so far beyond the rap singles of the early millennium that it can sometimes be difficult to remember how original they were. With many of the game’s dominant producers boasting a distinctive style, seldom was one singular trend seized and mimicked to the point of oversaturation. When Busta Rhymes linked with Dr. Dre for “Break Ya Neck,” the track that ultimately became the second single of Genesis, few could have predicted the strange and wonderful musical direction the pair would go. For one, the guitar-driven instrumental was easily the most up-tempo song on the project, thus encouraging Busta to keep stride with a relentless and inimitable flow. And he’s more than up to the task, sprinting alongside the tremolo-picked riffs and whack-a-mole synthesizers -- an impressive rap clinic not often seen under the mainstream spotlight.
It’s an easy argument to write off “Break Ya Neck” given that it’s a single, and thereby lacks the allure of a deeper cut. Conversely, denying everything that “Break Ya Neck” achieved -- bringing new eyes to Genesis and strengthening the creative chemistry between Dre and Busta -- would be most unproductive. Realistically, not many rappers could have tamed Dre’s runaway beat; that’s part of what makes Busta such an electrifying presence, as he’s never met an instrumental he couldn’t conquer. Though lacking the mischievous moonlit spirit of “Holla” and the absolutely filthy medieval bombast of “Truck Volume,” “Break Ya Neck” stands tall as one of -- if not the -- most distinct and technically proficient hip-hop singles of the early millennium. The definitive collaboration between the two rap legends, you'd be hard-pressed to find a self-respecting hip-hop fan who doesn't have love for "Break Ya Neck."
LISTEN: Busta Rhymes - Break Ya Neck