Busta Rhymes – When Disaster Strikes... (2LP)
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Busta Rhymes' second album, When Disaster Strikes, is a sprawling, often brilliant mess that confirmed his status as one of hip-hop's most singular characters. Restraint isn't Rhymes' strong suit, and thus the album careens from sheer genius to repetitive indulgence and right back again. When Rhymes is on, there's no one like him, and when he isn't, it's like the calm before the storm. Fortunately, he's on most of the time on When Disaster Strikes, helped out by what would become his favorite theme for the next several years: the coming apocalypse. Even if the concept doesn't carry through the entire album, When Disaster Strikes is framed as a pre-millennium party spinning out of control, sort of like the dark side of Prince's "1999." Rhymes presides over the chaos like a mad master of ceremonies, running amok with his posse at his back (there are countless shout-outs to the Flipmode Squad). It's a hugely effective persona when paired with Rhymes' caffeinated, herky-jerky flow, and helped prove he was more than just a novelty. The album's two big hit singles, "Dangerous" and the creepy "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See," are terrific, but there are more than a few moments that are just as inspired. The second half of the album slows down the momentum somewhat, with a bevy of guests, collaborations, and posse cuts; a few offer some welcome variety, but often they don't replace Rhymes' manic energy with anything quite as exciting. Still, nearly every rap album from this era has its share of filler, and it doesn't prevent When Disaster Strikes from ranking as arguably Rhymes' definitive original album.