‘I Floated’: Busta Rhymes on His Grammys Performance

The Grammys honored 50 years of hip-hop on Sunday with an all-star medley of dozens of stars past and present, from Grandmaster Flash to Lil Uzi Vert. But it was a 50-year-old rapper, Busta Rhymes from Brooklyn, who stole the show.

About two-thirds of the way through the 13-minute medley, Rhymes, dressed in a fire-engine red peacoat, roared into his hook from the 1997 MTV magazine “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See,” then sprang into a barrage of bars from his Role in Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now”. Rhymes rapped at the speed of sound and appeared to be in a trance; Jay-Z and his other Grammys contestants jumped.

It was one of the most memorable moments of the evening, in a performance that almost did the impossible – presenting an entire genre from its birth to the present. Rhymes, who released a new EP in November, The Fuse Is Lit, spoke to the Times over the phone from LA the afternoon after his Grammy win.

A line up of hip hop stars on stage at an awards show

A line up of hip-hop stars during celebrations for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop at the 65th Grammy Awards.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Her performance was definitely a highlight of yesterday’s show. How do you feel now about the history that was written on stage?
There are very few moments in life when you wake up the next day and realize your reality wasn’t just a dream, it was real space, real people, real emotions. It was a challenge not to shed tears when I come To have a moment to myself I will shed a few tears of joy.

This thing, hip hop, birthed everything about me, from how I was blessed to provide for family to the way I think and speak. Having a direct impact on the world with my small contribution was a cultural milestone.

Walk us through the rehearsal process for this segment. How did you prepare for such an intense performance? Do you do breathing exercises to warm up?
We had three rehearsals, one offsite, one onsite and then a full dress rehearsal in the morning. I got to be with my big brothers and sisters from whom I learned so much, the pioneers and architects of culture: Queen Latifah, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Run-DMC, Scarface. And my younger brothers and sisters too: Lil Uzi Vert, Glorilla, Future. I’m backstage and I can spend hours with them in the same room just hanging out, laughing, going through memories and asking questions I never got to ask. I don’t even know how to describe it.

I didn’t rehearse specifically for my verses, it was more for the flow of the medley’s sequence and to refine the stop and go points. I’ve done that “Look at me now” verse so many times over the past ten years, that’s been the practice. I’ve mastered the skills of articulating it clearly at such a fast pace.

It’s unbelievable for me that I had to be in the thick of it. I don’t know if that will ever happen again. Life isn’t promised to anyone, so I’ll hold onto this forever.

What was going through your mind as you stepped into the limelight for your verse?
Watching everyone rap in front of my part made me nervous as hell. I didn’t want to be the person who makes a mistake or forgets a text or trips over a wire. The fear was almost exhausting. But as soon as the moment came when they took us to our seats, my adrenaline went up to ten. I just wanted to explode.

When I started Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See, I focused on certain people in the front row. I saw my brothers Fat Joe and DJ Khaled and Jay-Z and Pharrell and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez and Nile Rogers and The Rock. I heard the roar and it charged my battery. When Hands was done, I levitated. I was out of my body.

I didn’t hear anywhere near a mistake in your performance, but what do you think?
The verse was flawless. Something bigger than I took on. I just let God take the wheel and everything flowed through me like water. I was failsafe. We made a clean version so the Grammys wouldn’t have a reason to censor it. We wanted the audience to have a full opportunity to experience the impeccability of the skills on display.

What did you do after the show was over?
After that we were treated to a celebratory meal – incredible seafood and steaks, we drank and toasted to the moment and to celebrate hip hop. Everyone unanimously called this performance the highlight and I am very humbled. I was just grateful to be able to do my part.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2023-02-06/busta-rhymes-grammys-2023-hip-hop-medley-anniversary ‘I Floated’: Busta Rhymes on His Grammys Performance

Sarah Ridley

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