Busta Rhymes was born on May 20, 1972 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to Jamaican parents Geraldine Green and Trevor Smith, Sr. in 1972. Smith attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, alongside Jay-Z, DMX and The Notorious B.I.G. Chuck D of Public Enemy gave him the alias Busta Rhymes after NFL wide receiver George “Buster” Rhymes. Early in his career, he was known for his wild style and fashion, and today is best known for his intricate rapping technique, which involves rapping at a fast rate with lots of internal rhyme and half rhyme, and to date has received eleven Grammy nominations for his musical work. About.com included him on its list of the 50 Greatest MCs of Our Time (1987–2007), while Steve Huey of Allmusic called him one of the best and most prolific rappers of the ’90s.
Hip-hop crew Leaders of the New School began recording in 1989 and released their debut album A Future Without a Past… in 1991 on Elektra Records. In early 1992 the group appeared on A Tribe Called Quest‘s posse cut “Scenario,” in which Busta’s climactic verse propelled him into the cultural consciousness. In 1993, they released T.I.M.E. (The Inner Mind’s Eye). Soon after, however, internal problems arose because of Busta’s increasing popularity, and the group broke up on the set of Yo! MTV Raps. After LONS broke up, Busta Rhymes began making guest appearances on several hip-hop and R&B artists singles such as R&B group Boyz II Men, he appeared on the track “Intro Talk” on Mary J. Blige‘s landmark debut album, What’s the 411?, he also appeared on the album jacket of fellow hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, with a host of other fellow hip-hop pioneers. In 1993, he appeared in a cameo role in Yo! MTV Raps hosts Doctor Dré and Ed Lover’s film, Who’s the Man?, and in the HBO film, Strapped, and co-starred alongside Ice Cube and Omar Epps in the John Singleton film, Higher Learning . The following year, he teamed up with Puff Daddy, LL Cool J, and future Flipmode Squad member, Rampage and former classmate The Notorious B.I.G., on a remix to Craig Mack‘s “Flava In Ya Ear”, soon after he would team up again with The Notorious B.I.G. among a plethora of rappers such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Coolio on the single, “The Points” which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1995 film, Panther.
In the summer of 1995, Busta Rhymes started work on his first album The Coming, and a month after recording the album, he released it in March of 1996. A month before the album was released, he broke out with a solo hit single, “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check”. Later, he started work on his second album, When Disaster Strikes, which would not be released until September 1997. It produced the hit singles “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” and “Fire It Up”.
In 1998, Busta recorded Extinction Level Event (Final World Front). Its lead single, “Gimme Some More” — which sampled Bernard Herrmann‘s theme from Psycho — reached number 6 in the UK singles chart in January 1999. Busta enjoyed further transatlantic success in April when the single “What’s It Gonna Be?!”, featuring Janet Jackson, reached the US and UK Top 11. The album received prominent notice for featuring the fastest rapping Busta has ever performed, particularly on a song called “Iz They Wildin Wit Us?”, featuring a guest appearance by Mystikal.
In 2000, Busta recorded his final album for Elektra, entitled Anarchy. After Busta signed to J Records, a label started by the then recently ousted Arista Records chief and founder Clive Davis, he released a greatest hits collection alongside a new album of original work. Continuing the Biblical theme of his previous albums, he titled his record Genesis. The album featured collaborations with Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy, Kelis, and others. Genesis was powered by the hit single with Kelis, “What It Is”, and his solo single released in November 2001, “Break Ya Neck”. The final single was the summer smash “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”, which featured Pharrell and P. Diddy.
In 2011, Rhymes recorded “Look at Me Now” with Chris Brown and Lil Wayne on Brown’s fourth album, F.A.M.E., the song has received favorable reviews regarding Rhymes guest verse on the song, and is his highest chart entry on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number six, while reaching number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, becoming his first #1 on that chart. On September 7, 2011, Rhymes received six nominations for the BET Hip Hop Awards, held on October 11, 2011.
On November 16, 2011, it was announced that Busta Rhymes and Mystikal signed to Cash Money Records.