Hip-hop was not made to be recorded. It was not made to be mass-marketed, mass-produced, and brought to the masses via MTV and the mall music store. Hip-hop was made for the park, for the turntables and for the street corner.
There's nothing better in hip-hop culture than a live hip-hop concert. No matter how good an artist sounds on tape or how good an artist's lyrics look on page, there's a very simple question: Can the artist move a crowd?
Over the course of a storied hip-hop career, one that started as a member of Leaders of the New School and now sees him as one of the most sought-after guests on remixes, Busta Rhymes has proved over and over again that, if nothing else, he can move the crowd. Mainstream success has followed, including movie roles, but his roots have always remained in hip-hop.
Busta Rhymes: Everything Remains Raw is supposed to document that ability. Unfortunately, what is white-hot in person is lukewarm in your living room, removed from the energy of a roomful of fanatics.
The main event is a 70-minute or so concert filmed in Phoenix, Ariz., that runs through all of Busta's hits. Everything from his un-official coming out verse on "Scenario" to the Puffy-and-Neptunes-assisted "Pass the Courvoisier Part II" is present, albeit sometimes in truncated form.
Interspersed with the concert are clips of Busta explaining his philosophy of hip-hop, smoking weed and other extra-curricular activities. While not the most eloquent at times, his passion for the music and doing it right is evident. This is an emcee in the truest sense of the word, because his goal is not just writing the best verse or selling the most albums, but entertaining and moving the crowd (what the initials "M.C." are supposed to mean in hip-hop).
In that regard, the choice of a show in Phoenix, Ariz., is an odd one. Hip-hop concerts are give-and-take; the emcee is only as energetic as the crowds and vice versa. It's surprising that Busta is able to keep his energetic pace up despite performing for a crowd that only responds to direct commands and seemingly barely recognizes hip-hop classics like "Scenario." In fact, the most animated the crowd gets is singing along with the hook in "Break Ya Neck" during the Red Hot Chili Peppers-inspired "Give It Away" potion. Any crowd in New York City would have been a better choice for a DVD taping.
But the star of the show is certainly Busta, and his unique attitude comes through on stage. To set up a song, he tells the women to turn around, "so I can sing to your [expletives]." He shows his softer side before the next song: "Nowadays, the ladies are into that foreplay [expletive]. … They want the Body and Bath Works [expletive], the bag of weed, the cognac." Political correctness hasn't really made it to Brooklyn.
(NOTE: This disc is not rated by the MPAA, but it bears a TV14 mark on the packaging for recreational drug use and a whole lot of cursing.)
The digital concert footage is very sharp and very well lit. Colors seem very even throughout and there's surprisingly few artifacts. However, the packaging claims the picture is in "16:9 Screen Format." I'm not sure if that is supposed to indicate being anamorphic or just letterboxed, but the video is certainly not anamorphic.
There are three tracks for the concert, with the 5.1 Dolby being the standout. The bass actually pulls up lame in the DTS track, and the 2.0 stereo is predictably flat. There's a fair amount of separation in the rear channels, as the crowd noise is different from each speaker.
The bonus features are limited to three featurettes: "Flipmode Squad," which introduces his squad members; "Flipmode Garage," an extended commercial for an auto-customization shop co-owned by Busta; and "The Flipmode Fortress," a "Cribs"-like tour of Busta's tour bus. There's also a photo gallery.
There are no music videos on the disc, probably due to rights issues, which is the biggest shame. Busta has long had the reputation of being a hip-hop video innovator, with energetic and fun clips for "Woo-Hah! …" and "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See."
A hidden bonus feature on the audio setup page shows Busta's home video footage from Europe and Africa tours. It's exactly what you'd expect: Clips of Busta on stage, clips of Busta buying and smoking weed, clips of Busta dropping genius bons mots such as, "Eiffel Tower lit up in Paris, son! What'ch all know about that?"
For the devoted Busta fan, of course, Everything Remains Raw is manna. But the DVD still can't fully capture the magic of good, live, hip-hop. It's worth a rental, but put the purchase price towards an actual ticket to see Busta Rhymes live instead.