15 November 2023

"Luxury Life" by Busta Rhymes ft. Coi Leray (2023)

Busta Rhymes' discography dates all the way back to 1991, thus making him perhaps the longest-tenured rapper who's still notably dropping singles.  He came out as part of a clique known as Leaders of the New School, around the time in rap history when many emcees started getting by on style as opposed to lyrics per se.  And in that regard, Bus-a-Bus established himself from the get-go and most especially on 1991's The Scenario by A Tribe Called Quest, which is one of the greatest posse cuts ever.

Keep in mind, at that time rap music had only been around for about 15 years.  "Old school" rappers, like Run DMC and Kool Moe Dee, who were only in their late 20s / early 30s.  So no one actually knew what an aged rapper looked like, because none had ever existed.  And it's also safe to say that back then, none of us were really imagining that dudes would still be rapping into their 40s or even 50s.

But so is the case with Busta Rhymes.  His latest single, Luxury Life, was released on 8 September 2023, with Bus concurrently being 51 years old.  There are a handful of rappers in his age group that have notably dropped songs in recent years, i.e. tracks or albums that generated some buzz.  But the lyrics of such artists, i.e. Jay-Z, Scarface and even Will Smith have, to varying degrees, matured with their age.

The reason I'm pointing this out is because Busta has recently faced criticism due to the nature of Luxury Life and his stylistic leanings in general.  In a Black Arts Review post published just a couple of days ago, I pointed out how the music industry largely caters to younger generations.  As such, many musicians fall off as they age, sorta like athletes, if you will.  And this dilemma is especially pressing to the likes of rappers, since rap songs are often based on unsophisticated topics.  In other words, it's more fitting to have a 20-year old rap about money, sex, drugs and guns than for someone in their 30s and beyond to do so.  So sometimes, when an elder rapper does take such an approach, he or she may be called out for it.

THE LYRICS

That said, the lyrics of this song aren't standard hip-hop braggadocio.  Busta has never really been on it like that per se, at least not on the songs of his that I've come across.  It's difficult enough to make out what he's saying.  But Bus has never particularly been the money-flashing, drug-dealing type.  His approach is more party-oriented, and the subjects he seems to harp on most are his formidability and romantic interests.

So with that said, Luxury Life is in fact a love song.  As implied by the title, there is a money-based element to the lyrics.  But as presented in the chorus, it isn't that Busta Rhymes and Coi Leray are bragging about riches for bragging's sake.  Instead, they're referring to how they intend to enjoy a "luxury life" together, presumably alluding to both parties involved being well-paid and now, as a couple, pooling their resources to further partake of finer things together.

THE CONTROVERSIAL FEATURE

But one of the issues that has arisen, at least in minds of some people, is that fact that the featured rapper who's portraying Busta's sweetheart, Coi Leray, is 25 years his junior.  Personally, I'm not the type to criticize a man for being attracted to younger women.  Indeed, such a disposition is common amongst men as we age.  And the logical presumption would be that the rappers are portraying musical roles as opposed to being actual lovers.

Moreover, the lyrics themselves, even if at some points NSFW, aren't raunchy.  And as for the video, it doesn't really feature any romantic imagery at all.  Instead, the vocalists come off as a couple of armed robbers, akin to Bonnie and Clyde.  The clip is also very cinematic, obviously having a lot of money invested into it.

Coi Leray, as with her music-industry contemporaries,
relies heavily on her sex appeal as an artist.

But whereas she and Busta don't have any type of amorous interactions in the clip, Coi does flaunt her body - to no surprise of those of us who are already familiar with her style.  But you would never know that the lyrics of Luxury Life are romantic by looking at the video.  Rather, the visual implies that the rappers intend the live the "luxury life" by stealing from others.

Coi Leray and her dad, Benzino, have regularly been at odds
as she's become increasingly famous.

One figure who has publicly spoken out against the clip is Benzino, aka Coi Leray's father.  Benzino is a 1990s' rapper himself, somewhat a contemporary of Busta Rhymes.  He took issue with the clip, specifically that his daughter appeared "half f*cking naked" therein.  But apparently, Benzino was more offended by the fact that Busta, whom he has a personal relationship with, didn't consult him before its creation.

Ultimately, Benzino acknowledged that he couldn't really do anything since both Busta and Coi are "grown" adults.  Furthermore, as alluded to earlier, Leray has a tendency to regularly appear in public semi-dressed.  Virtually all female rappers and pop singers are on it like that these days.  And she's lucky, so to speak, to actually be naturally attractive.

Benzino also proceeded to allude to how parents only have limited control over their children in this day and age, and how "the internet is definitely killing the family communication [and] the family bond".

It reads kinda ironic - or even karmic - to come across a rapper, i.e. an artist belonging to a genre that relies heavily on sexual depictions of the female body, lamenting about his out-of-control daughter.  For instance, take a gander at the music video to Benzino's 2003 track, Bellowzino.  It was dropped when Coi was about five years' old, at a very impressionable age.  Benzino complaining about Leray flaunting her sexuality almost as hypocritical as Charlie Sheen being upset that his daughter is on Onlyfans.  But that said, I would speculate that no father wants to see his child exposing herself.  So I do feel for Benzino, even if Coi, in all her nakedness, is prolonging his relevancy as a celebrity.

AND THEN.... AZAELEA BANKS

After the drooping of Luxury Life, the fearless Azaelia Banks also went on a rant against Busta Rhymes, in part due to his age, though she incorrectly referred to him as being "55+" years old.  The point she was trying to make - while totally dissing Busta's health, appearance, age and styles of dress - is that if he isn't getting fat-shamed or criticized, then neither should the likes of Lizzo.  But beyond that, she obviously has some type of beef with Bus.

THE AUDIO

But now, amidst all of the drama, here's the kicker - Luxury Life is actually quite dope.  Whether or not Busta's rhymes reflect his age, he still possesses one of the most-exciting deliveries in the game.  Busta can rap, period.  And so can Coi Leray, as I now realize, with this being the first time I ever heard homegirl, that she isn't just all looks.

The cover art to Busta Rhymes' upcoming album,
Blockbusta (2023).

Also, Luxury Life is based on Ain't No Nigga (1996) by Jay-Z featuring Foxy Brown, which is one of the most-memorable male/female rap collaborations in the genre's history.  And Busta has gone all out in enlisting talent for his upcoming album, Blockbusta.  It's a shame that this song didn't chart.  But that's probably due to the fact that the music industry, to a large extent, is dominated by who's trending as opposed to what may actually sounds better.

CONCLUSION

When writing about these new songs, I don't actually listen to the tracks until doing the research.  And in all honesty, I wasn't expecting to enjoy Luxury Life this much.  But now, after giving it a spin, I'm actually looking forward to the rest of Blockbusta.

Rapping is unlike singing, in that the former doesn't adversely affect the vocal chords as much.  So in theory, a rapper can get better with age.  However, emcees do, like everyone else, become less energetic as they mature.  But that reality isn't as noticeable with Busta, since he's always had a faster pace.

Generally speaking, elder rappers can't compete with their younger counterparts.  You're pushing it by the time you're 30, and once you reach 40, you should be thinking about retirement.  But maybe, Busta can prove to be one of the few who buck that trend.

Last revised on 10 May 2024.