Behind the Meaning of the Name: Busta Rhymes

In the world of hip-hop, an artist’s name and the sound of his or her voice are crucial to their success. For Busta Rhymes, he checks both of those boxes off, perhaps better than anyone.

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The artist, who is seemingly as relevant as ever these days, has a career that dates back, perhaps to the surprise of some, almost a handful of decades. With a myriad of hit songs and recent new music to his name, Rhymes has enjoyed a successful career, unlike many others.

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Trevor George Smith Jr.

Trevor George Smith Jr. was born on May 20, 1972, in East Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York City. His parents were both Jamaican. Little did that family know what young Trevor would become.

Today, Rhymes has garnered 12 Grammy nominations, which is something of a double-edged sword since he’s yet to win one. Rhymes is now officially one of the most-nominated artists to not win a coveted Grammy Award. But he’s not done yet.

Originally, Rhymes came up as one of the members of the acclaimed underground rap group Leaders of the New School. The group earned attention when they were a touring opening act for Public Enemy. The group released its debut album, A Future Without a Past…, in 1991.


Rhymes would start to gain recognition after his guest appearance on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1992 song, “Scenario.” That’s when mainstream rap fans began to hear his gravely, powerful voice in earnest.

After Leaders of the New School broke up (due, in part, to Busta’s popularity), Rhymes became a sought-after solo artist, first as a coveted feature artist (with artists like Big Daddy Kane, Mary J Blige, The Notorious B.I.G. and TLC) and then with his debut solo LP, The Coming, in 1996. The record hit the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. It earned him his first Grammy nomination. Among the hits on that LP is the song, “Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check.”


To date, Rhymes has dropped 10 solo albums, including the 2020 LP, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God. Along with “Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check,” other hits include “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See,” “Dangerous,” “Gimme Some More” and “Touch It.” Along with his solo career, he is known for his group Flipmode Squad, which was a household name in the ’90s and 2000s.

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Chuck D, Public Enemy, and the Birth of Busta Rhymes

When it comes to his stage name, Busta Rhymes, the rapper has the Public Enemy frontman Chuck D to thank.

Chuck D gave him the name after NFL and CFL wide receiver George “Buster” Rhymes, a fourth-round pick in the 1985 NFL draft. Chuck D also gave fellow Leaders of the New School rapper Bryan Higgins his name, Charlie Brown. Their names stuck and they’ve been part of each rapper’s career ever since.


Thanks in part to his name, Busta Rhymes continues to be one of the most recognizable and beloved rappers in the game. Early on, he became famous with his boisterous, bombastic music videos, and while age has taken some of his vicariousness, his powerful voice and impossible-to-forget moniker make him as timeless as the genre he participates in.

Photo by David Corio/Redferns

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