Try to envision five Flipmodians flexing, all coming together to join hip-hop’s Supreme Shaman – none other than Busta Rhymes – and you have the makings of the year’s most awesome album. The Imperial Album is an impenetrable hip hop flotilla that packs its quasi-dimensional punch on the back of the formidable Flipmode Squad – Busta Rhymes , Rampage, Spliff Star, Lord Have Mercy, Rah Digga, & Baby Sham – whose battle call of all for one and one for all is on full tilt on this 17 track masterpiece. Call it a mission designed to teach both old and new dawg’s mad tricks.
“I said I’d bring it to you, well, now I’m bringing it,” says Busta. And this aint no cheesy compilation shit. “Flipmode is a group, and this is a group album. Flipmode is unleashed. Spitting it out, getting it right. Straight out the brain and on the spot. Making it worse for all the other motherfuckers out there.”
Busta wouldn’t have it any other way. His last two albums, The Coming, and When Disaster Strikes have sold close to 4 million copies, influencing a whole new generation of rappers, and altering the MTV landscape with a slew of charismatic portrayals in some of the most talked about videos of the decade. Now, with his Flipmode accomplices taking center stage, Busta and company are ready to do Richter scale type damage to the rest of the rap kingdom. “Everybody shines on this album,” says Busta. “My goal was for everyone involved to display their shit, and from the first day in the studio to the day it hits the stores this was a project that had to put the integrity of Flipmode on the line. That’s the only way we know how to do it. From the heart. Everybody’s got families to support and everybody wants to do the best for each other. Flipmode means to flip the mode from whatever is going on. We want to be set apart from everything else. From our sound, to our vibe, to persona, from the way we dress, to even our karma. There’s going to be a whole new presence were presenting, as to how groups should represent themselves.”
The intensity of the music confirms that such a bond is real. The members of Flipmode cite the six intensive weeks that it took to record The Imperial Album as the key in keeping the music tight and on the money. Joined by a flock of producers, including D.J. Scratch (who also executive produces, and helms most of the cuts), Rockwilder , Swize, Tony Touch, Da Beatminerz, and Busta himself, among others, the recording studio took on a workshop-like atmosphere where egos were checked at the door.
The result is a diverse yet amazingly consistent array of hits. Whether it’s the soon-to-be classic party anthem “Everybody On The Line Outside”, or the searing power of “Run For Cover”, or the incredible free-fall of “I Got Your Back”, where each vocalist trades off lines with lightning speed, The Imperial Album sets a new standard of excellence for hip hop groups to target.
And that’s no small feat considering Busta himself was launched from one of the most influential groups of all time, Leaders Of The New School. “I had known from those days what it takes to be in a working unit,” says Busta. “What was good about this experience is it brought back the camaraderie of being in a group, where you can bounce ideas off one another, where the whole clique makes your own shit better because youre demanding it from each other.” Busta was extra-careful not to let his contagious personality dominate the recording sessions – though his influence can be detected in the brash underpinnings of songs like “Cha Cha Cha”, featuring Busta, Rah Digga, Spliff Star, and Baby Sham and “Everybody On The Line Outside”, featuring Busta, Rampage, and Lord Have Mercy. His desire was to make an album that would blow up and capture the full blend of talent – including the exceptional subtleties – of Flipmode’s players.
And though we’ve felt the power of their collective clout on previously released tracks (like the funky roundtable of “We Could Take It Outside”, from Busta’s 1997 album When Disaster Strikes), The Imperial Album steps up the assault on all cylinders, distilling from each vocalist the one attribute that sets them apart from – as Busta puts it: “All the other bullshit thats out there. We’re raising the level here.”
But when you ask Busta to describe the ultimate goal for launching Flipmode in full force in 98, he sits back and smiles. “Because I don’t want to be always having to pick everybody up in my car and take them to the studio any more,” he laughs. “From now on they’ll all have their own rides. ”