The Story of Pop: 1998 (Chapter 16)

Returning back to the sights and sounds of the UK charts as they looked exactly 25 years ago, this is The Story of Pop: 1998. And after a solid month of mid-tempos and ballads, we are firing things up again with one of the biggest hip hop records of the year…

  • Artist: Busta Rhymes
  • Song: Turn It Up / Fire It Up
  • Released: 05/04/1998
  • Writers / Producers: Trevor Smith / Busta Rhymes / Spliff Star
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 12

We’ve already seen how Usher was – pardon the pun – ushering in the wave of R&B success from across the pond. But following success in 1997 with chart toppers for LL Cool J and Puff Daddy, hip hop was equally making its mark in the UK, as this week’s featured artist was proving.

Born Trevor George Smith Jr in May 1972 in New York, gravelly voiced rapper Busta Rhymes had initially made his name as part of the hip hop collective Leaders Of The New School, collaborating with the likes of Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest along the way.

He branched off into a solo career in 1996, with the release of his debut album, The Coming, which was certified platinum and spawned his first top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, with “Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check”.

In 1997, he consolidated that success further with the release of his second album, the apocalyptic themed When Disaster Strikes… – which for the first couple of singles did prove to be oddly prophetic a title, as they were modest in-out top 30 hits.

But it was undoubtedly the album’s third single which lifted Busta to completely new heights. Following it’s inclusion on the soundtrack to the teen romcom film Can’t Hardly Wait – which starred a young Jennifer Love Hewitt and Seth Green – “Turn It Up / Fire It Up” found itself radically remixed from it’s album version, which had sampled “Love and Happiness” by vintage soul singer Al Green.

The move for the remix to sample the theme from cult 80s TV show Knight Rider, which starred David Hasselhoff, was an inspired one, and transformed the track into a club friendly hip hop floorfiller that caught on like, well… wildfire.

Returning him to the top 10 of the Billboard charts in the States, here in the UK, the remixed “Turn It Up / Fire It Up” also gave him his highest chart entry in this country at the time, peaking at #2 for two weeks in April 1998.

More top 10 hits followed for Busta Rhymes over the next year, including the Psycho theme sampling “Gimme Some More” (#5, January 1999) and even an unlikely collaboration with Janet Jackson on “What’s It Gonna Be?” (#6, April 1999). He would eventually score himself a UK chart topper in September 2005, thanks to his guest rap on The Pussycat Dolls‘ debut smash “Don’t Cha”. But this single is a fine example of why he has remained one of the most important rappers since his 90s heyday – the flow, conviction and power here are highly captivating.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1998. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1998.

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