6:00pm PT by Jean Bentley
'The Masked Singer': First Unmasked Season 4 Celeb on Pandemic Precautions and a Lack of Audience
The first celebrity unmasked on The Masked Singer's fourth season needed no special convincing to leave his house to film the Fox reality hit.
"When the opportunity came it was full steam ahead for me," Busta Rhymes, who was unmasked as Dragon in the first episode of season 4, told The Hollywood Reporter the day of the premiere.
While Fox reality boss Rob Wade told THR it took a little bit longer to convince some of this fall's contestants to brave their Covid-related fears and commit to the show, Rhymes wasn't one of them. He did, however, praise the safety precautions the production implemented before filming began toward the end of the summer.
"I don't allow that to have any bearing on being able to still live and enjoy life. That's a whole other conversation I don't think we have the time to open the can of worms on, but I just especially feel like it's important in these times that people remember that the beauty of life is living it to the fullest and we should not let anyone or any institution or any powers that be take that God-given gift away from us," he said, adding, "Of course we need to be swift and changeable in order to be [responsible] and make the necessary adjustments so that we can continue to enjoy life, but in the process, don't compromise so much to the point where you ain't enjoying life and having fun still."
Rhymes, who recently announced his first studio album in more than a decade — Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God — had seen the show before deciding to participate, particularly T Pain's eventual win in the first season and Lil Wayne's appearance earlier this year. (Wayne also went home first, in an episode that aired following the Super Bowl.)
But it wasn't until he committed that he went back and researched past seasons to discover what he was really getting himself into.
"I caught some episodes but when I got the opportunity, that's when I realized I might need to do some homework so I can have real fun and contribute and add to the whole experience. When I got the opportunity to do it, it was pretty much an automatic green light for me. I was already a fan of the show, my family loves the show, my peers in this rap fraternity love the show, and it just was a fun vibe. I'm always about the feel-good energy and representing having fun, even though sometimes we get a little more serious trying to touch on issues that will spark thought in a productive way. It was a wonderful thing for the opportunity to be presented to me, and I was not going to turn it down."
The most noticeable difference for the rapper was really the fact that there wasn't an audience to respond to while performing.
"The Covid testing was taken every couple of days, the six feet apart was definitely throughly implemented, and there was a virtual audience," he said. "I wish I was able to do the show when the audience was there. There's nothing like showmanship without an audience. That's who we try to do our best performances for, for the fans and for the consumers and to be able to share the passion and the conviction that you have when you're blessed with this gift. To share this energy, or your music, or do whenever you do that's creative, and watch the reaction and the response from the people firsthand, that's what the greatest reward is. Because you can't pay for that. You can't fake that. You can't make that up. You can't make people just like what you do."
He continued, "People spend their hard-working money on purchasing a ticket to see your show, they want to get their money's worth. They carve out time in their schedule to come and see you; they want their time to be valued. And you want to give people their money's worth, their time's worth, and make sure they leave fulfilled in knowing that you've just created another fan for life, or for as long as you are doing what you're supposed to be doing with your craft. And to not have that in the same dynamic it is unfortunate, but once you still know that you've got millions and millions of people that's going to be able to enjoy your showmanship from home, you still keep that in the back of your mind and you still got to go out there and do what you do best."
While Rhymes has released two singles from the album he plans to release before the end of 2020, "The Don & The Boss" ft. Vybz Kartel and "YUUU" ft. Anderson Paak, performing on The Masked Singer was a way to stay in touch with his creative side while not being able to tour.
The fact that so many musicians can't tour right now meant the show was able to book a lot of bigger musical talent this season, Wade told THR, and Rhymes was up against some very tough competitors in his first round. He hasn't decide who he's going to root for as the season continues, however.
"I don't know yet because I think I want to see a couple more performances from each of the contestants before I actually say who I'm hoping wins. I think we are all going to have to wait to see that before we can say who we are all leaning towards," he said. "But I am definitely looking forward to one hell of a season with The Masked Singer. Not because I had the opportunity to be on it but because the competition was very real, from what I was able to see. It was fun. I definitely am looking forward to watching my episode tonight and I hope that everybody is excited about my new album Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God the same way that I am. And I hope the world will seize it just as incredibly as I anticipate it will."
The Masked Singer airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.