Busta Rhymes could very easily rest on the heels of his past success, having cemented himself as one of the greats of not only his era but of all time, arguably. However, there’s plenty more left in the tank if the rapper’s latest set Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of God stands as an effective marker.
The long-promised ELE2 has been lauded as a classic by those privileged to have heard earlier iterations of the body of work but the 10th studio album from the New York star never materialized until the end of October.
The moments of promotion and anticipation leading up to ELE2‘s release gave off the air of this being an “event” album, a rare thing in Hip-Hop at a time when there are seemingly a string of lauded releases each week only to be forgotten by the next news cycle.
One telling moment came by way of veteran journalist Elliott Wilson shared some behind the scenes footage via his Twitter account that showed Busta personally signing CD covers for ELE2 and expressing the elation of reaching the finish line of its release.
What was especially moving was a moment that revealed that the massive entity that coined himself the “Dungeon Dragon” can exhibit other sides of himself. Tears of joy, passion, and perhaps relief flowed as a friend consoled Busta who shielded his face as he let the emotions flow.
It would be fair to assume that Busta has a lot riding on this project and, we’re happy to share, he delivered on nearly every front.
Extinction Level Event 2 serves as the proper sequel to its 1998 predecessor, and unlike other sequels, thematically the two albums share the same scope of dread, doom, inspirational grit, and even several fun moments.
The opening track features production from Nottz and Pete Rock, with the latter’s “The World Is Yours” beat made famous by Nas on Illmatic gets burn and features a rejuvenated Rakim in a rare audio appearance.
Next up, “The Purge” finds Busta rapping close to his speaking voice, still sounding sinister even at the lower register while comfortably in the pocket of Swizz Beatz’s marching band-style production.
An early highlight “Strap Yourself Down” features production from the late, great J Dilla and Pete Rock but the star of this particular track is Bussa Bus. Contorting his voice to the grimy levels we first heard long ago on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario,” the 48-year-old MC proved why he’s both revered and respected some 30 years in the game. The second half of the track should sound familiar to Dilla fans, especially those who got their hands on a bootleg or two.
Busta firmly owns the distinction of being a top-tier lyricist as well as a certified hit-maker. While the clubs aren’t exactly packed right now due to the pandemic, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that tracks like “Outta My Mind” featuring a Bell Biv Devoe flip, and “Slow Flow” could find their way to some speakers.
Q-Tip reconnects with Busta on “Don’t Stop,” showing off the same chemistry they exhibited on the collaborative The Abstract and The Dragon project. This track precedes a strong three-track run featuring “Boomp!,” “True Indeed,” and “Master Fard Muhammad.”
The album isn’t without some hiccups as “Oh No” with Busta employing the Migos flow isn’t the worst example of the style but doesn’t fit with the scope of the songs before. The track “YUUUU” featuring Anderson .Paak sounds like a song better suited for something the singer, drummer, and sometimes rapper would release on his own.
Other tracks like “The Don & The Boss” featuring Vybez Kartel and “Where I Belong” featuring Mariah Carey also detract from some of the greater works but on their own, the songs themselves would have a place.
Ahead of the album’s release, the track “Look Over Your Shoulder” featuring Kendrick Lamar was released and remains one of ELE2‘s several standouts due to the K-Dot feature. According to interviews and fan accounts, the song was recorded some time ago and was leaked previously but still sounds as if it were recently recorded.
Chris Rock, who helped introduce the album, shows up throughout ELE2 as a comedic and anchoring presence, playing the role of the hype man and Busta’s biggest fan not unlike his humorous promotional videos for the project.
Overall, fans new and old of Busta Rhymes will find something to connect with on ELE2. Even the swipes at commercial sounds appear to be meticulously crafted and Busta has never sounded better. While it isn’t known how much more music we’ll get from the New York giant, listeners will find plenty to return to with his latest project.
Find Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God at your preferred DSPs here.