It’s been eight years since legendary New York MC Busta Rhymes released his last solo album, Year of the Dragon. Since then, he’s stayed relevant through various guest appearances working with artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Trippie Redd, Griselda, and many others. In this time, Busta’s been working towards a culture-defining classic which has taken him years to perfect. After nearly a decade of recording, the Flatbush rapper’s newest offering E.L.E. 2 (Extinction Level Event 2), has finally released. With a star-studded tracklist that features names from Rakim to Kendrick Lamar, can Busta Rhymes’s newest offering be his best?
From the records “E.L.E. 2 Intro”, we’re thrown inside a dystopian society that has crumbled from terrible leadership, a global pandemic, and the rise of the Illuminati. Narrated by legendary comedian Chris Rock, he tells us that only one man can save us from our inevitable demise (Referring to Busta Rhymes). With the literal weight of the world on his shoulders, Busta Rhymes puts his blood, sweat, and tears into every single moment of his tenth studio album. Whether it’s “Purge” or “Czar” with M.O.P., the records opening leg does a great job at fleshing out the eerie world the intro built up. While “E.L.E. 2 The Wrath of God” continues to expand upon the intros themes with its defiant speech from civil rights activist Minister Louis Farrakhan, the rest of the record steers away from the conceptual richness its blueprint laid out. From turning up with Anderson .Paak on “YUUU” to making a romantic anthem with Mariah Carey on “Where I Belong”, many of the songs feel completely steered away from the project’s original intent. This doesn’t ruin the experience as it opens the door for some intriguing collaborations with artists like Rapsody, Rick Ross, and Mary J Blidge, but it holds the record back from being anything borderline of a classic. The best of these tracks is “Slow Flow” with the late heart and soul of Wu-Tang, Ol Dirty Bastard, as Busta challenges his ghost in this reckless lyrical tantrum. With all albums from Busta, it’s not complete without teaming up with mentor Q-Tip, and with “Don’t Go”, they re-imagine the magical chemistry they’ve possessed since “Scenario” in 1991. Even with all these standout tracks, none are more rewarding than the Kendrick Lamar featured “Look Over Your Shoulder” as the pair makes a glorious anthem about the meaning of life. On his own, Busta proves he can still keep an audience engaged, purely of his charisma and cadence. Whether he’s flexing his endeavors on “Boomp!”, blowing off steam on “True Indeed”, or digging into your sole on “Oh No”, Busta Rhyme’s lyrical flare is only intensified by his topical unpredictability. We even see him get into his bag on “Deep Thought”, “Freedom?”, and “Satanic”, which is a rare yet extraordinary sight to see. Even though its concept is poorly executed and moments like “The Don & The Boss” are unbearable, Busta Rhymes and his superstar list of guests deliver an overall enjoyable experience.
Behind the boards, producers like Pete Rock, Swizz Beatz, Rockwilder, and DJ Premier do their best to tie the record into one full-fledged experience. Most tracks are built off a boom-bap base, but as opposed to many producers these days, each instrumental is filled with ever-changing layers to keep things interesting. The attention to detail is outstanding throughout, as each note is crafted to perfection. From the placement of sirens and the emergency alert system on “Purge” to DJ Premier’s scratches on “True Indeed”, the little things truly matter here. Being a fan of the craft, homage is paid to a handful of legends from all genres. No track honors more musical greats than “E.L.E. 2 Intro” as it samples Nas’s “The World Is Yours”, Minnie Riperton’s “Inside My Love” and Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “I Love Music”. Produced by Nottz, “Look Over Your Shoulder” is another golden moment as it chops up and interpolates Micheal Jackson’s vocals from the Jackson Five track “I’ll Be There”. Up and down the tracklist, there is something for everyone, which is a testament to its versatility. From the commercially accessible “YUUUU” to the to the soul sampled “Best I Can”, nearly all hip hop fans will walk away satisfied. As a whole, there’s not much room for improvement when it comes to the soundscape of E.L.E. 2.
In summary, E.L.E. 2 (Extinction Level Event 2) isn’t the life-changing experience Busta described it would be, but it’s still one of the better records in his catalog. While lacking a strong narrative and direction, the intricate soundtrack and outstanding performances make it feel like an all-star game of some sort. In the future, I don’t know what’s next for Busta Rhyme’s, but he certainly has nothing left to prove when it comes to his all-time great status.
- Busta Rhyme’s performs amazingly
- Great production
- Amazing features
- Bridges generations
- Poorly executed concept
- Lack of narrative
- Slightly bloated
- Feels like multiple albums thrown into one
Written By: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop