It might be eight years since Busta Rhymes last dropped an album, but he’s right on time with ‘Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of God’. Arriving in the midst of a global pandemic in an age where racial tensions are high following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the sequel to 1998’s mega-apocalyptic ‘Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front’ makes the end of the world seem more real than ever before.
Opening with the paramount ‘E.L.E. 2 Intro’, Busta reminds, us over a heart pounding bassline and a bed of crying strings, why he’s still here after 30 years (“I continue to give you that food”) before the backdrop blends into the familiar sound of Nas’ ‘The World Is Yours’. He follows it up with the Swizz Beatz-produced ‘The Purge’, with which he delivers a warning shot to the powers that be, warning that if things don’t change, anarchy might ensue in the streets.
Busta sits in the pocket with precision on the shimmering ‘Don’t Go’, alongside longtime friend and collaborator Q-Tip; and on ‘Freedom?’ he turns activist, addressing racist killings and police brutality. “Look all the shit my people been through/ Think I don’t want my kids to live too?/ Can’t imagine them parents copin’/ In they arms with a breathless body they holdin’,” Busta raps, before pointing to the inception of his newfound responsibility: “Snoop Dogg and others told me to accept my calling.”
Its not just Busta’s intricate rhyme schemes and timely subject matters that grabs your attention: the neck-snapping beats and otherworldly sonics – led by producer Nottz, for the most part – contribute to arguably one of the best produced hip-hop albums of the last five years.
Not that this album with is without its flaws. Busta misses the opportunity to fully utilise the individualistic talents of Anderson .Paak on ‘YUUUU’, settling instead for a jet-lagged moment that lacks colour and imagination. ‘The Don & The Boss’ leans a little too much on repetition, and although the Mariah Carey feature ‘Where I Belong’ is a sequel-of-sorts to the pair’s 2003 smash ‘I Know What You Want’, they struggle to match its predecessor.
But these are just three tracks on an otherwise near-perfect album. It’s bursting at the seams with ferocious drum patterns, inventive samples – the Kendrick Lamar featured ‘Look Over Your Shoulder’ borrows from The Jackson 5’s ‘I’ll Be There’ – dazzling wordplay and an all-star cast only Busta could assemble (Rick Ross, Chris Rock, Rakim, to name a few). ‘ELE 2’ finds Busta Rhymes reseated at hip-hop’s top table – until the world comes to an end, of course.