15 years ago, Busta Rhymes predicted that our extinction was imminent and humanity only had only one year left on this Earth. Of course, that didn’t happen. Apocalyptic fears were for naught, and humanity kept moving along on the infinite timeline of the universe. We are a species of, if anything, survivors.
What did come from that was a classic album. Busta Rhymes dropped E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front on December 15, 1998, to raves from fans and critics alike. In the 15 years that have progressed since the release of the album, Busta has become one of hip-hop’s beloved elder statesmen, enjoying an especially colorful career. Later this year, he’ll be returning to his apocalyptic roots with the impending release of his new album, E.L.E. 2 (Extinction Level Event 2), his first official album for Cash Money Records since signing with the label in November 2011. XXL spoke to Busta on the phone about the new album, his experiences working with Cash Money and his thoughts on the mainstream’s interest with The End. —B.J. Steiner (@doczeus)
XXL: Extinction Level Event came out 15 years ago. Why update a classic?
Busta Rhymes: We are not updating an album that’s 15 years old; I’m actually giving you, 15 years later, the aftermath of that album. It’s not really an update. We felt like it was time to revisit it because it felt like the appropriate time. I always do things that are based on what feels right at the moment. It feels like, you know, what’s based on the climate of the consumer mindstate is right now in the world, in the market place. People are really ready and have already, you know, based a lot of the ideality that went into Extinction Level Event in 1998. And it feels just like a good climate, not just for the subject matter but just for the sound. That album was a real boom-bap, New York hip-hop feeling album. It wasn’t just a New York feeling album, it was a New York feeling album that transcended the many different territorial rivalries that are not as easy to break today.
The first Extinction Level Event was released a year before the Y2K hysteria gripped the world, and now your second album is being a released a year after the paranoia regarding the Mayan Apocalypse. Do you have an interest in the apocalyptic end times, or is this a coincidence?
I think it’s a combination of both, because I really wasn’t looking at it from a specific timing thing, from the Mayan calendar or any things of that nature. I kind of think of doing things when the timing feels right. So from a coincidental standpoint, you could say that it played itself out that way, but in reference to me feeling like I need to put it out now, that was something that I pretty much made a real decision on within the last year, and it had everything to do with the fact that the climate and music sonically feels like the way that album felt back in the day. It was something that would be thoroughly embraced.
“The balance between giving people science and giving people really hot shit is something that is being welcomed in a tremendous way right now.”
What feels right about it?
I think that especially with the Internet and things of that nature that people have a greater tolerance level for information. People always love music and love to dance, turn up and have a good time and do what they do in the clubs, but I also feel like it’s a vibe where people are also really willing to sponge information and shit that can spark the mind and can think in a way that doesn’t conventionally think. And I think that people pretty much just evolved into that these days because of the Internet. You see a lot of people embrace it. Like, the Illuminati conversation has become mainstream. Secret society shit, conspiracy theories have become a lot more of a mainstream thing now more than it was 15 years ago. But with that being said the balance between giving people science and giving people really hot shit is something that is being welcomed in a tremendous way right now. It’s not being done as frequently as I would like for it to be done, so I’m gonna take the responsibility on myself and do it the way that I feel that people want it and the way that I feel it needs to happen.
What can we expect on the album?
Everything about it is a reference to the way Busta Rhymes has evolved as an artist. You know the moments I had as far as collaborations, those people that I have worked with before or that I’m working with…incredible artists that I have never worked with before, the wait is until now. This album has a great balance of the original cast from 1998 that worked on Extinction Level Event—the team players that contributed sonically to the album from live musicians all the way down—and new artists that weren’t on the original, that love the original because they were fans of the original, that felt the need to contribute their new perspective on ELE 2′s overall concept. I just think that all of the necessary ingredients that were needed to make this album classic are coming to the table, which is gonna bring a whole other dynamic, a whole other feeling. A whole other milestone contribution to what is needed in music right now.