busta rhymes

Last week, Busta Rhymes put the rap game in a chokehold when he dropped his highly anticipated collaboration with Eminem. “Calm Down,” which features production by Scoop DeVille, is a six-minute flurry of rhymes that showcase two veteran MCs at their very best. With two previous collaborations under their belts—“I’ll Hurt You” and “Touch It (Remix)”—Slim Shady and The Dungeon Dragon never fail to bring the essence of hip-hop on wax. Just days after the song was officially released on iTunes, XXL chopped it up with Busta about how the track came together, why it isn’t actually a battle rap record, and the concept behind his long-awaited E.L.E. 2 project.—Eric Diep

busta rhymes eminem calm down

On The Making Of "Calm Down"
Busta Rhymes: I wasn’t making a record to bring me back, 'cause I never left. I was just making a record that could be eventful for hip-hop and kind of just be a friendly reminder to the motherfuckers what the fundamentals of hip-hop was based on. It was based on kicks and snares and samples and real rap shit. Metaphors, punchlines. Flows. Just being clever and just giving people a real good energy. That was pretty much what I was trying to do with this record, and I just wanted to make it more like a piece of art that stood out like a sore thumb in the grand scheme of hip-hop.

We come from that. I appreciate that shit. I try to relive those moments, but again not trying to live in the past, I try to relive those moments by doing them in new ways that they haven’t been done, heard or felt before. But still embody the nostalgia when shit was upheld in that balance and that primary individual standing way that shit used to be like. I just want to make sure when I continue to contribute my greatness or my contribution to the grand scheme to the way hip-hop is moving, I wanted it to always be something that’s identifiable as, “Yo, Busta Rhymes always did his part in terms of making a conscious effort to stand alone.” When everybody was going left, I went right. When everybody went right, I went left. I’m not doing it for the sake of doing it, I’m actually doing it because it feels right to do it in that way. That’s really what it's about to me and that’s really what it's about based on how I was raised as a figure in the hip-hop community.

I just feel like balance is always necessary and I think that’s part of the reason why a lot of the way the climate shift happens. I think there’s balance that is needed. If we had a little more balance, the way the shit would feel overall would be a lot different. For me, I come from a time when balance was primary in the 1990s. I’m not trying to live in the past 'cause I’m not about that. It just seems to me that the past was a lot more forward-thinking. Everybody is trying to make it a primary respective law to not copy each other’s shit and not try to sound like each other’s shit. Everybody put time into thinking what is the next new way you do things so you stand alone and you stand out. That’s the way the balance was maintained, upheld and upkept. Everybody had their own lane and everybody stayed in it. And if you tried to evolve, you evolved in your own way and in your own lane of doing you. Today, when you go in the club, eight different motherfuckers' shit sound like one long record to me.

Busta Rhymes Eminem Calm Down Single

On Working With Eminem
Busta Rhymes: I didn’t make the record to be a battle record. I made the record to be a regular song. I put two 16 bar verses with a hook. But the “Calm Down” hook was always what it had been. Two 16 bar verses for what they were. It was a three minute and eight second song. I just wanted to make a high-energy, turn up hip-hop record and that was it. I sent it to Em, and I think when he sent it back, his verse was about 42 bars. At that point, it started to evolve into a competitive natured spirit, 'cause me and Em are known for sledgehammering whoever we're on records with. I think because we're known for that, we both respect each other’s pen. We're going to appreciate and respect each other for what we are known for doing. And we are not going to play with each other, even though we are friends and we are comrades and we are fans of each other. I’m talking about [I am] a super fan of Em and I studied Em. I paid close attention to Em and that’s what makes me appreciate him so much. I don’t think people realize that this is our third song. The first song was “I’ll Hurt You.” The second one was when he did his exclusive remix verse for “Touch It (Remix)” that we performed at the BET Awards. And then when we did this record. I’m always inspired by him and I look forward to working with him all the time at the end of the day.

When he sent that verse back, I was just inspired to go back in and do what I had to do because I’m not taking no shorts just like he ain’t taking no shorts. I went back and I wrote about 50 bars and when I sent it to him, it was the day that we were supposed to mix. I went to Detroit. We got together. We was vibing to the beat in the studio. I’m not mixing the record that day, he was bigging up the verse crazy. He just told me, “Yo, I don’t think I'ma been mixing this record today because I want to make another adjustment on the verse.” So then he was like, “I don’t feel the energy is matching your energy right now so let me make my adjustment." He made another adjustment and we went back and forth about three, four times until we finally realized that the record was six minutes. One idea of approaching the song creatively led to it a battle natured spirit 'cause we really started to put a lot of effort into it. The instincts started kicking it and it became, "Yo, fuck that. We not playing no games with each other until we're both completely satisfied with where this shit has got to be."

And then it got to that point, we're both super happy. Em ended up mixing the record and he did an incredible job 'cause I like my shit to hit hard and I like to push the levels all the way up to the red so that it's right before distortion, but not distorted. He just brought that real gritty, boom-bap slap out of the record by doing the incredible job with the mixing. Of course, you can’t do that with a record unless you got the tools to do it with. My man Scoop Deville, he made a helluva slapper with the production of the beat.

Busta Rhymes Eminem BET Awards

On The Concept Behind E.L.E. 2
Extinction Level Event 2 wouldn’t be a sequel if I didn’t keep it along the same lines that the original Extinction Level Event was based on. The beauty of this album is, I think at the time when I did it in 1998, I don’t know if people’s lives were as thoroughly conditioned or even prepped or molded to embrace what I was trying to spark the minds with, as far as the concept of the album, as much as they are now. We are 16, 17 years later and the Internet has done a whole lot with conditioning the minds to the point where The Illuminati is a mainstream conversation. Secret society shit.

The things I was talking about back in 1998 are really common man conversation at this point, so I think not only is the timing perfect for me to really dig deeper, but so much has transpired since the first album that it has actually come to fruition, which it makes all the more sense to have a sequel now so I can tap into the shit I was talking about. Pointing out the shit that has come to fruition from the shit that I was talking about in 1998. And then take from what has come to pass and actually point out a lot of those things that are actually going on in the current day that we need to address. Because this shit ain’t never going away. It ain’t never going away. It’s always gonna be some shit that we gotta read between the lines to find out the truth about.

That’s what the basis in the concept of Extinction Level Event is all about. A lot of times, we have no clue about how much shit is being done to destroy our civilization of people. I just feel like it's necessary—especially with all the shenanigans that we so comfortably want to talk about all the time. Again, I'm not knocking that, because I talk about the shenanigans too, because I believe in balance. The album is really a primary balance of science and hot shit in hip-hop.