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Busta Rhymes On 'Extinction Level Event 2' And Hip-Hop As A Daily Practice

Busta Rhymes' latest album is<em> Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God</em>.
Flo Ngala
Courtesy of the artist
Busta Rhymes' latest album is Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God.

When it comes to the most enthralling rappers, there's no one like Busta Rhymes. At 19 years old, he famously made a scene-stealing guest appearance on A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario." A few years later, in 1996, he started releasing the string of solo albums and singles that made him world famous — not just for delivery and flow, but as a showman. The music video for "Gimme Some More," from 1998's E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, is a case in point: Busta swaps costumes and characters over and over for the camera, rapping as a boxer, a cowboy and a zoot-suited gangster over a beat that samples Bernard Hermann's Psycho score.

More than 20 years later, the rapper has delivered a sequel to that hit album, titled Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God. True to form, it's an ambitious release — Busta says he whittled the final track list down from over 850 songs. The artist spoke with NPR's Audie Cornish about music-making as a daily habit and the growing pains between each generation of hip-hop. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Audie Cornish: I heard you go into the studio every day — that it's part of your daily routine. What does that process look like?

Busta Rhymes: I go to the studio, I put beats on, I listen to it and I just wait until it comes to me. There really is no formula. Sometimes you go into the studio and don't come up with nothing. The one thing I don't do is force it. If it don't feel like it's coming to me, then I don't record it.

I know the songs on this album come from different points over the last few years, so forgive me if you can't remember, but is there a song here that was one of those moments where it did come to you — where you come to the studio, you have a good day and it flows?

The song with me and Anderson .Paak ["YUUUU"] was one of those moments. The song "Deep Thought," that was another one of those moments.

Can we talk about "Deep Thought?" That one stands out because there's no one else on it — it's just you.

It was just a good session. I went in there and heard the beat, I produced the track, and it just spoke to me in the way that I spoke to it. I just needed to communicate some personal things that I wanted to share.

It's clear you're in this to make a full album experience: There are musical interludes, skits. This is not about just streaming one or two singles that people might like.

That's what I come from. That's what I miss. And I think that's something that this generation needs to experience in the right way now: the experience and the importance of understanding what it is to treat yourself to a incredible, cohesive body of work.

You've lived through so many evolutions of the genre. How do you feel about what you're hearing in this new generation?

I embrace everything with grace, because when I was trying to get on in the beginning, you know, we took from the influences and the elder statesmen before us. We took from it and tried to make it our own. But of course, in the process of trying to make it your own, you do certain things different, in a way that some of the elder statesmen might not be willing to accept.

Did you experience that?

Yeah! Everybody didn't like me. It's fine. In fact, I'm driven by that, because I like to show people that may not know what you talkin' about right now, 'cause you just don't get it. You ain't gotta like me right now. I know how to make you change the way you think though.

Yeah, I feel like you got the last laugh here.

Yeah, man. I'm very grateful of being able to be in a space where you get the gift and opportunity to show people better than you can tell 'em.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Mano Sundaresan is a producer at NPR.
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