Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God
The original Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front album, released in 1998, is possibly the most revered Busta Rhymes album in a catalog that includes many greats. E.L.E. 1 made good on the increasingly bombastic delivery and cutting-edge aesthetic Bus delivered with When Disaster Strikes, pushing the MC’s star further into the pop stratosphere while supplying canonical entries like “Gimme Some More” and “What’s It Gonna Be?!” To deliver its sequel, then—some 22 years later and also after a near decade-long album hiatus—would mean that Busta holds this latest work in the very highest esteem, believing that over the course of a now three-decade-long career, his music-making ability hasn’t wavered a bit. Luckily for us, nobody knows Busta better than he does.
In 2020, an album like Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God could only have come from its creator. Busta’s sonic palate spans the many eras he’s been active, and the album’s production includes touchstones from nearly all of them. From “E.L.E. 2 Intro,” we get an Ahmad Jamal Trio piano line familiar to most hip-hop heads as a part of Nas’ “The World Is Yours.” “Outta My Mind” boasts a sample of Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” chopped so well that we have no choice but to forgive Busta for dismantling one of the most beloved new jack swing songs of all time. The sprightly Mariah Carey collaboration “Where I Belong” is basically a continuation of their “I Know What You Want,” a high point of both of their careers.
Collaboration, in fact, is a cornerstone of Extinction Level Event 2. The list of featured artists reads like a guest list for a Busta Rhymes birthday party: Rakim, Pete Rock, M.O.P., Q-Tip, Rick Ross, Anderson .Paak, Vybz Kartel, Mariah Carey, Kendrick Lamar, Rapsody, Mary J. Blige. There’s even a previously unheard Ol’ Dirty Bastard verse and a sample of young Michael Jackson. Busta’s role here, of course, is elite-level MCing in the East Coast tradition, and he gives as much as he gets from his guests, trotting out a plethora of flows over the project’s 22 tracks. Busta superfan Chris Rock appears throughout the album but uses the intro to “Czar” to speak to who he feels Busta Rhymes is to hip-hop at large: “There ain’t no place in the world where Busta Rhymes ain’t the baddest motherfucker!” Rock shouts. “Do you understand who this man is? Do you understand how hard he brings it?”