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

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

Nov 23, 2020
Originally published on December 7, 2020 1:21 pm

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.

YouTube

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 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When it comes to the most talented rappers, in terms of delivery and flow, there is no one like Busta Rhymes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRUE INDEED")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Check. The mathematician of this rap expedition mastered the precision of the faster addiction after you listen, smashing...

CORNISH: Busta Rhymes has been at this for a long time. His latest album, "Extinction Level Event 2," is the sequel to a hit album he released in 1998.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIMME SOME MORE")

BUSTA RHYMES: Yeah. As a shorty playing in the front yard of the crib...

CORNISH: Now, that album's big single, "Gimme Some More," sampled violin riffs from Hitchcock's "Psycho."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIMME SOME MORE")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Yeah, baby, what? What a surprise. Give you something, make a sucker hold both of your eyes. All my people getting money capitalize.

CORNISH: In the music video, Busta Rhymes performs in costume as a boxer, a cowboy, a zoot-suited gangster. I wanted to know how he developed that showmanship.

BUSTA RHYMES: All of that happened from the beginning. That happened actually before the (unintelligible), you know what I'm saying? That happened when, you know, I actually - I was a little boy and - you know, 9 o'clock bedtime curfews and you're raised in an upbringing where kids ought to be seen and not heard unless spoken to. And, you know, to get around having to go to bed at 9 o'clock, you know, I would do things to entertain my parents and their company so that they'd forget to send me to bed at 9 o'clock.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

BUSTA RHYMES: Whether it was lip-syncing a song or dancing - you know, sometimes I would, you know, put together these little outfits from the suits that I had to wear when I had to go to church or, you know, lace up my clothes in a way that I would have to lace it up like if I was actually going out to break dance with the homies. All of that combined is really when I figured it out. That's when I knew I was on to something.

CORNISH: He grew up in New York City and Long Island. His parents were immigrants from Jamaica. His father wanted him to follow in his path as an electrician. The boy who had become Busta Rhymes had other ideas.

BUSTA RHYMES: I really just wanted to learn all of the components of hip-hop, period. So...

CORNISH: What did you consider the components? I mean, I know you were young then. I don't know if you thought about it, broke it down in quite that way.

BUSTA RHYMES: No, I did. I mean, it was everything. It was DJing, break dancing, graffiti, popping and rapping. So - and learning how to break dance and pop and DJ and do graffiti - my greatest love became emceeing and rapping.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SCENARIO")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Causing rambunction throughout the sphere. Raise the levels of the boom inside the ear.

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: (Rapping) You know I did it. So don't violate...

CORNISH: By 19 years old, he had made star-making turns on singles like "Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SCENARIO")

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: (Rapping) So here's Busta Rhymes with the scenario.

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Watch as I combine all the juice from the mind. Heel up. Wheel up. Bring it back. Come. Rewind. Powerful impact - boom - from the cannon. Not bragging...

CORNISH: The late '90s kicked into high drive a career that has since survived the ups and downs of the rap industry. Over the last decade, he's maintained that energy by recording music every day. In fact, Busta Rhymes says he chose from over 800 songs for his latest album.

BUSTA RHYMES: But there's way more songs than that because there's songs that don't make every album, you know what I'm saying? So there's a back catalog of [expletive] way before the songs that I've recorded for this album that just been sitting in hard drives for years that the world has never heard.

CORNISH: I heard you go into the studio every day. Like, it's part of your daily routine. What's part of that process? I mean, I don't know where you get the beats or, you know, how long it takes you to find the rhymes to go over them. But what is a daily hip-hop studio practice like? Do you know what I mean?

BUSTA RHYMES: I go to the studio. I put beats on. I listen to it, and I just wait until it comes to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MASTER FARD MUHAMMAD")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Look at my Piguet, yo. It's about that time. Light sparkle off my jewelry. It's about that shine.

There really is no formula. Sometimes you go in the studio and don't come up with nothing. The one thing that I don't do is force it. If it don't feel like it's coming to me, then I don't record.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MASTER FARD MUHAMMAD")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Steering like all this hypnosis is heavy. If looks could kill, I'd probably die countless deaths already. Gillette razor-sharp...

CORNISH: I know the breadth of songs on this album come from different points over the last couple of years. So forgive me if you can't remember, but is there a song here that was one of those moments where you're like - you come to the studio, you have a good day and it flows?

BUSTA RHYMES: The song with me and Anderson .Paak was one of those moments.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YUUUU")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Double, triple check.

ANDERSON PAAK: (Singing) Check.

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Thought I left a couple bands on the step.

ANDERSON PAAK: (Singing) Back it up again.

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Feeling like you owe a couple checks.

ANDERSON PAAK: (Singing) Check.

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Now I'm getting back like I never left.

ANDERSON PAAK: (Singing) Like I never left.

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Bang a left.

ANDERSON PAAK: (Singing) I had to bust a U.

BUSTA RHYMES: The song "Deep Thought" - that was another one of those moments.

CORNISH: Can we talk about "Deep Thought"? I had that on my list, probably 'cause there's no one else, you know what I mean? So it's just you.

BUSTA RHYMES: It was just a good, good session. I just went in there. I heard the beat. I produced the track. And it just spoke to me in the way that I spoke to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEEP THOUGHT")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Then it all feels like the - was in vainness, but I'm bringing it harder. Losing Chris Lighty and then losing my father. I'm bittersweet, so I promised my momma I'ma (ph) become a martyr. And every day that pass, I move a little smarter.

I just needed to communicate some personal things that I wanted to share.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEEP THOUGHT")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) But I feel cheated 'cause Chris and my father - they ain't right here to see it, see it, see it, see it, see it, see it, see it, see it. Wow, son. Well, like I said, 'cause they ain't right here to see it. Despite my heart was suffered, I'm still undefeated. I give them what they need...

CORNISH: It's the music but also the kind of musical interludes, the skits, the recordings that you use.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T GO")

BUSTA RHYMES: And if you are just joining us, welcome to the moment of truth.

CORNISH: It's clear you're in this to make a full album experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T GO")

CHRIS ROCK: Do you understand what I'm talking about? It's the end of the world. Take notes from a real emcee.

CORNISH: This is not just about streaming one or two that people might like.

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Yeah, it's another one of the marvelous.

CORNISH: You've lived through so many evolutions of the genre, right? I mean, how do you feel about what you're hearing in this new generation?

BUSTA RHYMES: I embrace everything with grace because, you know, when I was trying to get on in the beginning, you know, we took from the influences and the elder statesmen before us. You know, we took from it and tried to make it our own.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Hardcore, riggady (ph) raw, lay flat on the floor. We climbing in the back of the four. Nonchalant flavor for sure, Timbs with a aqua velour.

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.

CORNISH: Did you experience that?

BUSTA RHYMES: Yeah. Everybody didn't like me. It's fine, you know what I'm saying? Like, in fact, I'm driven by that because I like to show people that may not know what you talking about right now, but you just don't get it. You ain't got to like me right now. I know how to make them change the way you think, though.

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

BUSTA RHYMES: Yeah, man. I'm very grateful of being able to be in a space where you get the gifted opportunity to show people better than you could tell them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Look over your shoulder, get me? 'Cause I done bodied the game to the point scared to rap with me. Kept burning till they anointed me one of the kings of Black history.

CORNISH: Busta Rhymes, thank you so much.

BUSTA RHYMES: Thank you so much, queen. Have a blessed day and a good holiday season, too.

CORNISH: You, too. Bye.

BUSTA RHYMES: All right. Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) No matter how much you gon' (ph) try to convince me. And you gon' make my gun cock and talk a whole nother (ph) way, yo.

CORNISH: His new album is called "Extinction Level Event 2." It's out now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.