June 23, 2021

Busta Rhymes - Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God (2020)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: None
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© 2020 Empire/The Conglomerate Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas
Hip-hop legend Busta Rhymes spent the better part of a decade without a new studio album, issuing only mixtapes and singles after 2012's Year of the Dragon. With over 30 years in the game and countless iconic hits, he could have slipped quietly into retirement, but instead comes back louder than ever on his tenth studio album, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God. The 22-track set finds Busta delivering his time-tested bombastic flows over old-school East Coast production and wrangling in a dizzying number of big-name guests to help out. These guest features result in some of the album's best moments, like when longtime peer Q-Tip hops on the smooth, even-tempered "Don't Go" or when Kendrick Lamar kicks off the sentimental, Jackson 5-sampling "Look Over Your Shoulder" with a head-spinningly complex, scattershot verse. Even on tracks where the instrumentals are relatively relaxed, like the slow-burning R&B-based "You Will Never Find Another Me," Busta stays in beast mode, throwing out high-energy bars between passionate choruses sung by Mary J. Blige. E.L.E. 2 is tied together loosely by themes of apocalypse and humankind atoning for their wrongdoings at the end of the world. This gives Busta's already aggressive approach an especially ominous atmosphere, particularly when he's shouting lyrics about the end of days and secret societies operating in the shadows on "Satanic" or giving a sermon over the course of a seven-minute intro. A lengthy spoken monologue from Louis Farrakhan recorded exclusively for the album amplifies the intensity already established by songs centered around political rhetoric and dark visions. This intensity is broken up by some lighter moments, however, with Anderson .Paak stopping by on the sleek, electro-tinged "Yuuuu" and Busta flipping the beat of Bell Biv DeVoe's '90s classic "Poison" for the rowdy party starter "Outta My Mind."

Even with some respite from the gloom and doom that defines much of the album, E.L.E. 2 overstays its welcome and makes some questionable choices. "Slow Flow" awkwardly reuses rhymes from long-deceased rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard without context, and a duet with Mariah Carey ("Where I Belong") sounds unshakably stuck in 2002 radio production. It's to be expected that an emcee who helped innovate mainstream rap in the late '90s and early aughts might have some dated perspectives on his 2020 album, and at times these throwback sounds can even be charming in a nostalgic way. It's not a lack of innovation that drags E.L.E. 2 down as much as a lack of editing. Four or five less tracks and a little less time spent extrapolating on the end of the world would have made for a far more engaging listen, even taking into consideration how rare new material from Busta Rhymes can be in this phase of his work. By the time we reach the final outro, one of many interludes consisting of Chris Rock serving as a relentless hype man, the total album experience has been exhausting.

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tags: busta rhymes, extinction level event 2 the wrath of good, 2020, flac,