March 28, 2010

Busta Rhymes - E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front (December 15, 1998)

In 1998, Trevor Smith, recording under the alias Busta Rhymes in an attempt to hide from his past as an animal trainer at a petting zoo, released his third manifesto dictating how the world was going to end at the start of the new milennium, which he titled E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front.  The album cover depicts a world that has, ostensibly, already moved past the Final Front, with its remaining citizens praying to the giant fireball in the sky for some better music to play while the Earth transitions into a planet where only cockroaches and that lonely bookish guy from The Twilight Zone with the broken glasses can coexist.

At this point, Busta Rhymes had what could technically be referred to as a "successful" solo career.  After spending some time in the Leaders Of The New School and reinventing himself as the go-to guy for a hot sixteen bar cameo, Trevor rolled the dice and bet that audiences wouldn't get sick of hearing him for the duration of an entire album, a gamble that had mostly worked up until this point.  His debut, The Coming, was surprisingly good, and its follow-up, When Disaster Strikes, has some pretty interesting moments, but instead of choosing to hone his craft, Trevor decided that what his fans wanted to hear was more of the exact same shit, and so E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, ridiculous title and all, was born.

This album is notable as being the first on which Busta Rhymes chose to not work with the late J Dilla, a producer who had handled some of the back office work on the previous two projects.  Instead, Busta elected to work with Swizz Beats, who was inexplicably popular at the time (and still is, technically, although the reasoning is still inexplicable), and also selected his guest stars carefully: aside from his own crew, the Flipmode Squad (whose inclusion shocked absolutely nobody, although their restriction to only one track was a move I didn't see coming), there's only one other rapper that takes to the mic alongside Trevor: the like-minded but more-prone-to-sexual-battery Mystikal.  The other cameo slots were filled by the likes of Janet Jackson and (huh?) Ozzy Osbourne, chosen especially to help Trevor expand his act beyond the three rings that he had dominated for the past decade.

So, did the experiment work?  No, not really.

This otherwise pretentious rap album intro is passably interesting in that it sounds as if an aborted script for a Terminator sequel was swiped from the studio and given to an actor to perform in a synopsized fashion. And then Busta actually steps in and derails this train right from the very first fucking track, completely neglecting how creepy the rest of the intro was, just to get people to dance. The fuck?

Busta Rhymes is the perfect artist for this Nottz beat, and I even like the piano keys sprinkled throughout, as if the instrumental was a set of cupcakes crafted for a child's birthday party. But this song still sucks. Just because Busta is the perfect outfit for the day doesn't mean that the man gets a free pass to spit some shit about the end of the world. This track isn't as revolutionary as the title or Busta's overall demeanor would lead one to believe. I wonder if Trevor woke up on January 1, 2000, took a gander out of the window, and shouted “Fuck! I knew I shouldn't have focused n that ridiculous Y2K myth for three fucking albums!”  I sincerely doubt it.

Tracks such as this make me wish that Busta Rhymes remained the go-to guy for a hip hop cameo, and not a solo artist with several albums under his belt. This isn't bad, but it most certainly isn't any good.

Is this your song of salvation? Because it sure as fuck isn't mine. Nottz brings a beat which sounds incomplete, the chanting on the chorus is unnerving, and, if played in reverse, Lucifer himself will rise from the underworld just to tell you to turn this shit off. And then he'll take your ice cream cone and sleep with your mother. Why? Because he's a dick, that's why.

If this song is about how “we built shit from the ground up”, then this is the equivalent of Zion in The Matrix Reloaded, and when taken as such, it's kind of funny to thing of all of those motherfuckers in the cave sequence dancing like Ewoks to some Busta Rhymes. Sadly, producer Swizz Beats will never be a part of any hip hop regeneration, his contributions to post-devastation Haiti notwithstanding, as he turns in yet another lackluster effort that I'm sure everybody but me fucking loves. For his part, Busta uses his talent to mesh with any sort of beat to good use, so he ends up sounding alright, but this track gets no love from me.

I guess it would be too much to ask for the Flipmode Squad to pass the mic around and cover the Phil Collins song, although that would have been fucking hilarious. All six members of the crew (Serious had already left, Lord Have Mercy was still hanging around, and Rah Digga was now in the fold) only get about eight bars each, so nobody sticks around long enough to annoy the listener. The beat (surprisingly handled by Jamal, also known as Mally G of Illegal and the Def Squad b-team) is decent, as well. The skit at the end has decidedly nothing to do with the end of the world, by the way.

I find it interesting when rappers reference other rap songs in their rhymes, whether they're talking about someone else's tracks or their own past work, so I found Busta's shout-out to Raekwon's “Ice Cream” to be pretty cool, even though the title of this song leads me to believe that the more obvious choice should have been Ol' Dirty Bastard's “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”. Regardless, this shit sucks mad cow taint. Has Busta Rhymes completely fallen off? Probably. But every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around.

Aside from Trevor's occasional excursions into complete gibberish, and a hook that will try your patience, this song wasn't that bad. I credit Rockwilder's instrumental, with its consistent tone that keeps things moving, as Busta hasn't gotten a chance to rhyme over something decent in quite a while, and when the artist and the beat click, it can be a beautiful thing. This song isn't perfect, but it'll do.

Unlike this weak shit. What the fuck, Busta? Are you actively trying to alienate your fan base? Because your plan is working.

The first single from E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, and by far the most creative track on the entire disc, with DJ Scratch looping Bernard Herrman's “Prelude from Psycho” and giving Busta Rhymes carte blanch to rip shit up. The skit that precedes “Gimme Some More” is ridiculous and does nothing to promote this track: conversely, the Hype Williams-helmed video is successful in its aping of an old-school Warner Brothers cartoon, albeit in live-action form. This is simply two minutes and thirty-eight seconds of Busta Rhymes perfection. No wonder it was pushed as a single. If only the rest of the album was up to the same standards.

Mystikal, a once-popular rapper who was convicted on charges of sexual battery and extortion, and was just recently released from prison, pairs up with our host for a track that was, ideally, supposed to showcase their similar styles and please fans of both artists. Busta forgets this arrangement entirely, and rips his rhyme partner to fucking shreds, leaving Mystikal by the side of the road like one of those chicks ditched by the Bang Bus. This would have made for an impressive feat if the song were memorable in the least bit. Also, the title is far too long.

One of the few blessings of this album is the high number of tracks that clock in at under three minutes, as if Busta's schizophrenic personality couldn't be bothered with focusing on a single theme for longer than that allotment. On here, he wastes a perfectly good DJ Scratch beat with some inane party rhymes, and frankly, it deserved much better than that.

I believe this was a single as well, but not this Jimmie Spicer “Bubble Bunch”-sampling version: a remix (found on Violator: The Album) was released to radio instead. Busta is the perfect artist for this type of old-school beat, as well, and he fares a bit better than he did on “Everybody Rise”. Ultimately, this song is more of a novelty than anything that will cause you to hit 'repeat' on your iPod, but this isn't bad. The skit at the end is unnecessarily violent, but comically so, and I'll admit that I chuckled a couple of times, but now I feel dirty.

I have no basis for this feeling, but this instrumental (provided by Fantom Of The Beat) sounds to me like something that a solo Q-Tip may have declined before Busta picked up the pieces. This may explain why he doesn't sound one hundred percent comfortable on here, but at least he does the best he can. This will never become anybody's favorite song, but it could have been a lot worse.

On here, Busta Rhymes tries to be all things to all audiences, or at least two highly specific audiences: folks that like Busta Rhymes, and folks that still follow Janet Jackson's career. What he failed to include in his calculation is that the latter group's numbers have been dwindling ever since she dropped The Velvet Rope, and hiring her to sing about making you have wet dreams wasn't the best way for her to win her fans back. The fact that this was played to death on MTV and BET is more of a testament to the power or payola than anyone actually loving this song. As you can imagine, this isn't any good, but it wouldn't stop Trevor from hooking up with other R&B singers in the future. Sigh.

In my professional opinion, if you're ever in a club where the dance floor is flooded with a wave of shit from the restrooms (rendered warm to the touch by the hot spotlights), you probably will want to bounce...right up out of that club. That just isn't sanitary. Sometimes, rappers come up with metaphors that make absolutely no fucking sense.

Well, I would like you to provide some better music for me to listen to. But I can't have it all. The Diamond D instrumental is decent enough: another rapper could probably turn this into their signature track, but for Busta Rhymes, this is just another Tuesday morning. The end of the album is a strange place for Trevor to suddenly become aggressive, though.

Rap-rock has never really caught on for a really good reason: it usually sounds terrible. (I'm not even that big of a fan of Run DMC and Aerosmith's “Walk This Way”. Sue me.) So this track, which samples Black Sabbath's “Iron Man”, is predictably awful, which is interesting, since Busta's manic energy would seem to be a perfect fit for a rock song. (Maybe he should try another genre entirely: can you picture what could happen if Trevor paired up with The Prodigy?) I'm more impressed with the fact that Busta convinced Ozzy Osbourne to actually appear in the studio, but I'm still left wondering how in the hell they hooked up in the first place.

This outro is over five minutes long, which is completely reckless unless there's a hidden track that appears, which there is not. The title is also misleading: this isn't a song, it's a spoken word performance by a paranoid Trevor Smith. God, what a fucking waste of my time this has been.

FINAL THOUGHTS: E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front is some bullshit pressed onto vinyl and wax that was shipped to store shelves under the banner of “entertainment”. Instead of any actual good music, what we receive is nineteen tracks of Busta Rhymes on cruise control, a man who is not interested even the slightest bit in elevating his craft, choosing instead to continue recording the same song over and over again. (“The world's going to end?” Check. “Flipmode is the squad!” Check.) This bloated mess contains exactly one good song, which makes for some truly pathetic odds, not to mention a severe waste of your money. Seriously, what the fuck?

BUY OR BURN? Don't do either one: purchasing or downloading this album would give it the validation that it does not deserve. Instead, track down the lone good song and let this one be.

BEST TRACKS: “Gimme Some More”


Maybe you'll have better luck with the other Busta Rhymes write-ups, which you can read by clicking here.


  1. Yup. Exact same thoughts (except for the Mystikal and Ozzy Osbourne songs)

    Had this disc, I only found "Iz They Wildin' Wit Us & Gettin' Rowdy Wit Us" interesting, not great but interesting (more beat wise), I liked the beat to "This Means War!!!"..... but I think that was because I like Black Sabbath's "Iron Man", and I did like "Gimme Some More".

    I think though the more interesting parts of the disc were... the skits. Normally skits annoy the shit out of me but the Intro, Camp skit, and the skit at the end of "Against All Odds"... the one before "Gimme Some More" was just weird.

    The only other thing I liked from this album was the artwork inside with Busta Rhymes holding those blade, ring-like things. I scanned that photo, turned it black and white and made it the cover of a Wu-Tang Clan mix I made....... I then proceeded to sell the CD.

  2. I actually really love the Nottz beats on here, i think they are some of the best of the whole late 90s. And Hot shit makin you bounce is still hilarious.

    But its not really good as an LP, you re right. And no Dilla tracks, Busta wtf..?

  3. "there's only one other rapper that takes to the mic alongside Trevor: the like-minded but more-prone-to-sexual-battery Mystikal"

    It's quotes like this that give this site staying power

  4. A.R. MarksMarch 29, 2010

    I liked the title track. Only thing other than "Gimme Some More" though.

  5. "... and, if played in reverse, Lucifer himself will rise from the underworld just to tell you to turn this shit off. And then he'll take your ice cream cone and sleep with your mother. Why? Because he's a dick, that's why." Shit, you had me laughing for straight five minutes nonstop!
    So fucking great.
    "Take it Off" is a favorite of mine. Would play this at a party.
    Why all the hate for Swizz Beatz? Dude is certainly no the greatest producer of all time, but a few of his beats really knock.
    What do you think of "Touch It", Max?
    (But I guess I'll have to wait four years to find out, since you don't seem to be able to sit through more than one Busta album per year.)

  6. I love the "Everybody Rise", track and Busta came off on it as well. I found this for 99 cents at a Pawn America a few years back. There are a least 6 or 7 decent songs, which I would say is at least worthy of a burn (if not a purchase for a few dollars). Love the blog, keep up the good work.

  7. Not that I really agree or disagree with you, but you sound like a pathetic angry person and you're mostly just hating the whole time in this "review"

    True, the CD was disappointing, but who cares if he used to be an animal trainer. Most stars used to have shitty jobs, and most of em have stage names, so pull that stick out of ur ass and wipe the crap off it and put it in the same place as your lame ass articles

    1. thats his whole shtick.. he often is super negative and then is his Final words sum up, will say he thinks the album is quite good.. as if being negative as fuck was "funny" or something.. i sometimes find Max's reviews funny or respect his opinion... until i saw through his persona.

    2. You write this as though I personally ran over your cat or something. Thanks for reading!

  8. ^^^ Cosign Jacob. Being critical is cool but this is straight-up "hater" bullshit! I hate using the term "hater", ironically, but think it's pretty apt right now. Came across this page randomly and kinda laughed at how negative it is. Delete or do what you will with this comment, it's just my opinion.

  9. Lol ok, it's a pretty shitty album. Stand by what I said about unneccessary criticism... but it's incredibly tough to get through and pretty damn awful!

  10. i couldn't disagree more with this review, this album is full of bangers. "everybody rise", "song of salvation", "gimme some more", "what the fuck you want", etc.

    I'd give E.L.E. a solid 4/5 stars.

  11. Obviously dude was a little kid or something when this came out. If you were a hip hop head and over 18 when this came out. You'd know this album was dope. the reviewers perspective is skewed.