It is no secret that Busta Rhymes is the original master of guest verses. Time and time again, Busta has managed to redefine his career by stealing the show on another artist's song. Going all the way back to A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario (Remix)" up to Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now," he always comes correct.
So what happens when the legendary rapper has to battle the "Rap God," Eminem, on his own song? The result is "Calm Down." Produced by Scoop Deville, it's almost six minutes long and has no chorus. Instead, Busta and Em deliver extra long verses one after the other over a simple horn-infused break beat. Em destroys his verse, of course, but Busta holds his own, and at this point, there is no clear-cut winner in this battle.
Complex got Busta on the phone to talk about how "Calm Down" came together. He also talked about his upcoming album, E.L.E. 2 and explained why he is choosing to make a sequel of a classic album. Ever gracious, he also talked about the social media slander he received for his outfit selection at the BET Awards. One thing is for certain: Busta Rhymes will never stop being Busta Rhymes.
How did "Calm Down" come together?
Scoop Deville gave me the beat and I loved it. I immediately made a song to it called “Calm Down.” It was just two 16-bar verses. After marinating on the record for some time, I felt like this would be an incredible record for Eminem to get on. I called my manager, Chris Lighty, and I asked him to set up a meeting with Paul Rosenberg, Eminem’s manager. This was actually one of the last meetings I had with Chris before he passed away. We left the song with Paul Rosenberg but we didn’t actually get any feedback about whether [Eminem] was going to jump on it.
About six weeks passed by, my partner Shaheem Reid reached out to Riggs Morales, who was an A&R at Shady Records at the time. He came by the studio to hear the song, and two weeks later, we finally got a confirmation from Paul that Em had got the beat and that he’s fucking with it. A few months passed by, and I got a call from Paul. He wanted to meet me in the studio. He came and played Em’s verse, and I was blown away. What was interesting to me though was that Em did a 42 bar verse. Because we’re known for pretty much fucking everybody up when we get on records with other artists, it became a competitive process.
My hat is off to Eminem because he genuinely still cares about the music. He very much cares about being a thoroughbred MC.
I went back and I wrote 50 bars. We then scheduled a mix session for the song and when I got to Detroit, he listened to my verse, heard that it was 50 bars, he went back and turned his 42 bars into a 60 bar verse. At that point I went back and turned my 50 bar verse into a 62 bar verse. And then Em made his verse a 64 bar verse. [Laughs.] It started off from just doing a dope, high energy hip-hop record into us respectfully competing and damn near battling each other.
But one thing that I love the most about working with Em is that he brings the best out of me. And I was able to do the same for him. It’s very much a rewarding feeling and an honor when you work with one of your favorites and he invests time and is meticulous and makes corrections and adjustments. That just shows each other how much we respect each other’s pen and how much we respect each other’s ability and skill set.
My hat is off to Eminem because he genuinely still cares about the music. He very much cares about being a thoroughbred MC and wouldn’t ever be the type of artist that has to worry about letting me down or compromising his skill set because he’s trying to do something that people think is cool. We’re those special one of ones that allows us to stand alone and survive the test of time. You can’t put a timeline on us because we know how to not only shift the climate of music, but we also know how to set the standard of where the game needs to be.
How long did it take to finish the record?
It took us about seven months to go back and forth because we still had other commitments and tours to go on. So sometimes I would have to wait a couple of months to get Em’s new adjustment back and vice versa.
So were you guys emailing versions with the new verses?
We definitely didn’t email it because we had to make sure that there was absolutely no possibility of a leak. A lot of the time the record was hand delivered. We really didn’t deal with technology too much. Motherfuckers had to get on planes to drop the hard drive [with the song] off. You know what I’m saying?
So now "Calm Down" is the lead single for the upcoming album, right?
Extinction Level Event 2, yes it is. Official first single.
And when are you expecting that to come out at this point?
In an ideal world, I would want it to come out around November. But I’m dealing with some sample clearance legal issues. Until that process is resolved, I can’t actually lock in the way I want to on my date. But so far the sailing has been smooth. Regardless, it’s definitely coming this year.
I’m the same dude who could comfortably put on Givenchy, Tom Ford, and then could come through, turn around and customize a sleeveless trench vest like the one that I had on when I was standing next to Martha Stewart.
What about Extinction Level Event caused you to make a sequel for it?
I actually didn’t choose it. It was just something that was constantly being inquired about by social media. I was never one that entertained the idea of doing any sequel albums. I’ve never done a sequel album in the 22 years of my career, and I’m on my tenth solo album right now. So for me, it probably would have never happened unless the demand was there.
But it really wasn’t just about the demand from the consumer; it was also about the fact that the actual album itself started to evolve into that. It felt like the original Extinction Level Event. We started working on the album, and one day I sat back and looked at what was going on and I saw a lot of the original cast from Extinction Level Event were actually on the new album. This was before we started to call it Extinction Level Event 2 . One thing led to another, and it felt like this project demanded the title E.L.E. 2 . I don’t go against the grain when it comes to things aligning in a certain way as far as the stars are concerned, that’s usually how the magic happens.
Speaking of social media, did you happen to notice some of the commentary regarding the BET Awards?
I mean, I heard about shit but you know that’s cool.
Okay, fair enough. Is there anything else you want to—
No, what happened?
There were people talking about your attire at the award show. I didn’t know whether it was something you cared about or just ignored.
It’s a good thing. One thing people have to remember about Busta Rhymes is that if I ever really gave a fuck, I wouldn’t be the same dude that everybody has grown to love 22 years later. I’m the same dude who could comfortably put on Givenchy shit, Tom Ford shit, and then could come through, turn around and customize a sleeveless trench vest like the one that I had on when I was standing next to Martha Stewart.
I love to do the things that other people can’t. I love to do the things that other people won’t. That’s what makes Busta Rhymes Busta Rhymes. If I started to change that, I think a lot of people would no longer feel the same way about the Busta Rhymes that they came to grow to love. I don’t do what I do to satisfy everybody. I do what I do to make the people that love Busta Rhymes happy, and that’s it.
The beautiful thing at the end of the day is that there’s never been a time in music when a motherfucker isn’t talking about Busta Rhymes. It’s when they stop talking that we have a concern. And I’m not really going to have that concern ever. You’re going to see me doing a whole of other shit in addition to this, because I’m always going to diversify the portfolio, and I’m always going to keep growing, and keep going. The same guy that you might have some bad shit to say about is going to be the same guy that’s going to fuck everybody up on every record that he gets on, and he’s going to outperform everybody on every stage that he performs on, and he’s going to wear whatever the fuck he wants, and he’s going to say what the fuck he wants, and he’s going to do what he wants because that’s the same guy that everybody has known to love.
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