“Calm Down,” Busta Rhymes‘ frenetic, breakneck new track from his forthcoming album Extinction Level Event 2, finds the veteran rapper trading 60-bar verses with Eminem, whose rhymes range from the sublime to the sophomoric. It’s not the duo’s first collaboration — see 2006’s “I’ll Hurt You” — but for Busta, it represents the once-dominant strain of punchline- and allusion-based hip-hop.
“It’s a bare bones hip-hop, fundamental, boom-bap record,” the rapper tells Rolling Stone. “It’s samples, hard kicks, hard snares and a whole lot of fucking bars of rapping with both metaphors and punchlines. It’s a friendly reminder to today’s generation of what this whole thing is based on.”
As with his Q-Tip collaboration on “Thank You,” the rapper says he was inspired by the competitive nature of his collaborator to work harder on his verse. “When you wildin’ with artists that you respect and you know they ain’t playing no fucking games, I look forward to these moments because he is going to bring the best out of me,” says the rapper. “I know that I ain’t gonna play with him in the same way that he’s not going to play with me. And the beautiful shit about that is that we are supposed to make each other better and bring the best out of each other.”
Busta’s admiration for Eminem goes back to the late Nineties, when he first heard Eminem’s Slim Shady EP while traveling as part of the Smokin’ Grooves tour. Before the two had ever met, Busta almost suffered a medical injury from hearing Em’s flow.
“We were on the Smokin’ Grooves tour in the back of one of the venues,” recalls the rapper. “Wyclef has this big-ass studio on his bus so we always wanted to go hang out and he was playing the Slim Shady EP. Before I could actually get on the bus, I was standing on the three little steps that you walk up to get on to the bus and I was nodding my head so fucking hard, going crazy, that I hit my head on the windshield and broke the whole fuckin’ windshield of Wyclef’s bus. It fucked the whole glass up.
“The fucking shit that I was hearing from him created an animal instinct reaction,” added the rapper. “There was no thought that went into the way I reacted; it was just so powerfully compelling that i just bugged out. And there are very few moments like that, for me, that made me feel like that. When I first heard him, I didn’t know if he was white or black or where he came from. All I knew is what he was making me feel like made me almost push my head through a windshield.”
Rhymes said he hopes to release Extinction Level Event 2 sometime this fall.