Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front is the third studio album by rapper, Busta Rhymes. It, like the two previous, The Coming (1996) and When Disaster Strikes (1997), follows an apocalyptic theme.
This could maybe be attributed to his apparent upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness who, roughly speaking, believe in an afterlife, post annihilation of the world we live in, only for those who are adherents to their particular sect of Christianity.
It reached #12 on the official US Billboard 200, and on January 8, 1999, the album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping 1,000,000 copies.
Looking back in retrospect, to December 15 of 1998, that album’s matured well in its eighteen years. It spawned singles “Everybody Rise”, “Gimme Some More” and “What’s It Gonna Be?!”
The album cover, suitably given the theme of the music, was influenced by popular disaster movies at the time of the album’s release, primarily Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998). Busta Rhymes confirmed in an interview that it was, indeed, inspired by the latter. It’s meant to be an asteroid hitting New York City, rendered ablaze.
It’s all doom and gloom on “There’s Only One Year Left!!! (Intro)”. This one shimmers, with a young girl asking her father what the future will be like, getting a very apocalyptic response: “…p*ssed off androids, tired of being slaves to a godless and gutless system, where the rich get richer and the poor get f*cked over and out, unleash total worldwide destruction by means of nuclear holocaust”.
The urging of “Everybody Rise” pounds relentless, Busta’s animated delivery likewise. It has piano both tragic and graceful, interspersed with flourishes dramatic drum.
The slightly odd “Where We Are About To Take It” has a quirky beat, a glitchy melody like a processed xylophone, descending in an infectious loop.
The album strides on with “Extinction Level Event (The Song Of Salvation)”. This one’s evocative of a Far Eastern folkish vibe, a real swing to it. As usual Busta’s bouncing off the walls with particular vigour.
The anthemic “Tear Da Roof Off” opens with a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning, before kicking in proper with tightly syncopated string and drum. Busta certainly rides the beat expertly, opening with the declaration “…after the ultimate world blast that ended all things; this is how we rebuilt sh*t, from the underground up”.
Cameos aplenty in “Against All Odds”, which features The Flipmode Squad. This is another glitchy sounding one at first, before kicking into a serious posse track. Booming drum heralds grave proceedings, grand entrances for The Flipmode Squad. A subsequent hilarious skit sees a fed up mother telling her son that only “…gang members listen to that crap”, regarding rap.
The not so much pleading as demanding “Just Give It To Me Raw” sees, again, what seems like Far Eastern vibes rear their head. Quirky and definitely worthy of a spin on the dancefloor, yet also providing an excellent foundation upon which Busta can lace his grooving, syncopated raps.
Busta asks you to “Do It To Death”, and it has deep bass, yet intermittent and sparse. He certainly changes up his delivery in this one, chewing words without getting a sore mouth or lockjaw. His meandering raps do get hoarser as they go on, however he never falters.
“Keepin’ It Tight” has funky, wah-wah inflected guitar permeating around a grooving track with a bit of a swing to it. Said guitar heralds the end of each bar, giving a stop start vibe countered by densely packed deliveries. A humorous skit, “Donald Trump delivers my newspapers and I don’t even tip him”, ends the track.
Pleading and demanding, again, in “Gimme Some More”. It opens with one of the most memorable introductions to a rap track:
“As a shorty playing in the front yard of the crib/Fell down, and I bumped my head/Somebody helped me up and asked me if I bumped my head/I said, ‘Yeah’/So then they said, ‘Oh, so that mean we gon’, you gon’ switch it on ’em?’/I said ‘Yeah, Flipmode; Flipmode is the greatest’/Knowing as a shorty, I was always told that if I ain’t gon’ be part of the greatest, I gotta be the greatest myself”.
Soaring string is ghostly amidst flourishes of bass and hard, industrial sounding drum. It’s arguably got one of the best flows on the album, maybe even his entire discography.
The high octane “Iz They Wildin Wit Us & Gettin Rowdy Wit Us”, featuring Mystikal, is like a sparring session between Busta and the cameo. Both renowned as rappers with particularly fast flows. It’s some feat to listen to, however some of the words are so fast as to render them indistinct. The beat is equally intense, what sounds like fiddly, high octane bass paired with busy drum.
“Party Is Goin’ On Over Here” is understated soulful rap mixed with hard drum, drum punctuating unrelenting rap.
There’s then the moody “Do The Bus A Bus”. It has moody bass underpinning a glitchy supermarket till sounding melody. The pre-chorus line of “bite the dust, you like to fuss, look right at us/I know you like to cuss, who could you trust to bring the rush?” is particularly memorable.
Raps are wound so tight they might collapse any second: the beat, however, ridden so expertly that there’s no danger of that happening. The track ends with a counsellor being mauled by a bear in front of children around a campfire.
“Take It Off” has a calypso feel to it, very danceable and like a fair few tracks already heard so far. A backdrop suiting clever, busy flows. Those flows only slowing during the chorus, elsewhere animated to the end.
The sassy “What’s It Gonna Be?!”, featuring Janet Jackson, is arguably the standout track on the album. Given the very special cameo on the track, it’s only suitable that the track features very sexy flourishes of wah-wah guitar. It’s a particularly broody number, notes ringing out for the mood to properly permeate throughout the listener.
“Hot Sh*t Makin Ya Bounce” is kicked back, almost a sort of reggae funky hybrid. What seems wah-wah guitar appears to be a staple throughout the album, this song absolutely. Drum laces a solid beat, a good sparse foundation to lace something perhaps not as syncopated as other tracks earlier in the album. “I ain’t done yet, before I go to my permanent home/Make sure you put ‘One Of The Illest’ on my tombstone”.
Busta asks, rather aggressively, “What The F*ck Ya Want!!” and it’s definitely one of those more crazy, syncopated moments. It sounds like a nod to “Apache” by The Sugarhill Gang. It booms and pounds, Busta lacing the rap equivalent of Metallica drum syncopating with guitar. Thrash rap.
Big gun rocker, “This Means War!!”, features Ozzy Osbourne. This borrows heavily from “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, just with slightly altered lyrics sung by Ozzy. Arguably, this track was this reviewer’s introduction to Sabbath and Ozzy. A favourite line from it goes as thus:
“So amazing how many times you plot and you scheme/But what you don’t realize, you’ll never conquer my dream/Though devilish karma can’t penetrate the steel in my armour/Time passed, my oppression got you living with drama”.
Busta implores, to the tune of that wild middle section in the Sabbath original, “Whatchu gon’ do? Whatchu gonna do?/Where you think you can run, or you can hide?”
Death is a means to an end in “The Burial Song (Outro)”, and it’s almost the longest track on the album, clocking over five minutes. This is very much Busta foretelling an apocalypse, detailing where humankind is going wrong; his words very much mirroring what said at the beginning of the album.
Ones to check out on this effort are “Tear Da Roof Off”, “Gimme Some More”, “Do The Bus A Bus”, “What’s It Gonna Be?!” and “Hot Sh*t Makin’ Ya Bounce”.
This reviewer is of the opinion that this is amongst the strongest in the Busta Rhymes entire discography, if not the strongest. Certainly it’s one of his most consistent, which is a feat when trying to pull off a concept album. Loosely based on the themes of Armageddon, it’s a glitchy soundtrack to post apocalypse life. Busta Rhymes’ Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front can be heard on iTunes here.
Words by Andrew Watson