Earlier today, Busta Rhymes dropped a new single, “Calm Down,” which finds the head-banging hip-hop iconoclast facing off against fellow veteran MC Eminem over the span of nearly six minutes atop a clangorous beat by Scoop DeVille that’s based around a sample of Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle,” better known as the horn part from House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” As you might expect from two of the most verbose rappers in the game, the song is a relentlessly dense torrent of lyric-spitting that reaffirms some of the classic battle-rap values that have fallen out of fashion in recent years while avoiding getting bogged down in any “get off my lawn” old-man attitude.
Busa Bus talked to EW today in an exclusive interview about “Calm Down.” Below, hear the track and read what he has to say about the song and about the first time he heard Eminem rap.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been a minute since we’ve had a new single from you. What can you tell me about it?
BUSTA RHYMES: It’s pretty much one of those things that’s gonna stick out like a sore thumb. There’s just nothing happening like this anywhere right now. I think it’s one of those fundamentals of hip-hop, that fiery energy you get from Busta Rhymes. Sometimes things are better appreciated when they’ve been missed for a while. It’s gonna be a song that can really climate-shift the way the game is feeling right now. It’s real rap shit. It’s real hip-hop shit. It’s real boom-bap shit. It’s the traditional fundamentals of hip-hop in a 2065 way. This record embodies a little bit of the past, it embodies everything about the current, and it embodies everything about the future that people haven’t gotten yet. I don’t think you’ve heard Busta Rhymes and Eminem spit 60-plus bars on a record. The shit is six minutes long, and everything about it is “f–k the rules.”
You guys are both battle rappers from way back. What was it like for you two to go head-to-head?
The beauty of it is, like, in terms of battling, we both come from a time when the radio wasn’t as accessible as a way to expose what we were capable of. We come from the circumstances where you were left no choice but to compete and battle in order to be acknowledge as something worthy of being talked about. We still value that respectful, competitive nature we both have. It was important for us to make a record that…number one, I don’t want to make a record with people that I don’t like, that I’m not a fan of. If I like a song, I’ll rhyme on a song because I like your song, but it’s still important to me that at the end of the day, whether we really know each other, that we build a relationship so that the energy brings out the best of the record. Me and Eminem, you know, we’ve had a camaraderie and a friendship for a long time. I was a fan of Eminem before I even met him.
I broke a window on Wyclef’s tour bus back in 1996 when we went on the Smokin’ Grooves tour. He was the first one to let me hear Eminem. He had a five-song EP and I heard “Role Model” and “My Name Is” and his other songs, and I was blacking out so crazy that on my way out of the tour bus and was head-nodding so hard that I broke the windshield. And I hadn’t had a reaction to a record like that since Tribe’s Low End Theory, or P.E.’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, or Slick Rick’s Greatest Adventures of Slick Rick, BDP’s Criminal Minded–those albums made me react that way without thought. Animal instinct. So when I got this beat from Scoop Deville, it gave me the same reaction, and there are very few people that I deem worthy enough of matching the energy the beat was already contributing. When Em heard it, it was just automatic.