Younger hip-hop fans wouldn't be faulted for being more familiar with Joe Budden as a divisive personality within the culture than as an actual emcee.
Through his podcast as well as his highly publicized beef with Drake, Joe has spent much of the last two years garnering more headlines for his antics and incendiary comments than his actual music, which is arguably part of his genius.
On his newest album Rage & The Machine, however, Joe seems to be hungrier than ever and is out to remind hip-hop of the abilities that brought him to the forefront of the industry in the first place. Not only that, but he’s doing it independently for the first time, a development he excitedly shared with Yoh in their conversation last month.
This is my first time being 100%, truly independent. Distribution only. I’m very excited about this. I’m very eager. I worked my entire career to get to this point.
While Budden has always remained unapologetically himself, on Rage & The Machine he seems more focused and at peace with himself than ever before. At times, he even seems happy. With AraabMUZIK on production duties, Joe's lyrical complexities are given the perfect supporting soundscape, always supplementing him and never detracting from the focal point: Joe's thoughts.
With tracks like “Serious” and “Time For Work,” Joe is in peak lyrical form, displaying the wit and ferocity of the entire Slaughterhouse collective, but as it’s always been with Joe, that’s only half of the picture.
Budden’s emotional honesty and vulnerability have always been a strong suit, and a key point with which his fans have related, and Rage & The Machine is no different.
If you take music off this planet you have to take me with it. That’s always my stance, I’m always going to fall on the side of music. That’s just who I am. It’s just in me. It’s my spin wheel of a brain. It’s my insanity in audio form. It’s my therapy in audio form.
On “Uncle Joe,” the veteran emcee comes to terms with the fact that he’s now considered an “old guy” within the hip-hop landscape. It’s a track that perfectly marries the musings of a “bitter old head” with the very real feelings of unfamiliarity and fear that come with aging in an industry dominated by youth.
On a broad level, Rage & The Machine manages to compile all of the aspects that make Budden a great emcee while maintaining the honesty and vulnerability that Joe has championed throughout his career, and still sound fresh.
With this new album, Joe reminds us that he’s an emcee first and foremost, and still perfectly capable of delivering quality music, as well as stirring the pot when needed.
Rage & The Machine is out now, with guest features from Fabolous, Joell Ortiz, Tory Lanez, Stacy Barthe and more. Stream the album in full below, via Spotify.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram