Picture this. The Summer of 2003 was a very memorable year for me. I graduated high school and was about to enter my freshman year of college. Oh yeah, and Joe Budden’s debut single, “Pump It Up” was blasting in everyone’s car. Many fans may have prematurely placed Joe Budden in a box of a pop rapper. “Pump It Up” remains Joe Budden’s biggest commercial hit. He has released several albums since then. However, if you think he is aiming to be a commercial rapper, think again. Nonetheless, he has found himself in rap battles with various Hip Hop artists, including Drake. From reality TV show appearances (Love & Hip Hop) to high profile beefs, he knows how to get attention. Once people hear his new album, Rage & The Machine though, they will understand that he deserves to be heard.
Joe Budden kicks the door down to the 11 track, 41 minute set with the aggressive “Three”. A choir and drums support his potent rhymes. He boasts himself as the “best rapper whipping New York plates”. His flow insinuates that he may have good reason to say so. He flares off a guttural warning shot to his haters on “Serious” featuring Joell Ortiz. Although the album features several guest appearances from Tory Lanez and Fabolous (“Flex”) to Stacy Barthe (“I Wanna Know”), Joe is always the star of the show.
Ironically, the shortest song on Rage & The Machine is also one of the best. “Forget” finds Joe Budden in rare form: vulnerable and apologetic. He specifically names Method Man and Inspectah Deck on his list of people he offended in the past. “I Gotta Ask” is a dark, club banger. He throws in a few recycled Jay Z verses (some of which were technically from Biggie) on a track with production reminiscent of the rap anthem,”Hard Knock Life”. Joe Budden sounds as confident and relevant as ever here.
Look for Joe Budden on tour this fall, in support of Rage & The Machine. The chip on his shoulder seems contrived at some points. However, this album proves he is one of the most underrated rappers of our time. He proves he can still weave in and out of pop influenced songs (“Time for Work”) and maintain his gritty street credibility. Many rappers can’t say they are still relevant 13 years after their debut. Perhaps his legacy is defended best on “Wrong One”, where he warns naysayers and doubters with the commanding voice of a veteran. Don’t sleep on one of the most solid rap albums of the year.