In an era when artists are expected to microwave their crafts, Joe Budden and producer araabMUZIK let their joint project Rage & the Machine slow cook. Holing up in the rapper’s New Jersey home for months, their non-stop creative process was punctuated by the 36-year-old MC schooling the 27-year-old producer on the musical stylings of New Edition and Roberta Flack. And though the album is named after a ‘90s rock band, the result of their intensive collaboration is unequivocal hip-hop, riddled with meticulously crafted bars and backdrops.
For Budden, the motivation for this was simple: to create the kind of music he craved.
“Hip-hop seems to target the demographic of maybe 17 to 23, and so sometimes as a 35-36 year old man, you are in search of a hip-hop that suits you. I know that’s always been my struggle, and every time, I end up asking myself that question. I reminded myself that I’m an MC and I can make it myself for the people that feel that way. So that’s what I did.”
Rage & the Machine marks the first project on which Budden has worked with a sole producer, with araabMUZIK’s process contributing to the album’s nostalgic make-up. Taking on the “machine” role for the project with his skills on the MPC, araabMUZIK’s sounds were joined by Budden’s lyrical aggression, accounting for the “rage” portion of the album’s title. The project also marks another first for Budden: his first go-round as an independent artist.
“As far as business, I’m celebrating my independence,” he said. “I feel like I have worked my entire career to be in this predicament and this spot that I’m in. I’m really excited about it. It gives me more things to learn today so I’m excited about that.”
Along with its firsts, the 11-track opus also finds Budden sticking to the script. Donning the hat of a hip-hop elder statesman, he embraces the position on a track titled “Uncle Joe” (“As Uncle Joe I wear that age like it's a three-piece suit”). “Flex” rounds up Tory Lanez and Fabolous for a track for the ladies. Joell Ortiz assists for a classic tag-team with “Serious.” Stacy Barthe helps provide soulful introspection on “I Wanna Know.” But even without collaborators, Budden more than occupies each track, opening the album on a high note with “Three,” giving a nod to Jay Z on “I Gotta Ask,” catering to the streets on “Wrong One” and paying homage on “Idols.”
At thirteen years in the game, nerves don’t overcome Budden with new releases anymore. Instead, he remains one step ahead of the criticism.
“I think a lot of times the fans don’t understand that there’s no one as tough on artists than themselves,” Budden said. “So by the time the art is ready to be released, anything you could possibly say, my spinwheel of a brain has already probably assessed that and analyzed that a million different ways."
Watch Joe Budden talk Rage & the Machine in the video above.
(Photo: Randy Smith/BET)