“Time for Work,” a brand new banger on Joe Budden’s Rage & The Machine, claims that his shit “Is only for the grown and sexy…35 and up”. Joey ain’t lying. Rage & The Machine is a diamond in the rough, mixed and mastered for a core audience of hip hop lifers and those old enough to appreciate and celebrate moments of true hip hop bliss with the Jersey City vet.
Budden’s 2016 has been marred by a self-induced “battle” with the biggest artist on the planet. Antagonizing Drake seemed great for the sport, except Drake couldn’t have cared less, which played out like a poorly executed Budden publicity stunt. Carefully curated within all the Drake drama was a hefty dose of marketing for Rage & The Machine, which some interpreted as forced or even worse a cry for help from an MC who has at times battled with drugs and issues of mental health.
Rage & The Machine’s genius is the powerful combination of a killer MC and air-tight AraabMuzik production. Muzik’s machine provides a nostalgic yet fresh pace and tempo throughout the 11-song set with each track making a strong case for single consideration as long as you’re willing to keep up with Budden’s rage; a dialed up stream of consciousness that just might be incomparable in hip hop today.
There are plenty of moments dedicated to Budden’s frailty and instability, but this time around there’s a calculated balance of life lessons and straight flexing. “Serious” finds Budden shoulder to shoulder with Joel Ortiz, his Slaughterhouse brethren, the two firing off syllables that today’s rap heroes would need a thesaurus and Wikipedia to decipher. “I Wanna Know” is a romantic ode to the way it’s supposed to be, with a completely realistic nod towards the way things shake out.
Rage & The Machine is vital for today’s rap in the sense that there is still a need for MC’s to stand and deliver the type of dexterous, venomous bars that built the foundation of the genre. This is not a record for the 2016 charts, and therein lies the rub. While Budden unleashes his insane (arguably top 5?) skill set on “Uncle Joe”, “By Law”, and “Time For Work”, new age hip hop fans will unsuccessfully search for the turn up (“Wrong One” comes close), while uncovering nothing but a firm lesson in beats and rhymes, anchored by Budden’s newfound center of gravity.