A Conversation With Joe Budden On ‘Rage & The Machine’ Album, Being Inspired By Public Enemy & Modern Hip Hop
Yohance Kyles (@HUEYmixwitRILEY)
(AllHipHop Feature) With the final weeks of the 2016 presidential contest dissolving into a race to the bottom, many citizens across the country have openly expressed their anger at the current American system. In some cases, that resentment toward the establishment has converted into outright rage.
It’s in that climate that veteran rhymer Joe Budden returns with his latest musical offering. The Slaughterhouse member connected with production partner AraabMuzik for the upcoming Rage & The Machine album.
With Araab handling the beats, Budden tackled the bars. The Jersey-bred podcast host previewed the LP with the early releases “Flex” with Tory Lanez and Fabolous as well as the Jazzy assisted “By Law.” Rage also features appearances by Joell Ortiz, Emanny, and Stacey Barthe.
Budden first broke onto the scene in the early 2000’s under the Def Jam umbrella. He would later release several projects via the Amalgam Digital and eOne independent labels. But now the 36-year-old East Coast representative is on his own with Mood Muzik Entertainment.
In part one of my conversation with Joe Budden, we talked about Rage & The Machine being his first self-release. The topics of whether a major label is still necessary in modern times, the rise of internet culture, and the transformation of Hip Hop were discussed too.
AllHipHop: Rage & The Machine is a joint effort with you and AraabMuzik. Does the album title represent each of you in some way?
Joe Budden: Araab is the machine, because of his immense talent and capabilities on that MPC [drum machine]. It’s very throwback and nostalgic. We don’t often see producers create that way, and they certainly don’t have the hands and techniques that he does. Rage with me is for so many different reasons - the aggression we were going to attack each verse with, the mood overall you would walk away with listening to my entire discography, and love broken down. And of course, the iconic band Rage Against The Machine. It just made all the sense in the world to name the collection that.
AllHipHop: I was listening to your podcast, and you talked about the content on this album being different from All Love Lost. You’re very personal with your music. So was there something that happened over the last year or so that caused you to go in this direction?
Joe Budden: No, I wouldn’t say there was anything in particular that occurred. I think Araab laying the groundwork and me just feeding off him and the mood in the studio… We changed a few things in our work schedule and routine. He was with me quite a bit. I think we just fed off of each other, and that’s the energy that manifested.
AllHipHop: I saw you've said you were thinking about doing a sequel. Is that still in the works?
Joe Budden: Yes. Definitely, 100 percent. I like sequels. [laughs]
AllHipHop: I also heard the pre-order sales are doing well. Do you have any expectations for this album as far as sales?
Joe Budden: Where the hell did you hear that at? [laughs]
AllHipHop: From somebody on your team.
Joe Budden: Oh, they’re biased then. They’re supposed to say that.
AllHipHop: Is that not the case?
Joe Budden: Actually, for me, this album is celebrating independence. So while I’ve never been a numbers guy, clearly I gotta look at the math because it’s my money on the table as opposed to the label’s [money]. It’s a different infrastructure. I’m looking forward to the new experience. I’ve worked to get here my entire career. Maybe I’m looking at the numbers differently. First week numbers are all that are really talked about in Hip Hop. When doing it this way, you really are more concerned with the life of the project and making sure as many people get to hear it as possible.
AllHipHop: You talked about your experience in the industry. You were signed to a major at one point. You were also signed to an indie. Now you're releasing this album under your own brand, your own company. Can you go into more detail on how the creation and rollout process has been different this time? Like you said, this is your money on the line.
Joe Budden: I think if anything, I’ve evolved in the communication all around. It’s been on a whole different front than I’m used to. I think the team has done a great job of how I’ve been projected. I’ve probably been much more active than I’ve been in recent history. The important thing is that that resonates in the music. All of that is pointless if we can’t hear it. So you can hear it on the album. By the grace of God.
AllHipHop: Do artists still need to sign to a major? You have so many different performers that are doing well and living a nice life just being independent. What are your thoughts about that? Do you think a major is even necessary at this point?
Joe Budden: It depends on what your objective is. Some people want to make their music as mainstream as possible and get it as widespread as they possibly can. They probably have hopes of getting on a label, because the label is going to spend and invest more money into you. I’ve never been into loans. I rather play with my own money. Always. I don’t understand why people so freely relinquish their rights today. Labels are decimated now more so than they’ve ever been before. The leverage and power are much more in the artist’s hands than they’ve ever been. Actually, I don’t even know if there is even such a thing as a rollout anymore. I could make that argument. With that said, what the f-ck do I need a label for?
AllHipHop: You’ve always been at the forefront of internet culture. Even before social media, you used your brand to directly connect with your fans. Way before a lot of other artists and the labels saw that approach. At the time, did you realize you were setting a new bar?
Joe Budden: I knew I was doing something different. I knew I was taking a different approach. I knew I was ahead of something, ahead of the curve. I was only proven to be right once everybody else joined and started doing things in this new way that labels were previously ignoring. I was just ahead of things. Foresight is always important in business. Luckily, throughout my career I’ve been a beneficiary of some extremely good foresight.
AllHipHop: Going back to the project. Both the cover art for Rage and the video for “By Law” were shot in black-and-white. Was there any symbolism behind that black-and-white theme?
Joe Budden: I like black-and-white. I like black-and-white like I like sequels. Black-and-white is pretty underrated. Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions [To Hold Us Back] - that album was so influential, to not only the emcee I became, but the man I grew into. When I think Hip Hop with a message, I think all black. So you saw me in all black often in this process. By happenstance, every time they had a camera, I was in black.
AllHipHop: So that was just by chance, but it ended up working out?
Joe Budden: When you live it, it’s easy to capture. There’s no conversation to be had. There’s no gimmick. There’s no plan to put into effect when you just let something be.
AllHipHop: Jumping off of that and even going back to what you said about PE, I was listening to your freestyle with Styles P. There was a line where you said that the entire game is “meek.” Obviously, Hip Hop is evolving over time. But in your opinion, what do you think has caused this present-day Hip Hop to become “meek” in your view?
Joe Budden: There are too many variables. But probably overall, fan consumption. In Hip Hop, what’s hot has always been a representation of what the kids in a certain age demographic thought was hot. So the times are just reflecting the kids and culture today. It’s like what Kid ‘N Play was to our generation. I’m happy there’s a Hip Hop for kids. I’m happy there’s a Hip Hop for adults. I’m happy Hip Hop is so well represented and diversified today.
AllHipHop: Some people make the argument that what’s happening today is not necessarily Hip Hop, it’s its own break-off genre and maybe it should have its own name.
Joe Budden: It would still be birthed from Hip Hop. It would still be Hip Hop’s offspring. It’s still directly related to Hip Hop. Does it sound like it’s a subgenre being curated? Yes. That doesn’t eliminate Hip Hop or make it greater.