Joe Budden: Escape Route (Album Review)

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Is there any one person who understands the thoughts that encircle the mind of Joseph Anthony Budden II? Very outspoken, many perceive his confidence and openness to voice his opinion as arrogant and disrespectful. After an idiotic emcee ranking contest by a now-defunct magazine, Budden’s remarks would fuel and nearly lead to a possibly historic clash (both inside and outside of the booth) between today’s premier lyrical collective, Slaughterhouse, and the Shaolin regime, the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. With that issue seemingly resolved and the Slaughterhouse LP finally released (to much critical acclaim), Jumpoff turns attention back to his solo career, prepping fans and critics alike for his third opus, The Great Escape.

Still feeling the after-effects of battles with personal demons on Padded Room, Escape Route finds Joe (defiant as ever in his search for an escape from his depression) lyrically bombarding the orchestral “Intro” with quotables, backed by a flip of the triumphant “Requiem For a Dream”. True to form, “Anti” presents one of his concentrated “vent” sessions, even tossing a few subliminals near Staten Island before Budden eases down the somber backdrop of “Never Again”, the tortured emcee reflecting on various points in his life and career, points that he vowed he would do again, a record that everyone can relate to.

Budden continues to spill his soul on wax with “Forgive Me” as he reflects over his image while also penning a noble apology letter to Method Man resolving their “situation”, all while backed by an elegant soundscape courtesy of Jared F. “State of You” and “Good Enough”, two additional gems provided by Jared F., showcase Joe’s introspective side, the latter seeing him acknowledge and relay his faults to his fans and how it seemed nothing was ever satisfactory so he strives for better than “good enough”.

The subliminal diss “No Comment” is a clever gem that stems from a movement in which Joe started in response to “bloggers, Twitter and BuddenTv” who lecture him over his honest opinion, opinions that some would consider to be outlandish. Who is he talking to/about on the record? No Comment. StreetRunner makes another strong case to be Slaughterhouse’s go-to producer with the energetic “We Outta Here” as each member of the conglomerate shreds his composition accompanied by an autotune-laden chorus. Subtlety reigns supreme on “Clothes On a Mannequin” as 1 quarter of the Slaughter presents his testimony about the difference between public perception and reality when it comes to his life, likening his very own “Truman Show” to that of a mannequin.

Escape Route stands as yet another stellar release in Joe Budden’s ever-growing catalogue of quality (his 4th release since 2007’s Mood Muzik 3). As fluid as this project is, had the album ended with the intense thrill ride that is “Freight Train”, it would easily be a five-star release. The addition of the Young Chris-assisted “Connect 4” as well as the Wale-featured bonus “Tito Santana” slows the album’s momentum though Royce and Budden’s chemistry on “For You” is undeniable. E.R. features the misunderstood mind of Joe Budden at his best: personable and honest, defiant yet focused and hungry as he’s ever been. Billed as a mere appetizer before The Great Escape, Route has a Mood Muzik-feel, Budden’s own “release therapy” session and an apt escape route as Joe Budden maps out his way to daylight and his own salvation.

4 spins (out of 5)

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