The best rapper alive, according to Joe Budden
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The best rapper alive, according to Joe Budden

Joe Budden is a figure who, over the past decade, has had an extreme resurgence. The New Jersey emcee first emerged in the early-2000s and was a big name on the New York City mixtape circuit. In 2003, he released his well-known hit ‘Pump It Up’.

Although Budden was widely considered one of hip-hop’s most gifted lyricists, during the early-2000s, potent artists such as Eminem, Lil Wayne, and 50 Cent quickly eclipsed Budden. After becoming a one-hit-wonder, the New Jersey act struggled with drugs and has since been open about his ongoing struggle with addiction.

After ‘Pump It Up’, only the rhymer’s cult fanbase paid significant attention to his music. He formed a supergroup with Crooked I, Royce da 5’9″ and Joell Ortiz in 2008, named Slaughterhouse. However, even with the support of Eminem, the collective failed to become commercially successful.

Budden re-entered the public eye in 2012 after he joined the reality TV show Love & Hip-Hop: New York and shortly after began his successful rebrand as a cultural commentator, first becoming a co-host of the Complex YouTube series Everyday Struggle. He then became the primary host of the series State Of The Culture before eventually forming his podcast, The Joe Budden Show. 

On his podcast, Budden speaks about a range of artists and aims at prominent figures, including Drake, Logic, and Nicki Minaj. However, in 2022, the New Jersey musician returned to Complex for an interview as part of their ‘Brackets’ YouTube series where, in a playoff-style game, he decided who the best rapper alive was.

When asked to pick who deserves to go through the next round between Drake and Pusha T, Budden stated, “I love Drake’s new project. Couldn’t be more thrilled when it’s on, but it wasn’t a rap album. He’s not a rapper he’s an artiste. Pusha’s a rapper. [If it’s] best rapper alive that takes that artiste shit out the window because, on a rap list, I don’t know if I have Drake above Pusha T. I’ma go with Pusha T.”

Budden also had to pick between Nas and Jay-Z, one of the most iconic battles ever. Discussing this with the host B. Dot, the ‘Pump It Up’ lyricist, stated, “Nas is on a three-album run and Hov continues to leave earth, but ‘God Did’ is more current. I gotta say Hov!”

After dwindling the list down to just two MCs, Budden was left with Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z. However, with ease, Budden confirmed that he believes Jay-Z is the best rapper alive. 

You can watch Joe Budden on Complex’s ‘Brackets’ appearance in the video below.