Words: Josh Fundafunda
Budgie is an engima. He’s a master of many sounds and pulls from a wide variety of influences to create his unique blend of music. The West London native has been living in LA for quite some time and the environment has rubbed off on him. RnB, soul, and especially Gospel are his speciality, and thanks to his immaculate sampling, he has quickly become a go-to producer for many artists in the underground hip-hop scene.
Budgie is also elusive. It can seem tough to gauge who he is from his online presence alone (what little of it there is). Luckily for fans we’ve got to look no further than his monthly NTS live DJ mixes, where, with each instalment, he brings a fresh set of songs to fill your playlists. They act like windows into his influences and paint a bigger picture of what Budgie is trying to achieve through his music.
Producer Budgie: An Enigma
The best version of Budgie’s music, however, is his solo work.He has a few ongoing series of releases that build on the genres he knows best. These projects are often short and sweet, each song reduced to the very essence of an idea. His Panty Soaker series (of which there are now six entries) is a seductive set of albums made to heat up the room. With each instalment, Budgie pulls from one distinct genre, creating a steamy collection of songs from a wide variety of sounds. The second entry, for example, pulls strictly from soul music; the third, almost entirely from vapour wave and Japanese funk; the fifth? Bossa-nova and Latin Jazz. Of them all, the fourth remains my favourite without a doubt – it may be my favourite Budgie album period.
Its genre of choice is Reggae and Lovers Rock, a perfect combination for this series of music. It’s packed full of wonderful vocal samples from the likes of Carl Jensen, Lorraine, and the late Jean Adebambo – Budgie manages to flip sappy into sexy. Track two, “Touch Me 2”, is an especially groovy highlight on the album with an infectious baseline. Just a hint of groove is all these tracks need from Budgie to elevate them to turn them into something new. The same can be said about track six, “In Control”, where Budgie breaths new energy into a classic sample. There’s something nostalgic about his songs – like hearing music from your dad’s speaker in the next room over – or the smell of an old school friend’s house. They’re fleeting, and pass by as quickly as they arrived.
Then there’s Holy Ghost Zone 1 and 2. These albums are deep dives into gospel music where Budgie samples choirs, preachers giving sermons and the energetic bands synonymous with churches across Southern United States. The first project manages to thread some funky baselines through its church samples on songs like “Sometimes” and “Want 2 Love U”, but they fall a little short. The second entry does little to improve (some of the sped-up vocals get especially tiring). Despite his obvious love and appreciation for the genre, this album format doesn’t seem to do it justice. That isn’t to say his production doesn’t work. Budgie’s style of gospel inspired production seems more successful when he works with collaborators. Thankfully, his solo work is only one half of what Budgie has on offer. His collaborative catalogue is second to none; from the likes of Kanye West, to Action Bronson, and Pink Siifu. Most recently, he produced the entirety of Navy Blue’s latest album, Ways of Knowing, where he brought a refreshing bounce to Sage’s music. It doesn’t feel like he concedes anything to the guest artists he works with, rather he elevates them through his music.
Budgie amongst the LA skyline
Take the West Coast inspired The Ballad of a Dopehead; a collaborative project with Budgie on production alongside rappers Jay Worthy and T.F. Alongside some fitting guest artists, this album could be its own radio station in a Grand Theft Auto game. Bumping 808’s, butter-smooth baselines, and voice boxes bring out that classic West Coast sound. Baselines are the bread and butter of this album. Listening to “Big Bank Biz” will turn any car trip into a low-rider cruise down Sunset Boulevard. If not, the title track will throw you back with its talk-boxes and cowbells. It’s a real highlight amongst his work and one that never fails to entertain. However, when it comes to collaborations, Budgie is probably best known for his work with The Alchemist. Together, the two co-produced The Good Book. Vol 1 and 2; two double-bill rap albums packed to the brim with church music and gospel samples. Besides being far better examplesof Budgie’s work with gospel,Vol. 2 actually introduced me to him in the first place. He seamlessly transitions from preacher’s speech, to sampled instrumental, to featured rap song, back into another speech. It’s a Sunday service in and of itself.
Like the first project, Vol. 2 is split 50-50; the first 22 tracks being The Alchemists handiwork, followed by another 23 tracks handled by Budgie. Features are dotted across the album, but it’s clear that the production is the star of this show. Neither shies away from flexing their muscles and leaving in fully instrumental tracks, but Budgie especially leans into the source music. “Salvation & Light” is a great example of a song letting its sample do the heavy lifting, while Budgie’s signature groove ties everything together. “Recess”, and “Take It Easy with the Lord” both feature spoken word and vocal performances from Joyce Wrice who plays both preacher and backing vocalist.
Budgie in the studio
This album is a great entry point to Budgie’s work and the wider realm of underground rap that he typically works in. Over the course of both albums a collection of featuring artists all have their moment to shine, many of whom may be new to you. It becomes a list of people to follow up on; whether that’s a Westside Gunn, a Mach-Hommy or someone like Traffic, projects like these are like a buffet for underground rap.
If nothing else, Budgie is a producer of vision (after all, who else is releasing riddim remixes of Drakes’Certified Lover Boy?). His knack for paying homage to so many different sounds and locales elevates him above the crowd. His latest release entry 0 in the Panty Soakers series, where he revisits the soul samples from the second entry with seven years more. With each release Budgie proves he’s a one-of-a-kind producer.