May 21, 2009

Joe Budden - Joe Budden (June 10, 2003)

By the way, running a Joe Budden review immediately following a Method Man project? Not entirely unintentional.

Maybe it's just because I'm getting older, but I don't really pay that much attention to most rappers that debut on mixtapes: there has to be some kind of spark or buzz, or someone has to put a gun to my head in order for me to divert my attention to the thousands of other artists I try to follow on a daily basis. With the infiltration of the Interweb into everybody's daily lives, it's become increasingly easier for an unknown artist to craft a song in ten minutes, upload it, and have it explode on blogs all over the universe. The problem is that most of these songs are fucking garbage. Long gone are the days when a label rep or an A&R went to shows to see local upstarts with promise, and the lucky few they liked would end up with a record deal. Nowadays, all one has to do is create your own label, and the middleman is skipped.

Not all mixtape artists are without talent, though. Look at Joe Budden (his real name): here's a guy who chooses to rap about issues that are important to him, like his troubled past, his efforts at getting past drug addiction, his previous failed relationships. Sure, he likes to party every now and then, but who doesn't? Joey made a name for himself with introspective tracks that helped distinguish him from other rappers trying to make a name for themselves (there's a popular freestyle featuring him, Fabolous, and Paul Cain floating around that seems to help make an argument for the guy: while Fabolous has become popular in the pop music realm, what the fuck happened to Paul? Huh?). This might be why he is now a part of the newest hip hop supergroup, Slaughterhouse, featuring rappers of merit (and with reams of blog acclaim) Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5'9" (huzzah!), and Joey himself.

But back in 2003, Joe Budden was seen as a mixtape rapper who somehow finagled a deal with Def Jam. His debut, conveniently titled Joe Budden to help make it easier for fans to find it in stores, attempted to meld Joey's emotional tendencies with the requirements of the day (read: radio airplay). The album was mostly produced by unknown White Boy, either one of the best or worst producer names in history, and although Just Blaze stepped in to provide a few tries at a club banger, Joe Budden failed to ignite store shelves, managing to move only nine units. I may be exaggerating that number a bit, but the truth is that Joe Budden's debut disc was a marketing failure.

Two theories abound as to why he didn't fare better. After Joe Budden was released, Def Jam executives stated they believes sales were poor because Joey used to also go by the name of "Joe Buddens" on mixtapes (are you sure that wasn't just the mixtape deejay misspelling his name?), and with the extra "s" removed, fans couldn't find his CD in stores. That has to be the dumbest justification of poor sales I have ever heard. My theory, which makes much more sense, is that Joe Budden is a mixtape rapper, through and through, and in the Interweb age, fans aren't used to actually buying stuff from a mixtape rapper: they download it. I'm sure a lot of you two have Joe Budden somewhere on your hard drive, many more than those who actually made a trip to Best Buy.

Oh, well.

This is a pretty good intro, on the level of some of Shawn Carter's album prefaces, but any and all references to Avril Lavigne in a rap song should be verboten.

2. #1
I honestly can't remember anything about this song, and I just heard it.

As I wrote in the past, producer Just Blaze first gave this beat to Jay-Z for The Black Album, and Shawn declined, so it ended up going to the first runner-up. Joey tries his best to turn this track into a radio-friendly jam, but it just never took off around my way (although it was a minor hit elsewhere), even though he deliberately dumbed his lyrics down for mass appeal. However, because of that dumbing-down, I didn't really like this song, either. I suppose there is no winning here.

The contrived hook almost ruins a perfectly serviceable song, even though the White Boy instrumental is very dull to listen to. Sigh...

This song sounds like a fucking mess, and the fact that DJ Clue appears makes it that much worse. Pass.

I first heard this song after beating Def Jam: Fight For NY, and I remember thinking that it sounded good over the closing credits. Taken out of that context, this shit is still really good. Joey describes his paranoia in a pretty effective manner, and the instrumental is perfect for walking with your thoughts in a downpour. You may want to take an umbrella, though. Hey, it's your health.

The fuck is this shit?

My God, I was fucking bored to death. I suppose it doesn't really help that I was also bitten by the undead mailman while listening to Joe Budden. Hopefully my zombie self can finish the write-up before my mind deterioracsfcnsdklcfnkcvneneivn

A Just Blaze-created pseudo-club banger that, to my knowledge, never banged in any clubs around my way, but is still way better than “Pump It Up”. I was pretty surprised to hear this song pop up in a house party scene in Lindsay Lohan's Mean Girls, but I'm sure Def Jam payed a pretty penny for that product placement. There's a remix that features fellow Jersey resident Redman spitting a lark of a hook: the re-do is completely useless, since apparently Reggie couldn't find the time to actually write a verse. Stick with this version instead. Oh, and Busta Rhymes is on here, too.

10. MA MA MA (FEAT 112)

I hated the hook, but lyrically, this song is fascinating. The beat sounds a tad bit too energetic for anyone to actually calm down, though.

Over an unorthodox White Boy beat, Joey spits random shit, but sounds good doing so. Everything about this track screams “album track”; it's one of those gems that you tend to find only after letting the disc play from the beginning. (And yes, I'm aware that a small part of this song appeared at the end of the “Pump It Up” video and made its debut appearance on mixtapes. I still stand by my statement.)

This Just Blaze beat is godawful for Joey, since it forces him to spit in an insipid fashion in order to match it. Groan...

Although Joey didn't actually spell out the word “n---a” in the traditional manner, that is still clearly the word he wanted to associate with, so that's why I edited the title. The one long verse is really good, and the beat accompanies it pretty well, since it reminds me of a 1980s cop buddy flick, but the coda at the end is fucking terrible.

15. 10 MINS
Usually I believe that there is no reason for a song ten minutes in length to ever appear on any rapper's proper album (mixtape remixes, no matter how boring and unnecessary, are exempt from this rule): the Wu-Tang Clan has nine members, and they never made a song that was ten minutes long. “10 Mins” does not change my mind. Joey's rhymes are actually decent (and the fact that he wastes the first minute of the song by chatting and otherwise not rapping is a plus for my attention span), but the beat is not engaging enough to captivate any audience for any length of time, although to producer Lofey's credit, the instrumental at least tries to engage, switching itself up frequently.

The following are considered to be Joe Budden bonus tracks.

Joey takes the popular route of calling out studio gangsters (rappers who in no way have ever come close to living the life they rhyme about) and spins it in a pretty funny way. The beat straddles the fine line between decent and corny, but with the topic at hand, it works regardless. The hook is predictably awful, but this is still a hip hop album we're talking about.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this vapid track was forced onto Joey by the label, in an effort to reach as wide of an audience as possible. This is a terrible way to end an album. Even a pretentious outro shouting out God (for making this all possible!), your mother, your weed carrying crew, and random rappers who you may admire but still had nothing to do with the creation of the album, would have been more appealing than this shit.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Joe Budden is an album that was doomed to fail: most mixtape rap stars aren't able to translate their success into a major label project, as most mixtapes don't require you to hone your songwriting craft. Complicating matters is Joey's lyrical topics, which, save for the obvious radio attempts, would sound more appropriate on an underground hip hop release. (People don't look to Def Jam Records to hear emo rap.) Joey's only gotten better since the label dropped him and he was scooped up by Amalgam Digital, so I pin the blame on the Def Jam donkey for the poor sales: thanks to their interference, Joe Budden wasn't able to be himself, resulting in an album that, save for a handful of tracks, is excruciatingly difficult to listen to.

BUY OR BURN? Ultimately, the number of shitty beats on here outweigh the few great tracks, so this one is a burn. Give Joe Budden some creative control, and it's entirely possible that he could do some damage. As it is, this album is mostly bullshit.

BEST TRACKS: “Walk With Me”; “Fire”; “Real Life In Rap”



  1. AnonymousMay 22, 2009

    You should review Padded Room. It's a much better album.

  2. AnonymousJuly 22, 2009

    joe budden fucking sucks

  3. padded room also sucks

  4. If you want to get into Joe Budden, you have to listen to the Mood Muzik mixtapes, preferably 2, 3, and 4.