Joe Budden is a rapper who has consistently stayed in the hip-hop conversation since the early 2000s, but not necessarily for his music. Even though it’s been years since he’s been signed to a major label as a solo artist, he finds ways to remain relevant.
Some of that has been through his beef with other rappers. Budden has a long list of rappers he’s feuded with including Jay Z, The Game, Raekwon, Lil B, Saigon and even his fellow Slaughterhouse member Royce da 5’9″. Budden has always been an outspoken figure, and he finds ways to remain in the headlines even if his music isn’t played on mainstream radio. That can stem from his appearances on reality shows like Love & Hip Hop: New York and Couples Therapy or from appearing as a challenger against Hollow da Don at 2014’s Total Slaughter battle rap event. Even as Budden releases his new All Love Lost album, his reality show appearances seem to echo more loudly than his music.
It can be a shame that Budden’s activity overshadows his music because there are few figures quite like him in the hip-hop scene. His outspokenness makes him one pf the most seemingly genuine people in the business. Hip-hop is a place where many people are caught up in images, but Joe Budden isn’t like that. He presents himself in a manner where you feel like you’re getting the full picture of the artist — warts and all.
This is especially evident in Budden’s Mood Muzik series of mixtapes. On these tapes, Budden was unafraid to discuss depression and demons, and listeners connected to him and made him a cult figure in rap. The Mood Muzik series wasn’t quite as influential as 50 Cent or Lil Wayne in the rise of free online mixtapes, but the tapes were some of the best examples of mixtapes having artistic merit. Mood Muzik wasn’t Joe Budden releasing a bunch of B-sides and tracks; it was a project just as personal and meaningful as a studio album.
Check Out Joe Budden’s Broke Music Video:
For Budden, the mixtapes might have had more meaning, as none of his studio work has quite been able to match the mood of his free releases. His 2003 eponymous debut for Def Jam might have been the biggest moment of his career, but it doesn’t feel like Joe Budden even if the album is named after him. Pump It Up is undoubtedly a classic track, but it sounds like something any random rapper could have hopped on and done. With the context of the Mood Muzik mixtapes, it doesn’t seem like the same rapper. It’s great, but it’s not him.
His follow-up albums have shown that more personal side of Budden, but they’ve never quite captured him fully like his mixtapes. There always seems to be a problem, whether it’s an offhanded attempt at a more poppy track or the production. Beats have always been a killer of Budden’s music. No matter what a rapper has to say on the track and how personal it is, it is difficult to be successful unless it has interesting music backing him up. Halfway House, Padded Room and Escape Route all suffered from this problem. Even if the projects aren’t necessarily bad, they can be difficult to get through due to production.
No Love Lost, Budden’s 2013 album, was his most inconsistent effort. The “emo rap” he was known for was there, but so were appearances from Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne and French Montana. It felt weird, like Budden was trying and failing to reach a wider audience, but in the process it didn’t feel like he was being true to himself.
All Love Lost is almost jarringly different as a follow-up to that album. It is largely Budden’s most personal album to date. If any of his studio releases bear a resemblance to a Mood Muzik project, it’s this one. The album is all about Joe’s relationships and there are no obvious attempts to “go pop.” Budden’s bars speak volumes.
The album isn’t nonstop rapping and there are hooks throughout the tracks, but he makes sure to put a focus on his lyrics above all else. Songs aren’t structured with hooks and bridges in-between verses of 16 bars. If Budden feels like he needs to keep going, he will. None of the songs run less than four minutes, and three last longer than seven. This could leave some listeners wanting the project to be trimmed down, but he’s skilled enough that it doesn’t get old.
Sometimes on Slaughterhouse material it could sound like Budden was just rapping for the sake of rapping, but it surely has purpose on All Love Lost. Highlights on the album include Budden’s song to Eminem and Royce on Slaughtermouse and laying out the relational themes of the album on All Love Lost, but the album shines the most on Love, I’m Good. The track is nearly eight minutes in length, and addresses three of his most important relationships: hip-hop, his ex-girlfriend Tahiry and his son. Joe asks if hip-hop has strayed too far away from his style as it embraces the sound of Future and Young Thug, reflects on the issues he had with Tahiry and why their relationship ended, and addresses his son as he fights for visitation rights. In a career filled with personal songs of love and relationships, Love, I’m Good stands out as one of Budden’s strongest.
The beats and mixing aren’t earth-shattering, but contributions from Boi-1da and AraabMuzik keep it from being the mess it was on Budden’s earlier efforts. The drawn-out tracks and extremely personal subject matter won’t change the minds of those who clown on Budden, but fans of his earlier mixtapes finally have the project they’ve waited years to hear.