Joe Budden is Moody (Interview)

via SmokingSection

Credit: Gotty, P, fam

Def Jam wanted a talented artist like Joe Budden to stay loyally in the fold, but wouldn’t give him the support he needed to remain relevant in the mainstream. Although top-billing acts like Nas, Redman and LL Cool J might deserve their due for past accomplishments, none of them hold the same promise as Joe Budden. Nevertheless, his career failed to launch after the success of breakaway hit “Pump It Up.” His torment seems to have fueled his Mood Muzik trilogy – a catalog of downtrodden songs describing the suspension act of a rapper on a foundering label. Besides dealing with unusual, career-threatening health concerns, Joey also had to wait in the proverbial wing while the snap-crunk-Dream movement unalterably defined the genre for young fans.

I sense his discomfort not only in the telling lyrics bounding from Mood Muzik, but also in the raspy drawl of his responses. For someone so overwhelmingly analytical, he finds little hope in the shift rap has taken from flattened gangsterism to noir everyman verbosity. Lil Wayne’s free-form metaphors and Kanye’s picayune observations about dropout insecurities are the way of the day, a welcome mat for Joe Budden’s negative rants about the solitude of near stardom. Then again, his name has existed in the cloud of internet renown. Give or take some trials, that forum has certainly aided his cause as he enlists ground-level tactics to draw similarly cerebral folks into his reach. Inflated expectations have been his hurdle as well as the core of his haunting moody refrains. He’s taken matters into his own hands, securing a deal to release his next album on Amalgam Digital.

On the cusp of the NBA All-Star game, with starters having been announced, the other side of the discussion will include the great players not invited to play. Joe Budden has been noted as the excluded star so many times in his career that he’s come to terms with not meeting the measure of vacillating public perception, likening himself to one of basketball’s underrated athletes.

Joe Budden!

Words By Drew RickettsGraphics By P.

Joe Budden: Hello?

TSS: Yo wassup Joe.

JB: Andrew how you feelin’?

TSS: I’m feeling good. Definitely been looking forward to speaking to you.

JB: Oh okay. That’s what’s up.

TSS: One of the first freestyles I heard of yours was the one you did over the old NBA theme and I’m a real basketball fanatic. I’m into knowing, beyond the stars, all the players on all levels. I remember you mentioned Dirk in Dallas before he was a big name. When I talked to Cormega, he made a powerful comparison between himself and Rod Strickland, in terms of his career path. Who would you compare yourself to?

JB: Brandon Roy. Brandon Roy as of right now.

TSS: Brandon Roy? Why’s that?

JB: Because only up until now have people been starting to take notice to his game, but he’s been nice for a million years and continues to be. This is only his second year in the league but he’s not respected as one of the guys you hear about on a given night.

TSS: Why do you think that someone like you or Brandon Roy doesn’t get his due – or at least not immediately.

JB: Um, different strokes for different folks. Some people have to overcome obstacles that others don’t. Everybody is not given the same exact hand to play. Everybody’s situation is different. I got put in an unfortunate situation early…as far as the people signing me leaving my record label. There have been a couple bumps in the road, but [it] just takes a little longer to get over the hurdles.

TSS: Back to the sports analogy, on one of your recent releases -and even on the “Pump It Up” freestyles you did back and forth with Jay – you compared him to Jordan, but it wasn’t a favorable comparison. Why did you bring up that Jordan metaphor?

JB: I thought it was a favorable comparison…

TSS: But you said he’s “getting fatigued early and his scoring is lacking.”

JB: The point of the metaphor – the comparison was that even somebody huge can fall off. Such is life. A basketball player is always going to pick up a basketball but over time it’s gonna not be the same. I don’t think [people] should be comparing themselves to Mike. I just wanted to flip the comparison in another way.

TSS: Do you think Jay-Z is in a decline?

JB: Definitely. I think there was a period of time where he put out some verses that were not comparable to the Jay that we all know and love.

TSS: What of your throat problem? Did you have polyps in your throat at one point?

JB: I had polyps yea.

TSS: And how did you get past that? Did you have to get them removed? What was the medical process?

JB: I didn’t do surgery or anything of the sort. Basically, over a period of time, through different eating habits, different drinking habits…just different habits in general, they weren’t a problem anymore.

TSS: Did you have to detox for a while?

JB: A little bit.

TSS: What did you give up?

JB: Not in the normal sense of what comes to mind when you think of the word…[not] drugs or anything. Anything with acid…that had to stop. Late eating had to stop. When your voice is fucked up and your voice is your money-maker, guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

TSS: Did the people around you – your supporters and hangers-on – did they change their tune when that was happening?

JB: No. No, everybody at the time was pretty supportive during the “Pump it Up” days. Most people were supportive. The label was good at doing whatever they could do. They sent me to the best vocal…the best voice doctor in the tri-state area. Everybody was great.

TSS: So the label was supportive at that time and now they haven’t been. Is that because of new staff or did you decide to go more independent with your releases?

JB: That was a little bit of both. Part of it was the new staff. Once I saw the direction that the label was going. as far as how they treated hip-hop releases, I had to go more independent.

TSS: Did you ever discuss that mismanagement with the others on the label who felt similar? I know recently Beans and Freeway made some comments, Redman (at one time) made some comments, LL made some comments. Did you ever commiserate with any of those guys — backroom, behind closed doors – to say “we’re getting the raw end of the deal here”?

JB: No, not at all. Not with any artists.

TSS: Is there that sense of camaraderie at a label or is that pretty much gone?

JB: Nah, it normally is…normally.

TSS: Right.

JB: When I first signed my deal it was there, um, even later on it was there…recently. I just wasn’t a part of it at all.

TSS: Who would you say that, in terms of your artistic work, you have camaraderie with?

JB: Nobody. There are plenty of artists that I get along with…that I respect, that I record music with. There’s a bunch of artists that I admire but that kind of camaraderie…nobody.

TSS: How do you feel about the A-Team amid the stories and obstacles you’ve faced?

JB: I don’t feel. I don’t really think about that situation too much…to the point where I get in it. I think it’s unfortunate that they broke up, however, just for today, that’s where I am. I’m on today. I’m focusing on Joe Budden. I gotta get Joe Budden’s life and career going in the direction it needs to be. That’s where I stand.

TSS: Right. With the Mood Muzik series, I think that “critically,” people recognized that as your coming of age as an emcee. You talked about topics that you hadn’t touched at least so publicly before. It represented a pivot in your standpoint, how you were approaching songs. What birthed that kind of emotional response?

Joe Budden!

JB: Honestly, probably that type of music being shunned by the industry…from my side of the industry anyway. People told me that they were only concerned with the singles and they didn’t give a fuck about what else was on your album. That’s not the generation I come from. I come from the one where you buy an album, put the tape in, read the credits and you listen to the whole thing – straight front to back. Whether it be Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, Eric B. and Rakim, L.L…and the singles were, the majority of the time, the best album cuts. So I just came from a different place. That’s where the mood music came from. That’s probably what sparked it.

TSS: Do you think it’s harder for fans of a label like Def Jam to get with music like that?

JB: No. I don’t think it matters the label that you’re a fan of, or the artist that you’re a fan of. I think fans go with the artist that’s being presented. And I don’t think fans right now are given a choice. They get one thing and one thing only. It’s been that way for so long that the mere mention of anything different makes people criticize.

TSS: Has your attempt to reshape that context been met with success? Are you surprised by the response to these deeply personal songs?

JB: I’m not surprised by it. I’ve gotten a good response from those records since I put out a record called “When Thugs Cry” many years ago. I’m not trying to change entire world or the way people look at rap but I do want a Joe Budden fan to know what to expect when they pick up a Joe Budden mixtape or a Joe Budden album.

TSS: What do you think are the concrete reasons the record industry is failing?

JB: Definitely. I would say everybody’s to blame: the artists, the execs, the labels, the DJs, the radio stations, program directors, the video stations…everybody’s to blame.

TSS: What do you think causes the mentality of failure to keep circulating even though (it seems like) new music is always coming out?

JB: That’s actually a tough one. I’m not sure. If I knew, I would try to fix it. I’m not sure. I think it has to do with how [people] perceive certain music when it comes out. It has a lot to do with everybody I just mentioned…the labels, DJs, program directors and so forth. In this game fans are so fickle — not even — people are so fickle…it’s almost like a crowd effect. If one person starts running, [it’s] guaranteed twenty more people will start running, without even knowing what the fuck they’re running from. It’s up to me to reel in some of these fickle people with a single.

TSS: Is that already prepared? The single that you might give to the radio?

JB: Yeah, I got a few different things. They’re finished. Every single day I work. If I only put out one song a year, it still wouldn’t showcase how much work was being done. I got some ideas.

TSS: Do you still tour right now or are you mostly recording?

JB: I try to mainly focus on recording but I’m out of the country a lot…overseas. That’s actually where I do the majority of my shows.

TSS: Where have you been recently and what was the response like?

JB: I just got back from Manchester this past weekend and the response was great. That’s what I was saying. It’s pretty amazing that I haven’t released a commercial album in so long but I still get an amazing response when I’m on stage, or when I’m in the streets, or when I go to a club and the promoter might not even know that I’m there, or the DJ might not even know that I’m there but my [song] still comes on. It’s pretty amazing. It says to me that I made somewhat of a timeless record, you know? And I’m proud of that.

TSS: Do you think that white hip-hop artists have more freedom to do vulnerable, introspective songs than black hip-hop artists do?

JB: No, I don’t think so. But I think that their vulnerable music will probably be heard by a different audience who accepts them a little more than the black hip-hop audience. White people fuck with rock and roll. Rock and roll is a genre of music that is based on nothing but emotion. In hip-hop, if you showcase any kind of vulnerability, any type of emotion, you’re a “sucker.” It’s a fine line. Eminem didn’t come out with “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” he came out with “I’m Slim Shady.” He came out with some other records before he was able to hit people with “Eminem.” He didn’t create that formula. He didn’t invent it. Anybody could do that same exact thing. It’s about the people who will hear the music. On the “Pump It Up” album, that was the first single then I put “Focus” out, I put “Fire” out. Anybody who bought my album got to hear the “10 Minutes” and the “Calm Down[s]”…you know, “Walk With Me” was on there. I don’t think it’s much different.

TSS: Have you found yourself bridging that gap between the fickle fans and the ones who might want something a little bit more?

JB: I haven’t as of late. For the last three years, I haven’t made any music catering to the fickle fan. I haven’t made any uptempo music. I haven’t made any club music. I haven’t made any girl records. I haven’t made any radio records. Well, I have made them but I haven’t released any. At the time, I wasn’t giving two fucks about that. Joe Budden was Joe Budden only. Anybody who liked it, liked it. Anybody who didn’t, just didn’t. There’s a lot that goes into these mainstream records and actually having them be successful. There’s a lot of stuff going on there. I didn’t have an album at the time and wasn’t in a position to release those records. Now I am.

TSS: Is there an album on the horizon or are you continuing with the Mood Muzik series?

JB: Both. I’m going to continue with the Mood Muzik series and there’s definitely an album on the way.

TSS: What other forms of art have you been using as groundwork for your music?

JB: I get a lot of inspiration from movies and television. There are certain writers that I follow from different shows. Not too much from hip-hop has given me inspiration.

TSS: What writers do you follow?

JB:Oh, I’m not telling.

TSS: [Laughs]

JB: [Laughs] I can’t tell. These biting-ass niggas might start jacking.

TSS: Do you find that to be the case: any idea you put out there, somebody will claim it?

JB: Yep.

TSS: You said you don’t look to hip-hop for inspiration. Is anything marginally interesting? Does it bore you?

JB: It’s boring. With the exception of Kanye West, Lil Wayne…there’s a few people that manage to not bore me when I hear them but aside from those two and the typical greats like Eminem, Jay, Nas…it doesn’t do anything for me.

TSS: What do you think the next elite class of legendary rappers will sound like?

JB: Hmm…I could be the asshole and say they’ll sound like me.

TSS: [Laughs]

JB: Honestly, time will have to tell that one. Time would have to call it. I couldn’t spot it right now. I don’t see any traits or characteristics from anybody…shit, maybe they’ll sound like Lupe. I can’t call it. He’s the only person that I see right now, from the new artist standpoint, that just does so many different things flow-wise. But then again, he said he’s going to retire after the next album so who knows?

Joe Budden will be releasing the official retail version of Mood Muzik 3 on February, 26th 2008 on Amalgam Digital. An advanced variation of the album, Mood Muzik 3.5, is available exclusively right now at the online store with two bonus tracks.


1 Response to “Joe Budden is Moody (Interview)”

  1. 1 West of N.Y. Emcees « I KNOW, HUH ? Trackback on March 17, 2008 at 9:11 am

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