When it comes to Joe Budden, what I’ve realized through listening to his music, seeing the way he interacts on Twitter, and how he portrays himself on TV and in interviews; I know that you can always expect some type of drama when it comes to him. On A Loose Quarter (the mixtape leading up to this album), newer people who hadn’t been familiarized with Budden’s music for many years got to gain a glimpse of his life from drug addiction to tumultuous love-torn and publicized relationships. There’s no denying that he always has material for his fans, old or new, because he’s the repetitive situations that hit home for a lot of people when they need that musical release and relief. Tahiry and Kaylin are the loves of his life, but the love of Tahiry and that still has him caught in a jam between what to hold on to and what to let go. He’s stated that he wants both of them in his life – one as a lover, one as a friend, but as the old adage goes: ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it to’ (I’m still trying to figure out why you can’t, but that’s not the point here). I knew coming in to this album, that it was going to be more commercial than his mixtape (as it is for most occasions), but it would be another chapter in his audio diary to build upon. This is No Love Lost.
Our First Again gave you the impression that this was going to be somewhat like Joe’s Mood Muzik mixtape series based on the sound and the vocals that followed with it. That was at least a good sign, given the fact that he left off on a good note with A Loose Quarter. He makes a little prayer to ask for serenity, strength, and courage to make him a better person, because if you know him and his lifestyle, you know it’s a rocky one to handle in one sitting, and we’re all trying to be (I’d hope so) better people at the end of the day. The last words are the segue to the next song Top of the World, and let me just say that I wasn’t expecting him to go for the ‘ratchet rap’ sound at all for this one. I still don’t know the significance of Kirko Bangz, and believe me, I’m not interested in knowing aside from the fact that he’s a Wal-Mart bootleg Replica of someone who wants to be Drake of 07-08. I’m just saying. Aside from that, if you pay attention to Joe Budden’s activity on Instagram, you know that he’s very much the one who stays in the strip club with his girlfriend and yes, there’s usually another girl there with her. That’s what he deals with on a week to week basis, but for Budden, the reason why it was surprising to hear this type of sound is simply for the fact that – this isn’t him or his sound. I hate (more like dislike) when artists or rappers who have built their careers on their own creative success try to drift and wander away from what works for them. The trap/stripper/ratchet rap doesn’t work for everyone. Just because you stay in the strip club Joe, doesn’t mean your music will get played in it. Aside from the sound, he did touch on the main focus of the song – he’s at the top of his world and given the fact that he went from having nothing, dealing with his adversity and working hard to get back to where he is now. Took a while, but (in his eyes) he’s back at the top.
She Don’t Put It Down is T-Minus again marking an impression in Hip Hop. It’s great to see for Canadian producers, because we have some of the best in the world. I’ll forever stand by that. Usually when a song produced by T-Minus is involved, then you know it’s meant for the clubs 9 times out of 10 (Example: Swimming Pools). This was no different when it came to a club banger. This is one for the ladies – they love this sound, and they’re the most marketable audience, so I don’t blame him. This track overall didn’t do anything for me (get Lil Wayne out of here please) because I’ve heard enough of the ‘no woman is better than you because you’re the best one out there’ type of songs.
I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume that he wanted to get all of these club theme songs out of the way, because if this was what the whole album was going to sound like, there’s no way I wasn’t listening to the rest of it without skipping. NBA (Never Broke Again) featuring Wiz Khalifa and French Montana just screams club and that’s its purpose. I can’t even lie, this beat is crazy and lately that’s what people are satisfied with – club beats, catchy hooks, and basic lyricism. To each their own, because they have their purposes, but I didn’t have anything to appreciate about it. On to the next one. Shout out to another Canadian producer, Boi-1da on the production for this one.
You and I is an ode to his girlfriend Kaylin (we’ll see if this is a repetitive theme), because they both had their crazy pasts, came together, and everyone has that fear of losing the one that you’re close to, so I can understand that. He takes on the approach of ‘us against the world.’ His appreciation of her being strong and even the way that her presence made him ‘grow up’ as a man really holds true in the way that he presents the song as like a ballad. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Joe Budden song if he didn’t take some stabs at his ex girlfriends, but we all know he’s just talking about one in particular (Tahiry). Expected and repetitive – we get it Joe. Overall, he’s been with a lot of women in his life and there’s still pieces of his heart that stays with each one. He’s deep within his feelings, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s how heartbreak usually ensues and heavy burdens continue to linger on throughout life. There has to be a line of self-respect and respect to others. If I were to look at Joe Budden’s life and compare it to one song, it would definitely be Buju Banton’s ‘Wanna Be Loved’. Every word.
Castles is the first song I like on the album as a whole – beats and lyrics. A castle is your home, your fortress, your safe haven, and you don’t want anyone to infiltrate your presence. Now in this case, it could be related to his personal space because he was feeling as if it was so clogged that you couldn’t function in his own life. Fame and success can kill you, and people are always in your personal space when your face is all in the social media. This song speaks to those who have been left behind because there are always those who bring you down and pray on your downfall while you’re on the descent. To the people who take advantage and are always just there when it’s convenient for them, that’s the difference maker on what separates loyalty for envy. Joe has preached about this for a while, but it’s true – people change in front of your face and they expect you to be the same person to be the reliable one because you were the one who were feeding the group. But once people stop getting fed, they flock. It’s the way of the world, and I was feeling was being said on this. This is the Joe that I like.
All In My Head was on A Loose Quarter, but it was one of the better songs, so I’m not mad that he put it on the album. It’s one of the better songs on album anyways, and it’s another of those songs that Joe opens up about his inner demons, and just addressing how it happened, why it happened, and what he could change about it. We often have those questions when we’re going through a tough ordeal, but sometimes the only one with the answers is God. That’s deep, but it’s also true. Royce Da 5’9 added a solid verse, as he too has dealt with a lot of drama he can open up with. It’s a deep song, but the subject matter is suitable for the album, so the fact that it made the cut is good to hear. Royce’s line ‘I would tell you to do some soul searching, but it’s hanging up in my closet with your skeleton’, was a nice segue into the next song (in case you missed that), but the line itself is a good one, because he’d tell you to get your life together, but he has skeletons in his closet that would deem him a hypocrite. Well done.
Skeletons in the closet – everyone has some buried secrets that no one wants to air out. It’s what keeps us human and what separates people from a lot of things. You can’t let everyone know everything because people will take advantage of those secrets and use it against you. That’s just how it goes, but forgiveness doesn’t come without repenting. Crooked I & Joell Ortiz both provide great verses as both rappers have their time to confess some of their deepest experiences and how they’ve haunted and shaped them into who they are now. Joe has his share of Skeletons, but they’re not in his closet – ‘that’s his whole apartment’. His relationship (or lack thereof) with his father is one that he constantly talks about because it’s definitely something that bothers him a lot. Joe’s never one to shy away from dealing with his personal battles, so it’s quite clear that this track was one of the better ones for a reason. I feel like Slaughterhouse member features make him do better, because they essentially all come correct when necessary. This song and the one prior are definitely examples of that.
Ghetto Burbs gives meaning to the fact that you can be in the suburbs where it’s not supposed to be a struggle to live, but it was for Joe, and it probably is for many. This definitely had a throwback MM sound to it when you hear production and the hook provided by the reliable Emmany. This takes the listener in Joe’s hood where it wasn’t that easy growing up. New Jersey is known for its tough environment – gangs, crooked cops, dope boys at every corner; it’s usually stuff we know about in the hood. The way that Joe Budden was talking about the different characters on this song from his Grandmother, to his friend who was a stripper and a girl whom he met at Freak Nik, it reminded me of the different people that Kendrick Lamar personified on ‘Cut You Off’ because he had a verse for every person that he was close with and how he viewed them from his perspective. We all have those types of stories (I’m thinking of some names right now) and it’s one that you can connect with. The bottom line is that wherever your surroundings are, you have to learn to survive with what you’re exposed to, because if you have dreams to get away from where you are, then you have to make sure that the streets don’t claim you before you get out.
Just when I thought that the club tracks were finished, here comes Last Day. It was getting good, but I guess for the sake of switching up the mood, it was ‘necessary’. Tracy Morgan had two lines from 30 Rock that will always stand out to me because they were so funny, yet somewhat (in an odd way) true:
“Live every week like it’s Shark week.”
“Dress everyday like you’re gonna get murdered in those clothes.”
Now, that may appear to be a little over-the-top and off the handle, but it’s fitting for the purpose of this song. Go hard or go home is the motto that many live by, which is why when they get a lot of money, they just blow it and say ‘fuck it, we did it like it was our last day’, and even Big Sean & Chris Brown had a song called ‘My Last’ that emphasized that way of living. This was just a ‘ratchetized’ version of the song (Oxford & Webster are turning in their graves), and that’s pretty much all I looked at it as. Juicy J is the king of the club anthems (Who Da Neighbors, Bands Make Her Dance with infinite remixes as examples), and if you’re going to do a song like this, might as well have him on it. Lloyd Banks – not so much. He needs to figure out as to why he’s not putting out another album instead of 10067 mixtapes as filler.
Now, the Role Play interlude fucked me up (sorry to be vulgar, but that’s the only word I could have used), because it brought me back to the ‘#!*@ Me’ interlude that was on Ready To Die, but this…was a bit weird. I’m not gonna lie, whatever a man says during his dirty talk with a woman is his business, but man…listen; in no way, shape or form, am I using the name of male celebrities while I’m handling my business. It was funny when he said made reference to Diddy’s signature line ‘Take That’, but aside from that it was…odd and too long. I’m pretty sure the girl doing the vocals was Kaylin, or there’s going to be some trouble in the house on the next episode of Love & Hip Hop New York. This was a transition (an odd one) to Switch Positions which featured the likes of Omarion (or does he still go by Maybach O?). This more than just a song about sex, it’s about leaving one for another to be in a better ‘position’. Man, Drake inspires a lot of these songs, because that’s exactly what it sounded like on this one. If Joe is Drake, then Omarion would be the knockoff Trey Songz for the moment. I’m just calling it how I hear it. I didn’t like the hook at all to be honest, but the song was alright. I don’t listen to stuff like this when I’m…you get the point.
Tell Him Somethin is a smooth song, I can’t lie. This is the song that Switch Positions probably should have been, although it was slightly different. Have you ever been the rebound or the ‘next guy to come along to sweep her off her feet’? Well this is the example. A girl is with someone they don’t like, they find another guy who treats them better than their current dude, and it’s supposed to be a secret. No man likes hearing that another man is pleasing your woman (or ex woman) better than he is – it’s an ego issue, but Joe is being the instigator that he’s the better thing to happen to her. It’s necessary to let him know about it, so he says – tell him. Simple enough, right?
Here’s another song that sounded different from what we were accustomed to and also had some substance to it. Runaway is a cool song because (yet again), he talks about his inner demons that he’s had to battle with and how he got to ‘run away’ from most of it, but some of it followed (and still follows) him to this day. A lot of questions about himself follow in this track because when you hear so much negativity in your life, you just want to run away and be alone with your own thoughts, sort of like what Kanye West was talking about on ‘POWER’. The acoustic & electric guitar accompanied by the drums was cool, I liked that a lot, as Joe took a step beyond borders and tried something outside of the norm. It worked out pretty well.
My Time; everyone has their time when it’s all about them and their time to shine. Having been to the absolute bottom, Joe wants to get to the very top. He feels like it’s his time to shine, so he’s going to say it loud and proud. There’s not much that could be said about this track that he hasn’t already emphasized. Being grateful for the sins and losses in his life have made him into a successful person. Having strong belief that you can overcome is a greater force than anything of material possession. It’s tough along the road, but when you get to your time, when the time is working in your favour, none of that matters. Joe had to grow up in the process to become who he is today (and still has growing up to do), but he’s dealt with a lot to get to where he’s at.
No Love Lost comes to an end with the outro track. Reiterating the fact that he’s made a lot of mistakes and he accepts them for what they are, he focuses on his humble beginnings and he turned them into life lessons that he carried with him. Joe is always addressing his haters and asking ‘what more do y’all want’ over and over again, and then wonders why people call him emotional and all of that other stuff. We get the point that it’s helped him become someone that people can connect with in troubled situations, but the truth is that, it’s addressed on a repetitive basis. If he kept his faith in God as much as he raps about it, I wouldn’t think that he would shed so much light to the people who continuously pray for his downfall. But again, this is his outlet, so he uses it the best way that he can – I just listen to the music.
Overall, this isn’t exactly an album I would listen to over and over knowing the fact that a lot of the topics addressed on the album were already done (and better) on A Loose Quarter. It’s commercial, it had blends of his old self, but overall I didn’t like it that much. It got deep, it got emotional, but the thing is that it got repetitive. I get that this is for a larger audience to get the story of Joe Budden the only way that Joe Budden can tell it, but for the people who have been following him for some time now, we’ve seen the changes, and this one wasn’t exactly one that I’d embrace as much as his other work. You can’t stay underground forever, but you can at least have a quality piece of work to reflect who you are. It wasn’t terrible, but it just didn’t vibe with me overall that I thought it would. Some tracks are good, but not enough to determine it a good album in my point of view. Listen and give your view of it, but if you don’t then, you’re not missing out on much. This is my opinion, this is my review, but for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX