The bio for Joe Budden reads like your prototypical “rapper made good from the hood.” Born in Spanish Harlem, lived in Queens ’til he was 11, moved to Jersey City, sold a few homemade CD’s, got noticed by a DJ (in this case Cutmaster C) who put it in the hands of a man who could sign him to a deal, and the rest is history. Change the names and the places, and you could insert any of a dozen star rappers into this story, from Eminem to Fabolous. Def Jam clearly believes he can follow the trail that they blazed and be just such a star; so much so that they even put him in their signature video game “Def Jam Vendetta” alongside established stars like DMX, Method Man and Scarface. The label’s faith in Joe has already been repaid in part thanks to his smash hit “Pump it Up”:

“Y’all dudes keep talkin bout your ice and all the shine to it
That’s a white gold front with a rrrreal fine cubic
Ma wanna fall in love like I’m Cupid
Tellin me she don’t give brain like I’m stupid
You can do anything if you put your mind to it
(Get it? Nope? Think about it)”

The song turned out to be the perfect combo for the summer: a Just Blaze beat sampling from Kool and the Gang, with the smooth flowing Budden spitting out comical lines and a sing-along “Do your thang, let me do my thang” chorus. He also showcases an ability far too many rappers lack – changing up his inflection while rapping to emphasize words and punctuate lines. A lot of MC’s flow so monotonously that whether they ask a question or give the answer, it sounds like the same thing – not Joe. He sounds like a cross between a young James Todd Smith and a young Reggie Noble vocally, which only makes the label he ended up with an even more natural choice. Yes, with no pun intended, Budden is quite clearly not your average Joe.

One hot single from one up-and-coming rapper though does not a whole album make. On this self-titled debut, Budden has 17 tracks and nearly 76 minutes to take the potential shown on “Pump it Up” and deliver a whole album worthy to cop. Not surprisingly, the artist and the label brought in some big name guests to help, and they play the role well. Busta Rhymes lands on the Just Blaze produced “Fire,” Lil’ Mo does her interpretation of “Never Wanna Let You Go” by Love Unlimited Orchestra on “She Wanna Know,” and “Ma Ma Ma” featuring 112 is another sure shot hit for radio and video whenever they decide to release it. The Ladies may Love Cool James, but after this song, they’re gonna Love Joe Budden:

“You wanna get right, boo, headlights, blue
Don’t no other mami give me head like you
I get you in the club, sit right in the Rover
y Now you ain’t gotta pretend like you like the promoter
We could lamp in the 5 with my hand on yo’ thigh
You goin to sleep thinkin that this can’t be life
Don’t mistake my talkin modest
Still put you in the wi-ld bedroom with the walk-in closet
Bay, riverboats, if you wanna see water
Full length minks, get rid of that three-quarter
Ex-man never had you feelin that fly
Flat screens in the room with the ceiling that high
When them other cats call you, you can turn your phone off
New school your neck, take that herringbone off
Stretch ‘Vee playin Manhattan
System old school, play ’em and had ’em
We makin it happen, oh yeah”

A majority of this album’s music is produced by the curiously named White Boy, who clearly has some soul whatever his skin tone. He provides the right mixture of soulful jazz and downtempo beats on Budden’s dedication to his moms “Calm Down,” and the right combo of drums and hand claps with bass on the infectious “Focus.” As a result, guest producers like Blaze are forced to step it up to White Boy’s level on songs like “Give Me Reason,” which sounds like Budden’s own version of Jay-Z’s “Excuse Me Miss (Remix)”:

“Hold up nigga, slow up nigga
Don’t start a war unless your dough’s up, nigga
Know what nigga? Joe’s up nigga
Y’all shouldn’t cry about it, grow up nigga
Guess what y’all? I know magic
I could make your pulse dissapear and no hat trick
Death threats – it ain’t phase me
When I bring the T-Mac through the Rucker y’all, it ain’t Tracy”

Budden hits all the right notes throughout the album. He dedicates a song to the hood on “Stand Up Nucca,” looks for an escape on the Lofey produced “10 Minutes” (it really is that long too, and you won’t be mad at it), sends a shout out to Boogie Down Productions and the old school on “#1,” and challenges the listeners to step into his moccasins on “Walk With Me.” After listening to this album long enough, you’ll start to become suspicious. Could Budden really be this good, right out of the box? Then again, why would a hundred million dollar empire like Def Jam invest this much time and money in him if he wasn’t? Now let’s not get it confused here: Budden is not Pharoahe Monch, Nas, Ras Kass or Aceyalone. You won’t be dissecting his lyrics too much for hidden deeper meanings, and although he has clever punchlines now and then he’s not a “Dopest Rhyme of the Month” quotable artist for the most part. Therefore people are going to inevitably send me the e-mail asking, “Flash why did you say Joe Budden is a good album? He ain’t all that, and you’re posting up this shit while hating on The Diplomats at the same time, so you’re a hypocrite.” And yes, if Joe Budden’s “Joe Budden” was judged on the criteria of greatest rapper or rap album of all time, it wouldn’t hold up. It’s not though. This album is judged on the basis of, “Does Joe Budden live up to the hype, is his album consistant throughout, and will you enjoy listening to it this summer?” The answer to all three questions is yes, so for the haters out there listen up: I don’t care if he’s Pharoahe Monch or not, the fact he’s Joe Budden and he’s doing his thing (while you do your thing) is good enough for me.

Joe Budden :: Joe Budden
8Overall Score