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Joe Budden

Joe Budden

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Album Review

A well-known veteran of the New York mixtape scene, Joe Budden was no rookie when he recorded his self-titled debut album. The Jersey City rapper had worked the mixtape circuit relentlessly, freestyling over all kinds of beats, everything from Timbaland ("Work It") to the Neptunes ("Grindin'") to the usual East Coast fare. His workmanlike presence earned him quite a reputation, among the leading mixtape DJs like Kayslay and Cutmaster C as well as among the scene itself, and led to his eventual signing by Def Jam, an increasingly conservative label that generally only deals with long-established artists. But all of this fanfare belies the fact that Budden is far from your typical East Coast rap sensation and is actually quite noncommercial. Unlike, for instance, 50 Cent, another rapper who initially made his name on the mixtape scene before debuting in 2003 with much fanfare, Budden doesn't rap about guns, drugs, or violence; furthermore, he's not anyone's protégé, he's not particularly fashionable, and he's not into beefing. Yet while he's not gangsta, he's nowhere near backpack either. He raps about himself and is good-natured and often humorous, and he raps in a fluctuating, conversational flow over beats by an unknown producer who bills himself as White Boy. In sum, Budden is one of those very few major-label rappers who is truly an anomaly, and that itself makes him noteworthy. His 75-minute debut album is wonderfully all-encompassing: there are a pair of radio-ready Just Blaze productions ("Pump It Up," "Fire"), a pair of urban-crossover duets ("She Wanna Know," "Ma Ma Ma"), a couple deep tracks that showcase his heart ("Walk with Me," "Stand Up Nucca," "10 Mins."), a BDP-sampling ode to the old school ("#1"), a roof-raising club-banger ("Focus"), and more. Budden's debut isn't quite an instant classic, as he's still better at freestyling verses that crafting hooks, and the album could use a couple more non-White Boy productions, if only for the sake of variety, but it's nonetheless promising, an omen of a greater things to come, for Budden as well as for listeners. [The standard edition includes two bonus tracks, "Real Life in Rap" and "Porno Star," that are rather profane and thus excluded from the clean edition.]

Biography

Born: 31 August 1980 in New York, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The ridiculous success of 50 Cent in early 2003 opened the floodgates for other street-level, mixtape-bred rappers, one of whom was Joe Budden, a Jersey City rapper with a distinct loose-cannon style molded from years of freestyling. Born in Spanish Harlem and raised in Queens, Budden came of age across the Hudson River in Jersey City, which he proudly continued to rep in his rhymes despite its somewhat unsavory reputation relative to more traditional hip-hop breeding grounds like Harlem, Brooklyn,...
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Joe Budden, Joe Budden
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