Somebody's watching meee....
Joe Budden is one of contemporary hip-hop’s most glaring cautionary tales. He’s proof that major label politricks and shady creative dealings can blackball an otherwise very promising hip-hop career before it ever has the chance to find its bearings. His eponymous 2003 debut album caught many heads’ attention; no small thanks to his Just Blaze-produced banger “Pump It Up” (which sampled to great effect one of my favorite Tribe Called Quest songs: the “Scenario” remix).
His second album never dropped, he severed ties with Def Jam, and now he’s basically Angry Rapper Who Never Blew Up #29163459162875. Since then, he’s been embroiled in useless rapper beefs that no one gives a bloody hemorrhoid about; all the while working the mixtape circuit and making the internet fiends lick their nerdy chops for the next iteration of “Mood Muzik.”
What separates Budden from (most) struggling east coast rappers is that he’s actually pretty listenable. He’s a mastery of his flow and voice, along with a pretty adept ear for beats. If you compare his mixtapes to his album, it’s evident that he’s just improving over time. I have a feeling that not enough people are up on this summer’s “Who,” a 15-plus-minute indictment of the entire rap industry over a sampling of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” that never tires over the course of the track. He released it in three parts over the course of a few weeks, but the whole version dropped sometime in July. I think anyone who knows anything about hip-hop before the turn of the millennium would appreciate this song in its entirety.
First off, your favorite rapper probably couldn’t put together 15 minutes worth of hook-free bars and make it sound credible, but Budden does so seamlessly. And the amount of asses he crawls in like an Alabama tick – everyone from Lil’ Wayne to Lupe Fiasco to VIBE Magazine – demonstrates that he’s not only a rapper, but also a true fan who, like many of us, has tired of the bastardization of the genre. He’s like me in that he’s frustrated that he can no longer walk to the corner record store once a week, spend a large chunk of his allowance on a new album he’s never heard anything from, and know that it’ll at least be decent. In this zeitgeist, any rapper who can demonstrate a true love and knowledge for the craft has my ear for at least a moment.
I could dissect so many lines from “Who,” but it’s best you listen for yourself.