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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Joe Budden: Mood Muzik 4: A Turn For The Worst

 By Nick Carrabine

“If you went to Def Jam would you notice
If they was out for my best interest or do they just see a dollar in Joseph?
Guess I ain’t sure how I feel anymore
Ever since I got signed, I can’t tell what’s real anymore
I mean them same record execs that wanted me in
Don’t care that I’m the next (rapper), they just wanna see spins.” -Joe Budden, “Walk With Me”

Joe Budden rapped the above lyrics almost eight years ago. Who would have known the at the time 22-year-old rapper could predict on his debut album his future record label woes? He never did release another album on Def Jam records, as they refused to release what would have been his sophomore effort, The Growth.

Budden simply had no other options but to release mixtapes as he was contracted to Def Jam but couldn’t see eye to eye with them to release an official studio album.

The New Jersey rapper went the underground route and released three critically acclaimed and well received mixtapes over the past six years, known as the Mood Muzik series.

On Monday, he released the fourth installment of Mood Muzik, free to fans, titled, Mood Muzik 4: A Turn 4 the Worst.

Budden’s Mood Muzik’s are dark, twisted, yet brutally honest, which sets Budden apart from most rappers who bank on boasting about materialist items, women, cars, clubs, etc. Budden is one of the few rappers out there who wears his heart on his sleeve, addressing deeply personal issues such as his manic depression, relationship issues and of course, his feelings toward being blackballed from the music industry. He also has a son who he doesn’t have custody of and raps about it often, admitting feelings of guilt for not being a world class father. In other words, content other rappers refuse to talk about. It’s hard to imagine many rappers rap about the following, which appears on “Black Cloud:”

“Normally it’s just me and my lonely mind
Everyone storm is different so this forecast is only mine
Fans recognize my misery uplifted me
Shifted me to my epitome, guess the curse is a gift to me
Maybe it’s serendipity, maybe it’s weighing on me physically
Maybe I should man up and tell God not to solicit me
Been medicated, meditated
Sedated, hated
Character assassinated, all theses years I masqueraded
Hard headed, if it was on my mind I had to say it
Tongue on the devil’s pitchfork to see how disaster tasted
Rap is fabricated, rappers are so exaggerated
...I’ve Promised to maintain being unique but relatable
All while suffering from a disease that could do away with you”

That’s exactly what Budden is, relatable. Listeners can relate to his struggles and it’s a big reason why the Mood Muzik mixtape series have been so successful and welcoming to fans.

The problem the fourth edition presents however is, I think Budden is at a stage where he’s not sure what kind of rapper he is, or at least, what kind of rapper he wants to be at this point of his career. The fourth installment isn’t nearly as dark as the first three, and on many songs, Budden focuses more on flash rather than content, to try and prove he is more than just an emotional rapper who wears his heart on his sleeve. I love Slaughterhouse, which is a group that consists of Budden, Royce da 5’9”, Crooked I and Joell Ortiz, but Budden doesn’t really fit with the other three rappers and at times, seemed miscast as the fourth member of the group. The other three are “lyrical murderers” who just attack tracks in a hardcore fashion trying to be creative using puns, metaphors, etc. Budden, to me, doesn’t fit in that category. He’s more of a straightforward rapper sticking to personal experiences and telling some exceptional stories in the third person. I think Budden on Mood Muzik 4 tries to please both his hardcore fans, and Slaughterhouse fans, but the two are completely separate, in my opinion, so at times, the mixtape seems confusing, or tries too hard.

Speaking of stories, there are no great narratives that made the other Mood Muzik’s standout or even a song that rivals the epic “10 minutes,” which appeared on his debut solo album.

With that said, there are still some great tracks on Mood Muzik 4 including the “Intro (Pray for them),” “Remember the Titans” which boasts appearances from Royce, Lloyd Banks and the always solid, Fabolous. “Black Cloud” is probably the best track on the album, because it’s Budden doing what he does best, being as honest as possible with his fans.

In a sense, it’s a decent mixtape, but one that shouldn’t be tied to the other Mood Muzik’s, because really, it’s nothing like the others and certainly doesn’t do anything to greater the series.

And besides, I’m more interested in hearing another official studio album, rather than a mixtape which leads me to my next point.

It’s tiring trying to keep track of what is going on with Budden. His third official LP titled The Great Escape was supposed to be released late last year, then in the spring, then in the summer to now, who knows? I think record labels are afraid of Budden, who wouldn’t be caught dead writing another “Pump it Up” record, which was the upbeat, club hopping, grammy-nominated first single he released eight years ago that put him on the map. The content of his music flies under the mainstream so he’s not a “sell a lot of records” guy, even though his popularity right now is at an all-time high thanks to the release of Slaughterhouse last summer, which caused rumors of Budden, along with the three other members of the group, to be signed to Eminem’s Shady Records. Whether that happens, who knows. The members of Slaughterhouse keep insisting they’ll end up on Shady Records and Eminem has came out and said he’s worked with them. But the record labels that the four individual rappers are on now, are hesitant to just let them leave because if they do go to Shady Records, they’ll blow up in the mainstream, whether their music is radio friendly or not.

Budden deserves it.


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