INTERVIEW: Joe Budden on lyrical honesty, “Mood Musik” and Shady Records

by Marcus K. Dowling

Speaking with Joe Budden prior to the DC area Red Bull EmSee competition at Fillmore Silver Spring reveals an intriguing fact. The rapper’s direct rhyme style mirrors the way he speaks. “Honesty. I value honesty. That’s the most important value in my career. I absolutely have to be honest.” 2003’s “Pump it Up” introduced the hip hop universe to the lyrical dexterity of Jersey City, NJ native Joe Budden. Over the next eight years, the journey of the rapper has required far more than real talk. A story of unusually high levels of physical strength and mental toughness leaves the veteran emcee as easily one of the most respected veterans of the genre.

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“Patience has been important, too, along with listening to myself and learning how to make decisions that are in my best interests.” Budden continues regarding his self-led mandate, “It gets difficult in hip hop. You have your lawyer telling you one thing, you have your A & R at the label telling you something else, it’s hard. There are so many voices that are pulling you in so many different directions that you have to stop and assess exactly what is truly important.”

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Pensive lyrics have become most important to Budden’s continued success and importance in hip hop. To wit, “Mood Musik,” his continuous series of mixtape releases have dealt with issues as personal as seeing his albums shelved, losing major label deals, relationship issues with the mother of his child, and his estrangement from video model ex-girlfriend, Tahiry. “Mood Musik developed because I had an album that I couldn’t release. Labels believed that an entire album filled with sorrowful material wouldn’t be popular, so I released it myself as a mixtape. My fans really gravitated towards the content, so I continued to dig deeper into my own depressed emotions for material, which has proven successful.”

Budden’s most recent career revitalization has come as a member of Eminem’s Shady Records signed lyrical power quartet Slaughterhouse. Alongside Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5’9″ and Crooked I, ┬áthe veteran rhymer’s unwavering dedication to form over fashion has proven to be a winning formula. “It’s funny when you mention Shady, because when Joell, Royce and I, who have major label backgrounds were really trying to find a label for the Slaughterhouse concept, we always believed it would end up on Shady in the end. It just makes sense as we’re respected for our talents there.” ┬áContinuing, he brings up the label’s recent star turn during a 2011 BET Awards freestyle as an example. “The respect and love you saw between emcees in that freestyle was real. That vibe was pure and honest. That’s the way we do things there. From Royce, Joell, myself, Eminem, everyone, it’s a great environment to thrive in as a professional.”