Published Mar 24, 2009In 2003, Joe Budden scored a smash hit, "Pump It Up," on rap's biggest label, Def Jam. And since, silence. After floundering in label limbo, the "tell it like it is" Budden kept his rep alive with unofficial street albums (read: internet releases) and now, hot off beefs with Saigon and Prodigy, and fresh from forming Slaughterhouse, an underground super-group of major label castaways, Joey drops his sophomore platter. While the storytelling and diction stay sharp, the superior writing on Padded Room is often left to fend for itself, getting little support from the disc's inconsistent producers. The regretful "I Couldn't Help It" could have been a meaningful morality tale but the Klasix's sleepy keys and strings turn it into a bedtime story. And sonically, the Dub B-produced "Adrenaline" is a rock rap mess, complete with a cringe-worthy hook. Better is "Exxxes," a six-minute relationship epic held together by a simple acoustic riff and some finger snaps. Over the course of four verses dripping with alarming detail and honesty, Joey describes the emotional and physical conflict dealing with a girl named Ashley. It is this type of soul bearing, rare in a genre that prides itself on machismo but plentiful on Joe's Mood Muzik mixtape series, that has won Budden so many lyrics-loving fans. Joe has found his voice, no question, but he's still searching for the right sound.
When you get in a zone, you have the ability to rhyme verses much longer than the 16-bar standard, as you do on "I Couldn't Help It." How do those long raps come about?
I make it a point to go out and buy a certain type of pad from Staples. I don't remember the name of the pad but whatever type of pad it is, it holds 36 bars per page. So I never count the bars; I'll just stop at the fifth or fourth page, and it always turns out long that way. I never premeditate when I rap for six, seven, eight minutes; it just kind of happens that way.
This is your first official album since your self-titled Def jam debut in 2003. Was there a point during those five-and-a-half years where you felt like giving up?
I was always creative, as far as gathering new ideas and new concepts, but I just began feeling like it was pointless to record or make music. People fail to realize, once 2004 hit, I was living life as an unsigned artist. I had absolutely no attention, no feedback. I didn't have A&R, no budget. I didn't have shit at Def Jam. I don't want to dwell on a part of my life that's over and done with but I was unsigned. When you're unsigned, I had to focus on life more so than music, or life began to interrupt music. That's the case with a lot of unsigned rappers. [I thought about] doing something else but the reality is that music is a passion of mine and that passion wouldn't go away even if I tried to make it.
Have you gotten the respect you deserve as an MC?
Not yet. It's on its way though, slowly but surely, [through] consistency on my part. It'll take me performing at my highest level for a long time. It's on its way. I'm not too worried about anything going on in hip-hop. I worry about myself and my music and my last effort and try to continuously get better. If you do that, everything else will fall in line. (Amalgam Digital)