May 27, 2012
Joe Budden, Padded Room (February 24, 2009)
Joe Budden is from a school of street rappers (count Joell Ortiz, Budden’s rival Saigon and Royce Da 5’9” among them) who try to spend their entire careers as prodigies “on the verge.” He has teased and delighted the blogosphere with mixtapes for nearly five years, as if to prolong the moment of being an almost-star. So Padded Room (actually Budden’s second album after his 2003 self-titled debut) feels like an awkward attempt at achieving long-overdue ecstasy. He offers emotionally overwrought dramas – ruffling through nymphomaniac “Exxes,” stealing a friend’s “try-sexual” girlfriend on “I Couldn’t Help It” – and delivers them in a halting, gasping voice, as if the songs were so heavy. There two rock songs, including “Adrenaline,” that fizzle out despite their hair-metal bombast. Then he imagines his death on “Do Tell,” noting, “Tell fame I didn’t want it/Nah, I’m a keep it 100/I tried my best to go and get it but the nigga fronted.” Perhaps Budden’s saving grace is that he knows he’s a loser in the hip hop sweepstakes. Yet he continues to burnish a pseudo-legend, using his considerable linguistic strengths to make an album about going insane from his vain pursuit of fame, veering between NASCAR grace and ugly car crash. Amalgam Media.
February 25, 2012
Joe Budden, Joe Budden (June 10, 2003)
Joe Budden’s self-titled debut comes to us courtesy of “Pump It Up,” a seemingly omnipresent club hit on which producer Just Blaze turns a sample from Kool and the Gang’s “Soul Vibration” into a stop-start, high-energy rave-up. Not surprisingly, the underground success of “Pump It Up” and its lesser-known predecessor, the slinky, fly-as-a-kite “Focus,” has rap critics wondering if Budden is the new 50 Cent. But while 50 Cent stocked his overrated Get Rich or Die Tryin’ with tracks by Dr. Dre, Budden relies on relative newcomer Joseph “White Boy” Kuleszynski. Most of White Boy’s uptempo tracks (especially the overheated “Fire”) sound like a phantasmagoric circus organ, all toots and whoops, rattling hi-hats and pumping kick drums. The exception is the glossy, guitar-inflected “Ma Ma Ma,” which inexplicably features 112 rehashing the chorus from J.Lo’s “I’m Gonna Be Alright” in a brazen bid for R&B/pop crossover success. These club-rattling beats conspire to smother Budden’s intermittent stabs at originality, like when he double-tracks his singing voice on the vindictive “Survivor” and accuses his mother of neglecting him (shades of Eminem?) on “Calm Down.” “I fucked up man/Don’t ask why, y’all/Sometimes the best medicine is just to cry,” he admits on “10 Minutes,” a self-pitying portrait of his ex-girlfriend. No doubt, Budden still comes off like an awkward 22-year-old on these songs, too, stuck somewhere between an unrepentant New Yawk “nucca” and a tentatively open-minded vocalist. Def Jam.