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Joe Budden: Soul Man

To those that know Joe Budden, he has truly one of the most complex rapper narratives in Hip-Hop. He takes you along for rides you may know all too well, and shows you things you might not have otherwise looked into. Whether or not you’ve ever lived in the hood, the themes in a Budden rap are universal to us as human beings. Like a Tupac or a Jean Grae, JB is a best friend that you never knew you had, who stays with you when your personal condition hits rock bottom.

Joe Budden and AllHipHop.com talk turkey and get deep as the New Jersey-based lyricist is on the fringe of his sophomore album. So for those that don’t know Joe, welcome to a closer look at the soul of a man. For those that are closer to the emcee, get some answers and look deep within the soul and recent changes of one of your friends.

AllHipHop.com: Some of us finally got to hear the album. Did you attend your listening session?

Joe Budden: Nah, I didn’t go. I wanted to get honest feedback. I didn’t want people sugarcoating s**t ‘cause I was in there.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s talk about this joint “Unforgiven.” A couple people were really buzzing about that, calling it classic Budden material.

Joe Budden: Eh, “Unforgiven,” featuring Metallica. It’s a dope track. The track is nuts. It jumps. Every other bar, the topic changes. It’ll go from talking about me and my deranged thinking at points to talking about poverty to depression. Any hardcore Joe Budden fan knows that if there’s one thing I do well, it’s vent and get introspective.

AllHipHop.com: Your debut was very personal. I love that lost quality in Hip-Hop. It’s something that’s now great about Masta Ace, great about Tupac, great about you. As you make these songs naming the women in your life, and your parents, and your friends, has success made rapping more or less personal for you?

Joe Budden: Ah! What a good question. More or less… I’m gonna go with…more. More! Anything that I’ve ever done and anything that I do now, anything that ever happens – whether that be with a relationship with a female, or my relationship with my record label, or anything – I’m not ashamed of, and I don’t have any problem sharing it with the people. With this fame and with this notoriety, I find it easier to share, and there’s a lot more things to share than just the same s**t. With every new experience, there’s a new struggle. And with every new struggle, there’s a new song, for me.

AllHipHop.com: I’ll give you two examples Both Eminem and Talib Kweli have been very personal MC’s. But some have argued that their recent work took that personality out of the hands of fans, and made it more about “more money, more problems.” You’re so easy to relate to – is that still true of this new album?

Joe Budden: Yeah, definitely. I’m not at that point yet. Eminem’s first album sold about eight million, or some crazy s**t like that. I ain’t there. On a serious note, no – you’ll still be able to relate to anything I’m talkin’ ‘bout. I think that’s the difference with this album, as far as growth. On the first album, not that I was limited, but a lot of the tracks were deep and intense and introspective, and really all about me. This time around, for the people that couldn’t relate to my stories or my struggle, I tried to put myself in another position or just put somebody else’s shoes on and tell the story from that aspect. Throughout the album, there’s a lot of talks of different s**t that happens in the hood or, I got a song on there talkin’ about child molestation, not that I’ve ever been molested. But, it was a difficult verse to write.

AllHipHop.com: That’s taking a risk. Hip-Hop isn’t always kind to that. People don’t seem to have much of a heart with Bizzy Bone and that right now. Why did you put it on the line, in a way, to go there?

Joe Budden: It’s a risk, but it’s a reality – in my hood anyway, and I’m from Jersey City. Of course in every neighborhood, you’ve got your dope dealers, and your pushers, and your number runners, and your stick-up kids. Underneath all of that, there’s kids gettin’ molested, there’s teachers raping kids, there’s crazy s**t goin’ on. It’s a reality, not my reality, but of a few people I know. The s**t happens, it happens a lot, and nobody’s shedding any attention on it.

AllHipHop.com: How have you felt the impact since Jay-Z moved into the big office at Def Jam?

Joe Budden: [I’ve] just gotta get used to new methods up here. I love Kevin [Liles] and Lyor [Cohen], and I am so grateful to them for everything they’ve ever done for me. But, I always thought that Kev’s ear was a little rusty. Now, you’ve got Jay up here, who I think is one of the greatest rappers of all times. As far as a businessman, I don’t know. Time will have to tell. Right now, he’s doing a great job. He’s very serious about it. I respect him for that. How the outcome will be of that? I can’t tell.

AllHipHop.com: When you handed Jay the album, and he heard it end-to-end first, can I ask you what his analysis was?

Joe Budden: To be honest, I was towards the end of the album by the time he got here. It wasn’t too much that he could say. He gave his input with a few of the songs – he helped me out with my Swizz record, “Ain’t F**king With Me,” and he helped me with my Timbaland record. Those were probably the last two records that I did. He gave input and suggestions. He basically told me the same s**t that I knew already, he told me I get busy. It meant a lot coming from him. But I don’t need a n***a to tell me I can rap.

AllHipHop.com: My favorite line you ever spit, and it’s simple, but on “Calm Down,” you said, “I’ve got my mother’s sensitivity, and my father’s balls.” Give me an example of each.

Joe Budden: Ow, man! What a good question! S**t! I’m so used to these boring-ass kids… let me see here. You know what? F**k it! Let’s do it. To simplify it, I was a little teary-eyed watching Armageddon and Remember the Titans. I’m just trying to find the simplest way to explain this. And, as far as the “father’s balls” line, that means, don’t get the “mother’s sensitivity” part f**ked up- because it’ll go down.

AllHipHop.com: Both of your parents are still around, right?

Joe Budden: Yupp, Pops still around, Ma still around. I’m blessed.

AllHipHop.com: You alluded to death being around any corner on the first album. Do you still feel that today, that death is reachable, soon?

Joe Budden: Ehhh. I do actually. That’s one of those – coming up as a teen, I always with depression. That depression would have me feeling like I could do something to myself. As I got a record deal, it wasn’t so much a fear of me doing something to myself, but it was a fear of somebody, maybe even somebody I’m close to, doing something to me. It’s definitely still a feeling. I had a string of events that happened that led me to believe I wouldn’t live to see 25 or 26. Coming up, I felt like I wouldn’t live to see 21. Now, it’s eased up a little bit. But that thought it always in the back of my head.

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned depression. Let’s keep it Jersey – do you choose to deal with depression the Tony Soprano way, or just sort the laundry out yourself?

Joe Budden: [laughs] I did the whole psychiatrist therapy talk s**t, and it helped a lot. But I mean, it’s always been music. The reason that so many people love music so much and the reason that it’s such a successful business is because it’s therapeutic in some type of way – whether n***as know it or not. Even when I was in therapy, and I was writing as therapy, motherf**kers thought I was crazy for the s**t I was writing. They didn’t see it as a way of help. But even still to this day, that’s what it is for me. Aside from the fun, the fame, the ladies, it’s therapeutic. At the end of the day, it helps.

AllHipHop.com: What can we, as Joe Budden fans and a true audience do to convince A&R’s to make your singles the personal records and NOT these party songs?

Joe Budden: Yeah man! What the f**k! These n***gas, you know what it is, man? I think when you start getting into the business aspect of it, I think that the A&R’s and the executives are so concerned with the casual listeners. That’s where I think the problem lies. I swear to you, this “Unforgiven” song that you were talking about, I pushed for that to be the first single to Kevin Liles when he was here. It wouldn’t fly. He wasn’t trying to hear that s**t at all. Jay is on some other s**t. He’s on some “be creative” s**t. I think you might see that, soon.

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