Joe Budden proclaims his freshman album will drop once “Def Jam gets off its ass.” Mighty words from a relative neophyte to the overcrowd game of hip-hop. However, Budden isn’t your average rookie. Through mix tapes and high-powered, visible associations [DJ Clue, Envy], he’s managed to skip Junior varsity squad and jump straight to the big leagues – side-by-side with all the Def Jam heavy hitters. After going through his share of trials, his penchant for rhyme writing acted as therapy for a drug addiction and turbulent childhood. Now that he is here, Joe is ready to slam dunk his demons and spit fire at unfit emcees.
AllHipHop.com: Can you talk about your history of getting into the rap game?
Joe Budden: How far back do you want me to go because I can go back!
AllHipHop: Go back as far as we need to know.
JB: I was probably about 12. It’s a long story so I’m going to try to sum it up. I was around 12 and I moved to New Jersey ‘cause my brother was in rehab. My mom and I were in Queens so we moved to New Jersey when my brother went to rehab. This rehab was real close with the family and it came about that I was getting high and I wrote [rhymes], so they started taking real in depth looks at my writing. I was real depressed.
AllHipHop: How did you react to your conditions?
JB: You name it – I was smoking it except for cocaine and heroin. Being depressed, isolated by my self, having issues from my mother, brother, the drugs writing [rhymes] was really all I had. That literally helped me live and be all right. I wasn’t trying to be a rapper, I wasn’t trying to get signed, and I had no idea really anything about a mix tape, major labels, the money it generated or anything like that. It was about me living and being alright so from me going from one rehab to another my mom put me in therapy where writing was also a major thing with the therapist and me, who read my lyrics and by me being depressed sent me to a psychiatrist, so really what I’m trying to say is my whole teen years were self help, programs and institutions.
AllHipHop: How would you say those institutions factored into you as a rapper?
JB: I think that played a big part of where I am and how I write. I don’t write the gimmick or the bullsh*t, I write for me. I stopped getting high at 17 and God works his magic once you stop getting high and start doing good things for yourself. I was 20, I had a demo ‘cause I was working on music but it wasn’t serious. I gave my demo to my godbrother; he gave it to Cutmaster C who gave it to Webb, who started his production company, On Top. They basically came to me like look we feel you can do it, we could get together and sell some records independently or we could get at the mix tapes hard however you want to do it we start a family and lets rock & roll. At the time my demo was trash, I was all right but I wasn’t nearly as developed as I am right now. We started hitting the mix tapes hard Cutmaster C, Clue, Envy and it generated a buzz. I never expected it and they never expected it. I don’t think when they signed me they knew the type of artist they was getting. I was just hitting the mix tapes being me so for people to grasp on to that is a blessing.
AllHipHop: What about the psychiatrist when he or she read your rhymes, what were his or her thoughts?
JB: The psychiatrist tried to put me on some anti-depressants and I flipped the desk over and wild out. Because they tried to act like I was really crazy and didn’t have any sense. I may have did some crazy sh*t on drugs but I’ve been a genius since I was five so people have been telling me, all through school I was about five grades ahead. School was boring so I left and the therapist new that, but she was doing her job she reading lyrics I want to kill myself, we got to send him. They thought I was a nut case.
AllHipHop: Do you think a lot of black kids have that ‘cause I know my moms used to work in special education and they throw a lot of black kids in that little thing?
JB: Yeah they do.
AllHipHop: The mix tapes was real strong for you, I became familiar with you more recently I was a little late. Can you talk about your relationship with Clue and them and Desert Storm?
JB: I’m not signed to Desert Storm as a lot of people may think. On Top signed me, the niggas from Queens, Desert Storm is from Queens. Clue and all them pretty much grew up together so the first place that they took my demo was Desert Storm. To my knowledge they aint want to do sh*t or they couldn’t afford to do sh*t or whatever it was, but Clue played me often on radio and mix tapes. I didn’t care if it was 11:59 [pm at the end of his show] he was playing me. Coming up as a kid to be on a Clue mix tape was some sh*t. Desert Storm does play a big part in Joe Budden’s life but, I’m not signed to them, I’m strictly signed to On Top/Def Jam.
AllHipHop: Weren’t you in an article with them at one point?
JB: Yeah, they family. At the end of the day they all family they just won’t be making any money from me. We family, they treat me like that and I treat them like that, but I’m not signed there. People get it f**ked up because we family and I say Desert Storm, I’m going to continue to say Desert Storm.
AllHipHop: Were you originally signed to Def Jam Spit?
JB: I was on Spit. I came here, I met with Lyor [Cohen, head of Island/Def Jam] and Kev [Def Jam Pres. Kevin Lyles] and they were telling me about this new label they was starting that was going to be more street and any new artist they signed was going to be on Spit and have to work their way up in the ranks being that Def Jam has all the heavy weights. You’re not just going to get signed and come right where they at. Everybody’s like we got to much Def Jam sh*t, we can’t play any more so with Spit we get more burn. Not only that, this is our new label our baby so we love it, you’re our new artist if you’re album comes out and you do some numbers on Spit, we got you and we’re going to take care of you. So I was honored for the to be bestowed upon me. As time went on I got to see through all the bullsh*t they told me and I wasn’t with all that. I feel like I’m one of the nicest niggas in this building, my personal opinion. Niggas [Def Jam exects] ignored me but I think “Focus” woke them up. When here goes this guy that noone pays attention to and you see he’s got a song that’s being played 1:00 am in the club. So now it’s Def Jam, no more Spit for me.
AllHipHop: How did you get out of Spit?
JB: Me and my people brung it to them and they fought hard to keep me on, but you got to come clean sooner or later. They knew Spit was bullsh*t and they knew I didn’t belong on Spit. They wanted to use me to break Spit; I’m looking for someone to break Joe Budden not Joe Budden to break somebody else.
AllHipHop: Can you speak on what people can expect from the album?
JB: The album is bananas. I have no choice but to put out a bananas album. I kept the features to a minimum, I don’t want a compilation album I want a Joe Buddens album. I feel like the album is real personal and a lot of my freestyles are real personal too. I feel like anybody who knows Joe Budden aside from “Focus,” “Pump It Up” and “Drop Drop” If you like Joe Budden on the mix tapes then you’ll love the album it’s like 50 times the me on the mix tapes. It’s real lyrical, diverse, musical. I had a saxophone player on there. I think that pretty much says something, it’s just a crazy animal like I play piano, I play saxophone, I play drums. I sing so I try to put my best foot forward as far as everything goes. Nothing you heard on the mix tapes is going to be on the album. It’s just all original musical and I think hip-hop needs it.
AllHipHop: Who’s going to be on it?
JB: I’m not saying.
AllHipHop: why not?
JB: I like to keep it a surprise. I think that the guest appearances are pretty big, there’s only like two and one is not confirmed yet.
AllHipHop: What about producers?
JB: Doug B, my producer that did “Focus.” He did majority of the album and Just Blaze did the rest. I got a beat from Envy but I didn’t use it yet. I got a beat from DJ Shock, Stretch ArmStrong, I got a couple of beats from other people, but Doug B and Just Blaze if you give me those two guys I’m going to give you some sh*t.
AllHipHop: Can you explain your style, lyrical and style wise you’re different?
JB: I’m hungry. You said explain it?
AllHipHop: Yeah it’s different especially “Focus.”
JB: I try to be different. I think it has something to do with the fact that I was born in Harlem, I was in Queens for 10 years then I was in Jersey for a million years. I don’t really have a sound, I think Queens’s guys have a Queens’s sound, Harlem has a sound, Jersey has a sound but I’m not trapped in a sound. I’m open-minded and I like to play with words, I’m kind of lyrical so I can’t really explain it. Some people say I have an accent almost. They say they hear like a southern type thing when I rap, I don’t know that’s what people tall me but it’s just real different. It’s my own, unique, I can’t say anything different. I try to set the trends, like Jay will set a trend; he’ll make a style. I try to make my own style and have somebody else copy that.
For more info, go to www.joebudden.com