Joe Budden Nears His Classic Album: From Songwriter To Mixtape Rapper Back To Songwriter

‘I don’t call ‘em verses, they’re similar to poems Similar to scriptures, similar to pictures You can stick to rap -what we’re doing’s much bigger.’ – Joe Budden, ‘Come Along’ Over the past few weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the fourth quarter releases. With the death of the Mom and Pop […]

‘I don’t call ‘em verses, they’re similar to poems

Similar to scriptures, similar to pictures

You can stick to rap -what we’re doing’s much bigger.’

Joe Budden, ‘Come Along’

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the fourth quarter releases.

With the death of the Mom and Pop store (which I continue to mourn) this ain’t what it used to be – the most exciting time of the year – but the artists looking to get what RZA used to always describe to me as ‘Christmas Money’ have got my full attention.

Skillz gave me one of the best albums in years with The World Needs More Skillz

Lloyd Banks, with Hunger For More 2 raised my appreciation for him as one of the last great remaining New York City MCs from the mixtape’s golden era (1999 – 2006).

Although Nicki Minaj gave me more corporate radio playlist than album in Pink Friday, my conviction that no one is building a celebrity brand better through music (that will set them up for money outside of it) than her was confirmed.

I’m grateful to Kanye West for providing the best production and engineering on My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy I have heard on a rap album in a decade.

I tip my hat to Curren$y for putting out the kind of music I love to ride out to (I call it ‘Autumn Music’) with his Pilot Talk II.

And I don’t care what you youth and technology haters say, Soulja Boy’s formula of ridiculously catchy arrangements (a lost art in the genre) in The DeAndre Way made me proud of the generation born beginning in 1990, and their entrepreneurial drive.

I could only shake my head and smile listening to Flo Rida’s continued evolution as Dance music Don on Only One Flo. I ain’t mad Brother, get money.

In Slim Thug’s Tha Thug Show I give an album of the year nomination. So damn hot – song after song. I know, let the arguments begin.

But no 4th Quarter release – EP, album, or mixtape – impressed me more than Joe Budden’s Mood Muzik 4: A Turn 4 The Worst.

It marks the return of Joe Budden to the kind of songwriting he left behind in the early part of last decade in order to capture the mixtape market – a necessity in the Northeast at the time. To me this is big news as he prepares to launch his next album, which I am increasingly confident will be a classic.

Where is this coming from, you ask?

A deep place within a deep dude, I think.

Years ago I had a conversation with Joe Budden which I have shared before in previous columns at

Here is a portion of it, along with my comment about this Jersey artist’s (full disclosure: I rep NJ too) untapped greatness in a September column, ‘The Mixtape: The End Of An Era?’:

Cedric Muhammad: Certainly. Well, listen, there was this interesting line I saw in this interview you gave to The Source magazine, where you made a distinction between freestyling and making a song. And, looking at your evolution, I thought it would be interesting to hear you explain the transition from freestyling and making a song. Was it difficult? What were some of the things you had to learn quickly?

Joe Budden: You know, I had to adjust to making a freestyle. That’s what I had to adjust to. Because I am a songwriter…

Cedric Muhammad: So you went backwards with it?

Joe Budden: Yeah, I had to go backwards. I have always written. I started out writing in school – homework – and I was good at that. Then that went to having a daily journal. Then that went to having to write in therapy; then that went to poetry; and that went to spoken word; then that went to battle raps; and that went to songs. I always skipped the freestyles. I wasn’t too knowledgeable about the mixtape game and about how big freestyles were until I started getting on them. So I had to learn what the f— to say. I was real good about talking about me and spreading my own feelings and being real introspective on a song but I had to learn how to get people’s attention. So, I realized that I had always been real good at metaphors and punch lines from back in my battle rap days. So I tried to do that and the people definitely liked it. So I stayed in that but I didn’t want to get caught in the “Canibus syndrome” whereas, as you know, a few years ago, Canibus killed every mixtape but when he put the album out people found out he can’t make a song – which was the truth. So, I threw out songs early on when I thought the people were listening, from the popularity of the freestyles.

Cedric Muhammad: So, in essence, where are you right now? Do you think that you are back in your element with making songs for your album?

Yeah, definitely back in my element. But I mean don’t get me wrong. I love doing the freestyles. I love it because it just gives me the chance to just run off at the mouth about whatever I want but with the songs I can get real personal, so while making an album, I definitely feel back in my element.

Joe Budden and I had this conversation in 2003.

It is difficult to say that he ever really came back to his original element of making songs versus freestyling for the mixtape crowd.

That’s how great the pressure to satisfy the mixtape crowd grew to become.

***‘All I’m hearing is Coke rappin with no passion.’

– Joe Budden on ‘Hello Expectations’

That’s what I wrote in September but with Mood Muzik 4 Joe Budden as the Prodigal Son of songwriting, has returned. And were it not for the skits (loaded with humor) and the excessive ad-libbing (a legacy of the mixtape era I hope we will start to lose) which distract a bit from the powerful sound and arrangement of the tracks, Mood Muzik 4 in and of itself has all the elements of a classic album I have in mind. In particular, the sound is perfect for an artist who has disarming introspective abilities and a ‘story’ that just always seemed to be lost in celebrity gossip and unnecessary or miscalculated ‘beefs.’

I love Joe Budden’s competitive spirit (even a bit of fearlessness) confidence in his flow (which is more than justified) but from a brand management and creative stand point – they at times get in the way of something more important and valuable about him – he can take a rhyme, sound and listener where very few other artists can.

Why is it all coming together for ‘Joey?’

I think a few things.

The first of which is the decline of the mixtape as the dominant vehicle to break and brand artists. It’s now been replaced by the Internet.

The second is the more rich, darker, more cinematic nature that the sound is headed in right now. For example, ‘Come Along’ turns Joe Budden from ill wordsmith to an all-time great sounding Journalist/Novelist (see my ‘The Journalist MC, The Novelist MC, And The Artist-Leader’:

) The beats demand a deeper more relevant subject matter.

As much as he refers to pills, Joe Budden sounds very sober these days, to me.

After all, with two wars and the Great Recession, artists at some point have to represent more than just ‘hotness’ over a beat. Ripping tracks is secondary now in an era where selling recorded music matters less and building a profile suited for getting paid to represent Causes, Communities, and Companies matters more. Joe’s ability to turn inward is dramatized by this era’s sound. Just look at how comfortable he seems on ‘Short Summer’ featuring Emanny.

And how real and poignant is he on ‘Role Reversal?’

What’s yet to be determined is where Joe Budden goes next with the production and arrangement. To make that classic album he needs to take more chances – conceptually and with broader subject matter – than he did with Mood Muzik 4 but certainly Just Blaze can give him the Quincy Jones type-arranger skills I say he needs, and Kanye West could take Joe Budden even further than he took Common on Be. Just sit back and imagine what Joe might say over the instrumentals on Kanye’s ‘My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy.’

Having said that, Joe Budden doesn’t need a big-name producer to keep going where he is headed. Jadakiss once said, ‘Ya’ll use beats for help, we help the beats.’

This was never more true than with ‘Buddens.’

There’s nothing more powerful and inspiring than watching the growth and development of a gifted artist, finally at home again.

With Joe Budden these days it’s more than worth the price of admission.

Prepare for a classic…————

Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. He’s CEO of CM Cap where he provides brand management services to Hip-Hop artists: Cedric is a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Secret’ ( His Facebook Fan page is: and he can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)