As I alluded to in last week’s post, I want to revisit something that happened almost 10 years ago to perhaps examine why a certain artist’s career panned out the way it did. I recently wrote about Slaughterhouse and how each of the member’s individual careers took a swan dive before it ever really lifted off. While three of the artists can almost entirely blame their struggles on label bullshit, the founding MC behind the four headed monster has more of an interesting backstory regarding his rise and subsequent fall in the music industry.
I first heard of Joe Budden when “Focus” dropped. At the time I was listening to a lot of street rappers, a still fairly unknown 50 Cent, Saigon, and the new crossover hit maker, Fabolous. Upon hearing this “Joe Buddens” guy it was clear he had talent, but like so many others at the time he felt like just another street artist trying to come up in the mixtape circuit. By the time his album dropped, hip hop had already embraced 50 Cent and G-Unit as the biggest rappers in the game and that summer was oversaturated with literally every song off of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ as 50 had made an album filled with singles. I, like many others, had heard “Pump It Up” but just didn’t really care enough to check out Budden’s album. Then a friend of mine randomly purchased the Scarface compilation that Def Jam had thrown together to coincide with a special release of the DVD (I still to this day am convinced that including “Dipset Anthem” was purely a way to promote their upcoming record as it had zero connection to the movie or any other songs on the album, but whatever). After hearing “Pusha Man”, my friend bought the self titled Joe Budden album and then proceeded to constantly tell me how incredible it was. Having only heard “Focus”, “Pump It Up” and at this point probably “Fire” I was really confused about how this super lyrical rap fan who liked Talib Kweli was praising this radio rapper Joe Budden. So I checked out the album and I too was surprised at how much songs like “Calm Down” and “10 Minutes” were nothing like the club hits that everyone was hearing from the Def Jam rookie. My quick assumption at why the album basically flopped was because people like me and my boy were the rare breed who liked both lyrical as well as mainstream rap so we could enjoy the diversity on the record while most average fans at the time wanted another 50 Cent record and couldn’t be bothered with five minute songs filled with such heart and emotion. As I look back now though I think there’s more to why Joe Budden went from a heavily promoted upcoming artist on the Def Jam roster to another reject who fell all the way the fuck off and was forced underground by the industry, and it all happened because of the “Pump It Up” remix.
The story is quite simple. Jay-Z had rejected the “Pump It Up” beat and so Joe Budden got it and made it into a hit. Jay, in turn, laced a verse over the beat anyway, and in doing so made a little comment about “let me get that beat, imma give it right back”. Joe, being the emotional being that he is, clearly took offense to this because he then released his own remix of the song where he dissed Jay-Z. Long story short, you don’t come at the king and expect to live. Jay-Z was the hottest rapper in the game at the time and so in the public eye, this seemingly one-hit-wonder trying to start beef with Jay only made him look like a chump and turned him into a joke. I mean really, “Pump It Up” was not lyrical, so when Jay takes the track, does a lyrical exercise on it and then you say “hey wait, I’m lyrical too”, it’s kind of too late. My question is, did Jay really even diss Joe though?
See, Jay been sneak dissing forever. Whether all his little references and comments about other rappers in songs are always disses is pure speculation. Did he diss Clipse on Blueprint 3? Who knows, but a lot of people thought he did. Now on this remix he did mention stealing the beat, but nowhere else in the verse did he diss Joe, matter fact all his shit talking on the track was followed up with him saying he wasn’t talking to anyone in particular. So Jay could have easily just been having fun, maybe thinking about how he was supposed to have the beat in the first place and clowning around by saying he was taking the beat but would give it right back. But Joe reacted. And the first rule of Twitter…..uh….I mean hip hop, is don’t react. Joe dug his own grave by turning a possibly innocent comment into a full on war. Instead of embracing that the god MC blessed his track with vocals and trying to convert that into more notoriety, Budden instead caught feelings and tried to take on the biggest artist in the game. The rest is history. Joe went underground, built up a solid following from those fans who appreciated true lyrical hip hop and actual emotion on record. But the damage was done as soon as Joe attempted to overthrow the leader of rap.
There’s a good chance Joe Budden would have gotten dropped from Def Jam anyway. As I said, the album wasn’t exactly filled with “Pump It Up” material and the buzz was never that strong to begin with, but releasing that diss track sealed his fate regarding his position in the industry. He went from a hit maker to that guy who got sour over Jay-Z freestyling on his song to a one hit wonder in rap’s history. It’s a damn shame considering his talent but given his output over the last decade I really can’t complain. The money might not be there as it could have been, but I’ll take the Mood Muzik mixtapes any day over more tracks like “Porno Star”. Sometimes it’s good to fall off, cause when you regain your footing you’re in a better place.