Known to most mainstream rap fans as â€œthat guy who made a bit of noise in 2003″ Joe Budden has maintained his status as a different kind of that guy to hundreds of thousands of real hip-hop heads worldwide for more than half a decade. Revered for his honestyâ€”from discussing his depression, to his label woes, to his female troublesâ€”Budden is that guy, whoâ€”in an era where even â€œkeeping it realâ€ is a gimmickâ€”has kept grounded and genuine on and off the record, while still making music with commercial appeal.
â€œIt shouldnâ€™t be hard to market good music and thatâ€™s the bottom line.â€
Format: What was it like coming up in New Jersey as opposed to New York?
Joe Budden: New Jersey is a great place, I mean New Jersey is close to New York and yet we are overlooked and shunned, a lot like me in my career. Thereâ€™s a lot of talent over here, we just donâ€™t garner the attention for some reason. Coming from New Jersey was a blessing for me because I was able to sound different than a lot of what was being shopped around at the time that I was doing my shipping. I was able to have that Jersey style mixed with a New York type of swag. But that was the good part; the bad part was people not wanting to deal with people from New Jersey for whatever reasons.
Format: Please explain your new label situation.
Joe Budden: What it is, is I have a situation with Amalgam where I will be releasing music digitally over there. I just kind of felt like new media is the way to go and would be the way to go for any kind of new music in the future. I just wanted to be one of the pioneers and one of the first people to jump on that ship.
Format: To what extent, with declining music sales, do artists need to secure other revenue streams, besides digitally which clearly you have taken into account?
Joe Budden: The majority of artists now are seeing a lot of money from ringtones. Ringtones, tour money, show money, publishing money, overseas. The money is not going to come from moving physical product like it once did, or youâ€™re not going to get the big ass advance from a record label. You just have to be a little smarter with your buck and with your ways and means of getting a buck.
Format: What are some of the things you have done creatively to do that?
Joe Budden: I get a lot of money overseas, I see publishing money, I ghostwrite for different people. Thereâ€™s a billion different ways you can make money in this game without necessarily releasing music, commercially for that matter.
Format: As an unsigned artist what do you do to keep focused working day to day without a label backing you? What is your grind like?
Joe Budden: At the end of my stay on Def Jam it was almost the same as being unsigned, so I mean thereâ€™s really been no change in my lifestyle. Every day Iâ€™m in the studio. When a show comes I do it, any time an opportunity comes I try to take advantage of them, but Iâ€™m just recording constantly thatâ€™s pretty much my life on a day to day basis.
Format: Over the past few years you have aired out a lot of frustrations with Def Jam, and have released three successful mixtapes independently. Why would you be interested in signing another deal?
Joe Budden: I feel like I have unfinished business on a major. I put an album out in 2003 on a major that was critically acclaimed and got me all types of awards and accolades and I wasnâ€™t able to actually capitalize off that to build and expand on my fan base. People keep talking about the difference between a major and independent and why not go indie? Thereâ€™s absolutely no reason why you canâ€™t do both in this day and age, it all depends on how you want to structure your contract.
Format: Given the current climate of hip-hop what do you think the ideal situation to market Joe Budden is?
Joe Budden: It shouldnâ€™t be hard to market good music and thatâ€™s the bottom line. When I sold five hundred thousand records in 2003 there really wasnâ€™t one set way that I was being marketed. I was being marketed and promoted as a guy that could rap and make good music. Iâ€™m not really with all the gimmicks and all the bullshit, I want to be able to come out and be myself. I want to be loved and respected and appreciated for being bold enough to be myself. If the fans canâ€™t appreciate somebody that actually knows how to rap without talking about the drugs that heâ€™s done, or the drugs that heâ€™s sold, or the people he shot stabbed or robbed., all of the millions and millions of dollars that I pretend to have or the cars I got, or the bitches I fucked, all of the materialistic shallow bullshit that seems to be a preference today, then it is their loss. Thatâ€™s the way I look at it.
â€œI want to be loved and respected and appreciated for being bold enough to be myself.â€
Format: I read in another interview that â€œGangsta Partyâ€ isnâ€™t something you wanted to have in your discography. Is that something you struggle with? Weaving in between those two worlds?
Joe Budden: No, not for me because all of my music stems from a mood. Even when I recorded a record like â€œGangsta Partyâ€ which sounds absolutely nothing like Joe Budden it was created in the heat of the moment. Even a record like that when Def Jam put it out, Joe Budden now was getting major airplay on stations that never played a Joe Budden record. So, I mean that record got like five, six hundred spins just strictly on the west coast. If Iâ€™m a record label I would say ok itâ€™s time to capitalize off that, you know we have something here. Even if it sounded absolutely nothing like Joe Budden, just from a money making stand point that would be the logical thing to do.
Format: Personally though?
Joe Budden: Personally no, I didnâ€™t want that record to do anything. I was totally against that being the first single, but I mean when itâ€™s you versus the powers that be and all the hierarchies at a major label, nine times out of ten youâ€™re going to lose.
Format: Is that the only situation that you felt compromised? Have there been other situations where you felt mainstream pressures have got to you?
Joe Budden: No, I mean there are too many different pressures that come from so many different places like the record label or the DJâ€™s, or radio. So, naturally that wouldnâ€™t be the only one there would be too many to name, but I had to go through it to be able to know how to deal with it and cope with it. Today thatâ€™s not a problem for me, thatâ€™s not a balance that I have trouble with, or a situation that is bothersome to me. Two and a half, three years ago, that situation or anything similar would have driven me up a fucking wall.
Format: There seems to be disparity in your fans between those that prefer mixtapes and those that prefer albums. Why do you feel that might be?
Joe Budden: Because some fans know two different Joe Buddens. Some people only know album Joe Budden, which would be â€œPump it Upâ€ and â€œFireâ€ and â€œFocusâ€ and everything that came along with it. Some people just started getting familiar with Joe Budden after Mood Muzik. When you hear the change and the change is pretty drastic from my commercial records to my street shit, itâ€™ll leave you sitting there like what the fuck is happening or whatâ€™s going on, am I listening to the same person?
â€œwhen itâ€™s you versus the powers that be and all the hierarchies at a major label, nine times out of ten youâ€™re going to lose.â€
Format: Which medium between mixtapes and albums do you personally prefer?
Joe Budden: It would all depend on my mood, but me personally I try to put the same feeling from my mixtape shit on my albums also. So you have a â€œPump it Up,â€ you have a â€œFireâ€ and a â€œFocusâ€ and a â€œMa ma ma ma.â€ You also have a â€œWalk with Meâ€ and a â€œSurvivor and a â€œTen Minutes,â€ â€œStand Up Nuccaâ€ and a â€œCalm Down.â€ I like to try and find a balance. I donâ€™t prefer one over the other. Naturally one is easier for me to do than the other, which would be my heart felt shit, but I donâ€™t necessarily prefer it.
Format: A lot of artists at your level maintain a buzz with a lot of collaborative work. You generally donâ€™t have many features, or jump on many projects. Why is that?
Joe Budden: Well earlier in my career I was opposed to doing it. I was opposed to collaborating with somebody for the sole purpose of generating a buzz or selling more units. Generally, I like to have some type of chemistry with anybody I work with whether it is a producer whether it is an artist, and quite frankly earlier I wasnâ€™t a fan of too many people. Today that has changed. There are plenty of people that I would work with if the opportunity presented itself, but as far as feeling the need to work with people, or feeling like itâ€™s a necessity that feeling is not there.
Format: What was that change that made you more accepting?
Joe Budden: I donâ€™t think that the people are doing anything too different, maybe itâ€™s just a growth for me and a matter of maturing. Earlier on I felt like I needed to prove myself so why would I be trying to collaborate with all these different people as opposed to just packing a CD with nothing but Joe Budden so I can validate myself. Today I donâ€™t really feel like that. Iâ€™ve put countless amounts of bars out there, so now itâ€™s time to venture out and do different things. I donâ€™t feel like I need to gain respect as much as I once did.
Format: Speaking of growth, what happened to the album [The Growth]?
Joe Budden: Def Jam happened to it. It was never released and all of the songs that were slated to be on it have pretty much been released throughout the four years that itâ€™s been.
Format: And now thereâ€™s talk of Padded Room. Is that the upcoming album?
Joe Budden: Yes, weâ€™re about five, six songs in. Itâ€™s really not going to be too much different from Mood Muzik. A few of the songs will be of a lighter mood, itâ€™s been about three years since I released anything aside from Mood Muzik, so Iâ€™m just looking forward to trying some other things and giving Joe Budden fans some music that they can actually look forward to that will come out when I say itâ€™s coming out. So, Iâ€™m anxious about it, Iâ€™m anxious for people to hear it like I am with all my music, I think the people will enjoy it.
“Iâ€™ve put countless amounts of bars out there, so now itâ€™s time to venture out and do different things.”