Joe Budden, Def Jam’s newest prodigy finally drops his debut after three years of attacking the mixtape circuit. Marketed as "The streets #1 draft pick," Def Jam are convinced they have an answer to 50 Cent. Claiming the kid has it all; lyrics, street credibility, and commercial appeal. Yet when listening to the album you don’t hear a masterful emcee on the mic but a student of the game graduating.
He sets the album off attempting to mark his ground on his intro which doesn’t impress his mixtape fans or disappoint new jacks who are hip to Joe from his single. Similar to his numerous freestyles Joe goes on a bragfest claiming “This here is not “The Best of” this is the best of ….. how can I say this I’m sort of like Hov, Pac, Big, blended with Bill Mathers, and Miles Davis…” An incredible claim, but it actually is an accurate description of Budden. From the commercial recreation of Krs’ "Still #1," for "#1," Joe walks the fine line of commercial and street by remixing the classic for radios mass appeal. While doing so, he brings us into his world of hip hop as an adolescent to manhood. Upon first listen the urge to crucify the kid on his first song on his album is dismayed until you realize the kid is creating great music by pouring his heart out on the track…any thoughts of hip hop treason that may have entered your mind. The same can be said for his hit single "Pump It Up," ripping the charts with a classic break from Tribe’s Scenario remix you can’t help but nod your head while Budden spills his rapid fire flow.
The kid’s a walking paradox. When he’s not walking the line between mainstream and underground, he’s flipping Hov’s flow scheme’s ("Pushaman," "U Ain’t Gotta Go Home"), showcases his life with skills that seep with Pac’s influence ("Walk With Me"), and Biggie Smalls commercial appeal ("She Wanna Know," "Ma Ma Ma"). It's obvious who the Joe’s influences are and unlike the million and one mixtape clones that are flooding the market, Buddens manages to channel these great emcees' influences into his style, while maintaining his own persona. Perhaps that's what makes him stand out in the campus of the New School? Or is it the window he opens into his life when he concocts tracks like "10 mins." where literally he infests a ten minute long track showcasing his life in New Line Cinema fashion. Introspective tracks seem to be Joe’s forte’ as shown on "Calm Down" a breakdown of his relationship with women and "Stand Up Nucca" an anthem for brothers on the block.
As is the case with most new jacks however, Joe stumbles here and there "Real Life In Rap" is a song calling out “fake emcees” a concept that has been done to death, this joint belongs on a mixtape, not his debut. Plus, Buddens must have pissed Just Blaze off to get the garbage called "Give Me Reason," easily his worst produced song in years.
Along with these blunders Joe comes across, after making nearly 300 numerous freestyles and songs for mixtapes, with the candor of an established emcee. Not of a New Jack whose first album is just dropping. That hunger that is usually evident on 1st album’s seems to have been fulfilled with being crowned in the mixtapes. Still, mistakes aside Joe delivers an album that raises expectations of him in the future.