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This is only Joe Budden's second album after a series of mixtapes and a short spell at Def Jam. At first I wasn't particularly impressed with Joe Budden as I considered him over rated and simply another cynical product of the mainstream system. However now he is an independent artist and has been since he was released by Def Jam and since that point his lyricism has really caught my attention.
Joe Budden delves into his own depression, he is bipolar, gives you his introspection on his family, as well as a number of concept songs which are again based on his own psyche.
In my sleep is another concept song in which Joe Budden delves into a prolonged vivid dream. The dream is a long journey inside his mind and is definitely original.
There are many standouts on this album beginning with the quite superb exxes. Over a soft piano beat Joe Budden uses the concept of girls to reflect his own bipolar, the song features lots of clever lines many of which will be mistaken for a straight forward song about ex girlfriends until you actually focus on what he is saying.
Pray for Me is a conversation Joe Budden is holding with god, questioning him on why his life has turned out the way it has. It's a brilliant example of lyricism and insight and shows a humility to a man who has often been regarded as egotistical.
Blood on the wall is a deviation away from the theme of these songs and instead focusing his lyrical fury on detractors, namely rappers who have chosen to criticise him and question his ability.
There is only one genuine attempt to pander to a mainstream audience and this comes in the form of The Future, it's an upbeat club song featuring Game. It is typically diluted but as far as club songs are concerned, while not particularly good, is more than acceptable.
Some of the songs are a little weak in their delivery though as I don't really appreciate the production on Don't Make Me, it doesn't seem to fit the content of the song. In truth there is a lack of brilliant production but most of it fits into the song quite well.
However the production is secondary to the captivating introspective lyrics of Joe Budden. He has mostly reined in the punch lines and instead has bared his soul which exhibits his ability to make deeply vivid paintings. Some people might perhaps long for more hooks, with hooks only appearing in some 7 of the 13 songs, but such is the strength of the lyrics, I don't even really notice.
Joe Budden doesn't have an astounding delivery but there is real feeling in his voice and he is certainly not found wanting on the beats either. There is little that compete with this type of lyricism which is far removed from what people would typically associate with rap.
Finally, after a six-year-gap, the Harlem rapper Joe Budden followed up from his 2003, self-entitled debut album with "Padded Room". After getting his name up with it single "Pump It Up", the artist returned to his foundations in underground rap, and seeks to deliver this in this 2009 album.
1. "Now I Lay"
To open the album off he revisits his early single to remind people why they know his name, but know without the support of Def Jam, who were able to give him a hit with just Blaze as the in-house beat maker, here he shows that he has gotten ruthless and so his rhymes reflect this, and it translates into a killer opening track to get things going and liven listeners up.
2. "The Future"
As we continue things, you get to see which associates he has gained over the years when he has been absent from The Game and Dominic as this one find him in a collaboration with Compton's The Game, who gives this thing some West Coast style as Budden chooses to take from back in the day with his flows, and it makes for another pretty good one as he raps about how he hopes for a better thing for his girl as they advance their relationship.
3. "If I Gotta"
After a fairly lengthy introduction from The Klasix as the mood of the track is conveyed, this is a fairly haunting tune from him in that all of the content of it is done to some petty dark beats which are only taken further with the direction that Budden chooses to go with his rhymes with them putting his potential death of the focal point of it all.
4. "Don't Make It"
This track takes you right back to the eighties with the synth sounds of that decade brought up to modern ties in this track, and it makes a killer of a tune from hi. It is a complete surprise as I wouldn't have expected something so experimental from him, but it bumps hard so you can't complain at all.
5. "Blood on The Wall"
With Budden layering his voice in the hook of the tune it brings back the emotions of "If I Gotta" with it being taken towards the underground of his material, it isn't really as appealing, but it means that it just gives you more motivation to try and get into the material. I have to say that it wasn't really my thing, but the lyrics are deep and make you think.
6. "In My Sleep"
As you here this one begin you here that it a good choice for a single as the beats seem to bring him to a place where he is able to reach a fairly large audience of listeners, and it appears that he shaped his rhymes around this too with rhymes which are pretty open to any music listener with him trying out some conscious rap which takes influence from a strange dream.
On some production which is largely acoustics, there is obviously a significant change in the material, and here he chooses this effectively as he raps about girls from his past in such a way which makes it seem fresh and original (although it had clearly been done on various occasions in the past by others). The calmness of this mellow track makes it stand out, and so it should draw lots of attention towards it.
8. "I Couldn't Help it"
This is the final time where you have The Klasix on the beats, and since this act has been responsible for all the hottest tracks up to this point it is a shame, however it means that here you get even more high-quality things coming through as they try out something new and original yet again to show some diversity and allow the rapper to do his thing with various different styles of beats.
He tries something completely different for this one as he is backed by some Metal on this one, and it brings the pace up dramatically. It is one of the biggest tunes on the album, and as opposed to the whole 'Rockstar' fad of 2007 in the Hip Hop world this one sounds as if he truly feels the music which props him up here, and it makes for a monster tune, which really should have been a single.
10. "Happy Holidays"
You have the mandatory Rap/R&B crossover coming through on this one with Emanny singing on the hook, and it makes for a club banger of a tune, and one which is bound to make an impact for the summertime in that its grooves are designed to convey the sorts of things which you associate with that time period.
11. "Do Tell"
Unlike how others tend to do things as they do some personal raps where they bring in family members to their material, this finds that Budden is really able to bring in his fans for this one so that they don't immediately turn off as he speaks of how he wished he had done things in the past. You can relate to all he says, and it makes for something big.
12. "Angel In My Life"
This one has him on some big beats just vibing and speaking about what's on his mind. It has him showing that even when his deliver indicates that he doing things in a laid-back manner, the depth of what is said clearly has lots of deep thought goes into it with suicidal thoughts being one of many things brought to the forefront of your mind in the recording.
13. "Pray For Me"
In the final track on the album you find that Budden ends it by getting dark as he reminds you of the concept behind the album and has him speaks of how being in a padded room in effecting him negatively and making him think even more about why exactly he got himself into this position and why he will only probably get worse.
I was surprised by how strong this album was as although this album finds him going for more underground rap, a lot of what he does shows that he is doing bigger and better things with his raps and is now diversifying into other genre in order to make general music fans want to hear it (not just Hip Hoppers). There is really something for everyone here, but I doubt many will see past his old stuff and "Pump It Up" in particular.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Now I Lay
2 Future - Joe Budden,
3 If I Gotta Go
4 Don't Make Me
5 Blood on the Wall
6 In My Sleep
8 I Couldn't Help It
10 Happy Holidays - Joe Budden, Emanny
11 Do Tell
12 Angel in My Life
13 Pray for Me