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Under-appreciated Greatness Vol. II: Yeah, Joe Budden is a legend.

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While some of you are ready to lose your mind, peep…

Budden came up in the last era of hip hop when bars were a necessity in route to respect. Joey stepped on the scene circa 2001-2002, the beginning of what is commonly  referred to as the “mixtape” or “punchline” era along side the likes of 50 cent, Lloyd Banks, Young BuckCassidyFabolous, the Dipset movement, to name a few. Seasoned players like Beanie Sigel, Cam’RonJadakiss, and Styles P, who were in the game for a little while, were beginning to flourish as well. This was a point in time when hip hop was changing, dudes were at eachother’s neck, turning interviews at radio stations to battlegrounds. The game was left to the wolves, whether it was Desert Storm (DJ Clue, Joe, Fab, etc), D-Block, State Property, G-Unit or The Diplomats, everyone had a team of lethal pens. Joey not only survived the times, but established himself as one of the more prominent spitters of the early to mid 2000s (hence why he’s still here almost 15 years later). He had one of the biggest hits of 2003, with “Pump it up”, which could have been a gift and curse, but that’s neither here nor there. The success he achieved in the mixtape circuit is what ultimately has defined his legacy. His “Mood Muzik” tapes, were a 4 part series that felt like it was being recorded from a psychiatrist’s couch more than a booth. The tapes were not only critically accalimed in the underground market, it also helped establish a “Joe Budden” brand, carving out his own lane of heavy-hearted and honest hip hop that you’d be hard pressed to find in any of his predecessors.

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To some of you, who didn’t really expereince the early 2000s and may only be conscious of  Drake-era hip hop (2009-current), being an emotional rapper may not seem to be anything special to you because you see it everywhere. Hip hop was once a genre based on the alpha-male and self-boasting bravado, where any type of vulnerability or fear was blood in the water to the sharks, and it could be the end of the road for a rapper. Regardless of the fact, Joe fearlessly turned inside-out, letting you into his personal space and speaking on everything from his relationship with a distant son, hatred for his baby mother, and detailed accounts of his trial and error with women, friends and family. He went into the depth of his personal demons and the likes of depression, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts more vividly than the game has ever seen. Joe Budden made it okay to be human in hip hop. Whether it was done purposely or not, this type of content helped him relate on an elevated level with listeners and gained him his cult-following.

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Building even more of a personal relationship with his following, Joe was one of the first people who noticed how important the internet and “visual” accesibility was, via vlogs and youtube. Now-a-days, its a regular marketing practice. Every artist  seems to have a vlog now, because they become more “human” and tangible when fans can see their favorite artist’s activities. In the years proceeding JoeBuddentv, an artist would never let their following look in that close, in fear that it would compromise their still-on-the-corner / superthug image that they were upholding. JoeBuddenTV documented any and everything from his relationship with Tahiry (and arguments), issues with fellow Jersey-native Ransom, one of the first interviews with Drake, or just a game of monoply.

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Of course that level of openness wasn’t only in regards to his own depth and personal life, he was never shy about his opinions on others. Joe Budden’s name is synonymous with rap beef, which is something that may have overshadowed his true talent. He has battled with Sean Price live on Hot 97 (& lost miserably, Rest In Peace SeanP!) and subliminally but not-so-subliminally battled Jay-Z on record after Hov tried juxing Joe for the Just Blaze produced “Pump it up” track (it became the “Pump it up” remix). Aside from that, he’s beefed with damn near everyone you can think of, from the likes of Saigon to the legendary tier of the Wu-Tang clan. Oh yeah, and Def Jam as a whole got it too (The Growth album?). Though a lot of these situations made for some classic records, they’ve also left a bad taste in the mouths of hip hop listeners and his piers alike.

joe beef 2(Copyright: Complex)

The reason why it may be tough to recognize how important Joe Budden is to hip hop, is because of unnecessary and immature antics that may have come from an honest place, but developed into a stigma on the Joe Budden brand. His unapologetic frankness, which is admirable to some (me), may have also stopped potential-fans at the door before even giving him a chance. Instances like calling out Method Man in an unnecessary fashion (also documented on JoeBuddenTv) made him seem disrespectful and wreckless. Of course, him popping up on Ustream with an icebag over his eye after  Raekwon’s people reacted, didn’t help much, either. It’s these “when-keeping-it-real-goes-wrong” impulses that have grown legs of their own and make some room to slight the Jersey emcee, regardless of his catalog and ability to push a pen.

joe budden beef

On a more personal level, his romantic-endeavors with well-sculpted Latinas were always on display for the court of public opinion. Though he’s given celebrity and careers to a lot of his ex-partners, the element of publicity in a personal relationship can turn on you, especially when there’s an ugly demise involved. There’s a trail of women, longer than any public assitance line, ready to drag Joe Budden’s name through the mud with accusations of domestic abuse, which is tough on public relations. Throw that in the pot with his denim vest collection on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop” and the marriage prosposal gone wrong that made him the butt of memes all throughout IG, and you have a lot of distraction surrounding his actual wins.

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The open book that us Budden fans love him to be, has also made him a target and has given plenty of excuses to not recognize his caliber of artistry. All the controversy in the world, from verbal intercourse with the competition to his personal pitfalls, as well as the cliche “one hit wonder” claims, and Mr. Jumpoff Joe Budden has survived it all and remains a lot more relevant than most of his classmates (except Fab), 12 years later. The branch of emotion-driven hip-hop that he’s opened has had a major influence, whether directly or indirectly. The influence resonates with some of the biggest stars of today (He had Drake on JoeBuddetv in ’09). When the controversy quiets and all the claims against him become warn out, all you’ll have is his body of work. Remember, you can’t trust anything without a darkside…

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SideBar: All Love Lost 10/16 

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Curren$y: Under-appreciated Greatness

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Stand-out Project: “Drive-In Theatre” (2014)

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Uh, she came first, I came last
Shiesty bitch’ll put arsenic in your glass, and
Propose a toast to the fact that you been smoked
You a dead man walking, sucker, you ain’t even know
Never let my eyes close around these hoes
But she quick to put us down on the stove, that’s for sure
Tryna work her way in, mafia ties, helicopter ride
Business meetings in the sky
Drug dealers in disguise, this is I
Day in, day out, dazed in the Days Inn
Letting this work play out” (“E.T.” Feat. B-Real)

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Spitta Andretti also known as Curren$y, the New Orleans vet has put in his work over the years. What most don’t know is that he’s been a part of two of the most impactful movements in the history of the Big Easy. Believe it or not, he was signed to Master P’s No Limit records, around 2002, years after their relevance and run had ended. More well documented, is the fact that he was one of the first artists your man Lil Wayne reached out to when he started putting together Young Money (Even appeared on “The Carter II”), somewhere around 2004-2005. After about 3 years, he decided, fuck the major label shit, and took the route with more creative control. He put together his own record imprint, “Jet Life” and has a considerable amount of artists under him. After the point he decided to take a more independent track, he couldn’t be stopped. Spitta has put out a number of mixtapes and albums, both collaborative projects and solo, that have gave him the right to be dubbed an “Underground Legend” of sorts. He’s had collaborative projects with people from all walks of the game, I’m talking Styles P (“#The1st28”), Smoke DZA (“The Stage”), Wiz Khalifa (“Live In Concert”), Harry Fraud (“Cigarette Boats”) and The Alchemist (“Covert Coupes”) and he’s gotten respect and probably a feature from your favorite rapper.

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Unfortunately, in today’s game, the rate of under-rated artists deserving of more recognition is at an all time high. Artist’s such as Curren$y or a Lloyd Banks, will never get their proper due because of the appeal of the independent route, and the fact that you have to sacrifice creative control for a larger audience, or vice versa. In contrast, the majors will fund more promotion but you pay in the form of freedom, not being able to release the product you really want to put out. It’s not like previous eras in hip hop, in which quality artists were also the same guys you heard on the radio. Imagine “Illmatic”, “Ready to die” or “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” in today’s game as just mixtapes?, would they be celebrated the way they are?, it’s hard to imagine, but mixtapes and poorly-promoted independent releases in today’s game, have taken the place of albums of that substance. The game has changed to the point, where albums aren’t the source of profit they once were, and the mixtape represents a less regulated, more raw form of the album, that you could also tour off of. But it comes with a cost. Most of our favorite albums were major label releases (signs of the time), with more push and publicity, whether it was Loud records, Sony, Columbia or Def Jam, while artists today can’t put albums of that quality out without sacrificing some of the spoils, so it just comes out in the form of a free download album on datpiff or livemixtapes.com. So are artists like Curren$y and other “mixtape” rappers of the modern era, who put out quality material and album like work into their tapes, going to be shorted of their spot in history because of what the game has become? or will these mixtapes one day be appreciated the same way our golden era favorites are, to this day?. I mean, “Illmatic” & Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt”sold poorly, despite being an official studio album but eventually gained its notoriety in retrospect. Fuck it, that’s another conversation.

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Pardon that mini-rant, but back to regularly scheduled programming. Releasing classics in the mixtape circuit and choosing to side with the less slave-like atmosphere of an indie is still profitable. Curren$y is having no problem eating (Look at the man’s car collection, too), thanks to a more loyal fan base that his type of artist receives and even international opportunities for touring. But in our country, they don’t appreciate a lot of the real artistry, never looking much further than the radio, club or television for music, simply labeling anything else as “underground shit” in a condescending manner. Don’t get me wrong, Curren$y get’s a lot of love in the states but at the same time, is misunderstood by the masses and pigeonholed as just a “Weed rapper”. You don’t exactly dispute that stigma, having albums titled “The Stoned Immaculate”, but his content goes deeper than that. The man raps about his life, his world, the luxuries and everything in a day in the life of the N’awlens death dealer, the gear, the women, the smoke fogs, the lifestyle. It sounds simplistic and typical, but Curren$y has the ability to make you actually SEE his world, rather than just listening to songs about it, it’s cinematic with imagery and descriptive story-telling. Spitta described the point of his music in an interview with interviewmagazine.com saying ” Just do what you wanna do. If you stick to your guns, stick to what you’re saying, then, in the end, the universe will give it to you, because you believed in yourself. You can pretty much just create your own world; if you don’t like it, then just make it how you want it to be”. Stylistically, he’s where Raekwon and Pimp C meet. He has that slick talking, down south hustler aura about him, reminiscent of the UGK legend, with the car talk coated in his own slang and a heavy hometown-accent. The Raekwon comparison, comes from his ability to paint a scenario, to the finest detail. This element of his artist was showcased and polished as ever on his most recent mixtape release, the appropriately named “Drive-In Theatre”. He opens up the tape with a narrative of a day in the life, over the backdrop of Thelonious Martin production, simply called “Introduction”. His opening statement is, “Superpotent smoker, Francis Ford Coppola, Godfather Four, Impala on the floor/ With my homie Young Hogg, he just flew to the N.O/ To check on his homie and roll up something funky/ When he landed, I had a passenger, Type chunky/ by the ass, slim waist, smoking on that gas/ With no time to waste, I’m talking two seconds flat“. See what I mean? he incorporates all the normal elements of fast living but it’s not cliche. That’s just a touch of the veteran’s abilities. Curren$y sounds like Jack Daniel’s “Tennessee Honey” goes down, he’s a smooth talker with an effortless delivery and a sharp pen game decorated in pimp dialect, getting high and living his life like a street cat with one foot in and one foot out. The man has a lane of his own, too complex to be pigeonholed as one type of artist.

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I hate speaking to associates and friends of mine, who look dumbfounded when I bring Curren$y’s name up in the conversation of my favorite rappers in the modern era. I usually get “Who?”, “Doesn’t he just rap about weed?”, or, because I’m from New York, “Word? I can’t even understand what the nigga is saying”. Spitta’s appeal can be appreciated by any type of hip hop fan. Whether you just like getting high with your people or you’re living that underground economy lifestyle (or like to imagine you do), doing hand to hand’s in your city, you could fuck with his catalog. How about some Too Short esque game talk? stories of women-turned-commodities deserving of labels out of their name?, or if you’re about your whip game, or just love hearing that flashy fly talk, this is your guy. Though I appreciate hip hop from all regions, It’s pretty established that I’m more of a New York hip hop fan (past and present, just look at my blogs), than anything else. Despite that tint on my taste, I can’t ignore what Curren$y has to offer. He’s been one of the most hard-working artists of the past decade, and compliments quantity with quality. His consistency speaks, with every release, the man elevates his stock as an artist, but only a select following will truly understand and fully appreciate his product and the lane he’s made for himself. I feel a personal obligation towards artists like Curren$y, to spread the word because I’m confident in his talent, and can comfortably call him a legend in his own right. I’m not one of these new-age hip hop fans who throw around the term “legend” and “classic” to every artist and project with a buzz, if I say it, I believe in it. Some rappers don’t get their just-due, until they go away for one reason or another, whether it’s an untimely passing or a Jay-Z retirement. With that said, maybe time will do The New Orlean’s spitter justice, but I don’t count on it. He may go down with the countless amount of artists deserving of a top 5 favorite, but rather end up on a top 5 underrated list, but, it’s a legacy none the less.
Andretti most slept on, like ya big homie’s couch“-(“Vintage Vineyard”)

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Coming Soon:

“The Thinker:Part 2: The Blessing”

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Everything comes full circle, fif.

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From 2002 to 2005, there was nothing bigger in hip hop than 50 cent. He had just knocked Ja Rule out of his spot at the top of the charts, kicked his shoes off, and made that his new home. 50 and G-Unit were scorching, even before his record-breaking solo debut “Get Rich or Die Tryin'”. It was almost as if fif, Banks, and Yayo couldn’t release garbage, even if they tried. They were revolutionizing mixtapes, using it almost as a marketing plan and a build up for official studio albums. There’s no argument that they have a huge hand in why mixtapes play such a pivotal role for an artist in today’s game. Shady/Interscope was already a powerhouse in itself, with Eminem and Dr.Dre, Fifty and friends were just building a new empire on top of an empire. For that span of 2002 through 2005, everything G-Unit released (“Beg For Mercy”- G-Unit, “Hunger For More” – Lloyd Banks, “Welcome to Cashville”- Young Buck, “The Documentary”- The Game, “Thoughts of a Predicate Felon”- Tony Yayo, “The Massacre” – 50 Cent) was either certified gold, platinum or in the case of 50’s debut, diamond status (10 million plus, worldwide). Not taking away from the quality music that the group was putting out, but a huge piece of their success was from controversy as well.

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G-Unit, mainly 50 cent, had issues with pretty much everyone at the height of their success. 50 had wiped Ja Rule clean off the face of hip hop, and continued documenting beefs with The Lox, Fat Joe, and Nas. These “beefs”, were just a money move for fif and it kept business booming. Though it didn’t dent any of his opponents careers too heavily (the way it did for murder inc.), it did disrupt any type of New York unity, maybe planting a seed for the sharp fall off on our branch of hip hop. However, piece by piece, the empire began falling apart. First, it was the Game. The Game wanted to collaborate with Nas and Jadakiss, who he grew up on ,and fifty took it personally as if it was a matter of disloyalty. The Game eventually started a G-Unot campaign, which whether people want to believe it or not, put a real scar on the G-Unit brand. It magnified the whole myth of 50 cent being a snitch, and took a lot of credibility from him, specifically on a street level. Next it was Young Buck. Apparently Buck was growing frustrated with his situation with the Unit, and started acting out publicly about it. This eventually led to him getting the boot, and 50 cent releasing a message recorded in his inbox from Buck crying about being given another chance. With Game and Buck out of the picture, it was crazy, but it was a business based relationship between 50 and them, not like the relationship Curtis had with Banks and Yayo. Banks, Yayo and Fifty were the original G-Unit, all Queens bred. But even those relationships eventually saw their demise. Banks and Fifty often danced around the topic of a falling out, but even Stevie Wonder could sense tension there. You never saw them together anymore, even in Bank’s brighter moments with “Beamer, Benz or Bentley”, and his consistent mixtape releases, 50 was no where to be found. 50 eventually grazed the situation, subtly remarking that Bank’s work ethic was not up to par with his own. Bank’s side of the argument was that his father had just passed, he needed some time to recover and fif was kind of callus and insensitive towards it. That only left Yayo. It was all good until yesterday, at least to the outsider. Though 50 declared the G-Unit brand to be a thing of the past, we still assumed there were still relationships considering it was more than music among the original 3. Just yesterday on Yayo’s Instagram, he posted, “50 ain’t rocking with me and Banks the same I layed my life down for the unit but you live and learn”. That you do. Though G-unit (as a collective) has been over on a level of relevance for years, it seems its over in every sense.

ca. 2006 --- 50 Cent --- Image by © Danielle Levitt/Corbis Outline

On top of the last link (Yayo), coming out about his detachment from the group, just today news broke of 50 leaving Shady/ Interscope, and taking the independent route. Mr. Curtis Jackson came to an agreement on an independent deal with Capital/UMG. The first thing that came to mind when I heard that, was a conversation 50 had with Styles P on the Angie Martinez show in 2007. After years of trading diss tracks, Angie Martinez played Mediator and got 50 on the phone with P. It was a civil conversation, but when Styles was arguing his decision of going independent, 50 mocked him about the independent money vs major label money, and specifically that Style’s label, “Koch”, was a graveyard for artists who were passed their prime. Ironic. Styles has seen more success and relevance on a music level with his independent grind since that point than fif, even with the machine backing that 50 had. Talk about a fall from grace, but its funny how history repeats itself (It’s murdaaaaaa). You can’t help but think how 50 displaced Ja from mainstream America, ruthless and relentlessly, and then see the same machine turn against him. That’s how the game goes. For the first time ever, 50 and Ja are at the same level of relevance. 50 cent’s gangsta persona has become discredited by the fact that he’s been out of that lifestyle for more than a decade and he struggles to reinvent himself. After 50’s attack on Rick Ross backfired, Ross dropped Teflon Don and became a megastar while fif just dropped, period. He hasn’t dropped an album since 2009, and nobody cares. 50 put so much time into destroying other people’s reputation, when he should have taken the time to re-evaluate his own craft, so eventually he self destructed, just as his last album title stated, “Before I self destruct”. More Irony. He’s now making records with Fat Joe, in the studio with Jadakiss and Style’s for his next album, and according to Cam, Fif is in business talks with the dipset cheif (who he had another feud with). Is it growth? or is it accepting the fact that you’re defeated?. Either or, the man is going to make his money, shit, he’s got enough endorsements that he never needs to write another lyric in his life, and it’s probably better off that way. Side Bar: At least “Get Rich or Die Tryin’, will always be considered a staple in hip hop history, some rappers have endured success but are followed by the black cloud of never dropping that one classic.

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“Lookin’ Ass Nigga” & The other side of thirst.

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As the world already knows, Nicki Minaj just dropped her song & video “Lookin ass niggas”. The song is exactly what it sounds like, a song about guys who are looking hurt in the game, and looking at Nicki. At First it reminded me of that song that came out in ’08 called “looking boy”, by HotStylz and Yung Joc, which was just mocking other dudes and paying way more attention to another man than necessary. But what we have here is way bigger, and is about to take over every social network. There’s at least 5 bars in Nicki’s first verse, alone, that I could see under a cornball bird’s selfie on Instagram. “Look at y’all lookin ass niggas/ stop lookin at my ass, ass niggas”. Can’t you just see some girl in those tribal print, cheap leggings poking her ass out unnecessarily on IG, with that as a caption?. I digress. “I ain’t gotta check for y’all, but if I’m gonna check for y’all, Ima need a check from y’all niggas”. I’m already picturing one of those females who swears she’s a “boss bitch” holding up four twenty dollar bills, with that as her caption. You know the type. “Look at this pic, look at what the fuck I gave to you niggas”. Do I need to say anything more?. Didn’t think so. There’s a bigger picture here, in what this song does in the evolution of thirst.

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Nicki has served as the Quotable Queen for wannabe “Bad Bitches”, in every rat hole of every city. Her songs usually have certain females feeling themselves extra hard, on the train, on the bus, in their mirror, and has them thinking about all the “imaginary thirstbuckets”, they are watched by  wish they had. But “Lookin’ ass nigga”, is the anthem for women all over who are thirsty for thirst. The ones who really want to feel like there are guys out here sweating them. This type of young lady, will just listen to this song, and automatically feel like guys owe them money for her presence and have her stepping like a Goddess, imagining every guy she walks passed is a “lookin at my ass, ass nigga”.  Thirst among females and males, has really only been used in one fashion. It’s usually referring to the parched individuals who pay so much attention to people they’re attracted to, that it’s not complimentary, not sweet, not cute, it’s just creepy at that point. Female’s will rant and rave about how much they hate it. meanwhile, deep down their confidence would probably be through the floor without it. But there is this less commonly shared type of thirst, from a rare breed out there, that will expose themselves after this song. I can’t wait.

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Look we all have our insecurities, and it’s nothing to poke fun at. My only argument is stop acting like you hate the thirst. Thirst provides motivation for a lot of females, even if its only in their mind. But there’s always the girls, posting raunchy, provocative pictures on social networks, talking about “uh, I wish these niggas would stop sweating me”. Stop it, you love it. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t invite it. There are girls out there, who pay it no mind anymore, accepting it as a part of life, those are the ones who really experience thirst. If you have to post a quote from “Lookin ass nigga” or complain about thirst, you’re not really about that, and your insecurities are screaming at us.  Side Bar: I’m not gearing this towards all Nicki fans, just the a specific type of Nicki fan. SideBar #2: The beat to “Lookin Ass Nigga” is tough. I confess.

Nicki-Minaj-Lookin-Ass-Nigga-Downloa-MP3(The infamous Malcolm X photo, as the “Lookin Ass Nigga” cover art?, that may be a little insulting to some)…

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