Joe Budden, the New Jersey rapper who had a hit nearly a decade ago with 'Pump It Up,' knows the highs of fame. But after parting ways with Def Jam on the heels of his debut album, which went gold, Budden was broke.
Eager to prove his heft, Budden hit the independent circuit hard, releasing a steady stream of lyrically sharp material with the Mood Muzik mixtape series, among other releases. That work led to his role in the supergroup Slaughterhouse with Joell Ortiz, Crooked I and Royce Da 5'9".
With his just-released 'A Loose Quarter' mixtape earning acclaim and his 'No Love Lost' album arriving in stores February 5, Budden spoke to RedBullUSA.com about how the lessons he's learned from being down and out affected the way he makes music and how he lives his life.
RedBullUSA.com: You've dealt with serious addiction and other problems. How have you managed to maintain being happy and content with yourself despite some of the personal things you've battled over the years?
Joe Budden: Happiness is an ongoing battle. It's not something that is permanent. You make mistakes. You learn from them. I seem to have a good perspective on things. Maybe it all happened when I hit 30, but I have a pretty good perspective on every emotion, why they come, why things happen and I just try to learn every day.
As long as I can get some information out of it, then I'm alright. And I'm a man of extreme faith, so I believe that whatever's happening, as long as I'm serving God then His script is just playing out. If you really believe it and you're not just talking it, then you'll be blessed with happiness.
On 'What Y'all Want,' off your mixtape 'A Loose Quarter,' you talk about going well on a label and well on your own. Realizing you were doing well on your own, how do you look at your time right after you left Def Jam? Is it the same or different from how you felt at the time?
It was a blessing. If I don't go through that system and all the hardships that came along with it, I'm not certain that I would have been able to maneuver so successfully on my own. I walked away from there with a lot of knowledge, a lot of savvy. I really owe a lot to that entire transition, from being highly touted at Def Jam to being "shelved" and not knowing where my next dollar would come from.
Your next album, 'No Love Lost,' comes out next Tuesday, about two months after the 'A Loose Quarter' mixtape. Given that they're coming out so close together, how did you go about making them different from one another and how are they different from one another?
'No Love Lost' might be the most different project that I've ever created. I just took a lot of tools that I picked up along the way, the path that I took to get here. I learned a lot from Slaughterhouse. I shed some of my stubborn and anti-social, hard-headed ways. It enabled me to make the best music that I could possibly make today.
It's a very complete project. It's very musical, but it's still not abandoning all the things that I believe in, my musical morals and my integrity. People do that a lot. They get in the studio and they just start reaching. They're like, "I need this record, that record." I really just went in there with my team and created from scratch.
"As brutally honest as I am in the music, I still feel that it leaves a void to exactly how my brain operates." -- Joe Budden
I have so many great relationships and resources and assets available to me today that it was really simple. It's probably the easiest project I've ever done, as far as mentally. It wasn't so exhausting. Maybe that's just because I'm in a great space and I'm extremely happy and content with everything. It was a great process.
Mind you, I was facing tremendous deadlines. My album comes out [February 5]. This is coming off a Slaughterhouse tour, a Slaughterhouse mixtape, a Slaughterhouse album, Slaughterhouse promo and marketing that album, another Slaughterhouse tour, directly into filming a TV show, directly into getting a mixtape out, directly into going on tour. The task seemed insurmountable, but it was the exact opposite.
Out of all the things you mentioned, the one that could lead to the most stress is the TV show, VH1's 'Love & Hip-Hop,' which premiered recently. Why would you do that show?
I'm extremely fond of my brain and the way that it functions. As brutally honest as I am in the music, I still feel that it leaves a void to exactly how my brain operates. I would never shun the opportunity to offer that to the people. I would just never get on camera or in the booth and it be some bullshit, something that Joe Budden doesn't stand for. But I'll do anything in this world as long as it represents me correctly.