Our phone conversation with Joe Budden resulted in a delightful conversation about how fucking dark and sad it is to take MDMA for an entire summer.
When I found out that Jim Jones was going to be on Love and Hip Hop, it seemed a little sad in the way that you get a little sad when a sitcom you sort of like jumps the shark, even though I loved every moment of Jimmy fighting with his fiancée. All of that sadness, brought on by trashy entertainment, came together pleasantly in cyclical rap geek fashion when I realized that Jim Jones’ wife is probably the same “Chrissy” that Jay-Z called out on The Black Album in “Allure.”
Anyway, when I found out that Joe Budden was going to be on Love and Hip Hop (and sorry for opening up my interview with you, Joe, to make fun of another rapper) it didn’t seem sad at all. Not only was he the first, currently relevant rapper to be on the show (pack it up, Benzino!) Joe Budden has been making YouTube videos and tweeting all sorts of wild shit about his romantic escapades for years now. Plus, his new single with Tank and Lil’ Wayne is pretty great! So, I’m excited for the new album and I had a great chat with Mr. Budden about his new reality TV lifestyle, MDMA, rap producers with formulas, and some other things.
NOISEY: So, Love and Hip Hop... This is your first reality T.V. experience, right? What's the most annoying part of being part of a production like that?
Most annoying part... You know, you go through different moods and that’s a natural thing. Sometimes you don't want a camera in your face. But outside of that I haven't had any problems with the project. It's all been pretty cool.
Do you just get used to being filmed that much?
Yeah, well I've had a record deal for a long time so I'm kinda used to the cameras and the people, I'm used to dealing with peoples’ opinions. For some other cast members, it may be a little traumatizing because they come from a different experience, but for me it's the life I chose.
Yeah. Most rappers live in the public eye, to a certain extent, but you seem to have your personal relationships constantly discussed publicly, even before this show. Is that a conscious choice to share your life with the rest of the world? Is there a reason that you have the spotlight on that part your life so frequently?
There's no one aspect of my life that is more hidden than others. I mean, everything is pretty much an open book in every regard: relationships, personal, business, music, family, problems, demons, everything is well documented.
Do you enjoy being that type of open person? Does it ever become sort of like you want people to back off? Are there any moments where it just kind of feels like too much?
Nah. That's me. Hate it or love it, take it or leave it. I'm gonna win it and I don't really care about what other people have to say about the way that I behave.
Cool. I really like your new single “Put It Down,” and as you know people say it sounds a lot like “I'm On One,” but that just seems to be the result of T-Minus (the producer of both of these songs) having a bit of a formula. Is it frustrating as a rapper to find a really great beat by a popular producer knowing that it sounds sort of similar to something else, or that this producer is doing the same type of thing that he did for someone else?
It can be frustrating to me. Do I think that T-Minus tried to make the same exact beat, do I think that he simply tried to create that sound again? No. I don't think that, he's way too talented of a producer really, and I'd have to give him the benefit of the doubt even if I did think that. And, I know I certainly didn't go in there and attempt to recreate that song... it’s a totally different experience all together. But for the people who do say that, I mean, “I'm On One” is one of the biggest songs of 2011 so, it depends on how you take it.
Yeah, I mean at least they're not comparing your single to a shitty song.
[Laughs] Yeah, pretty much. That's the worst case scenario.
Joe Budden's 2003 video for "Pump it Up"
You’ve been around for a while. Your breakout single, “Pump it Up,” came out in 2003. So you've been an active and visible rapper for about a decade now. What major changes in rap have you noticed, and how has it been challenging to stay afloat for this long while maintaing relevance?
Everything has changed. From the way that we make music, to the way that we hear music. Everything about the industry has changed, but that's the industry, you expect change when you've been around that long. And it hasn't been challenging for me to stay relevant. I think it becomes challenging when you start to live too much in your thinking about that aspect of things, like, “How do I stay relevant?” I don't really focus on all that, I just try to be the best at what I do. I always try to improve on my last outing.
Plus you have a fanbase that keeps you going as long as you're authentic to them, so you don't really have to worry about much, right?
Yeah, pretty much.
I watched your Breakfast Club interview where you said that you spent, I don't know how much you're exaggerating, but you said that you spent an entire summer doing MDMA? What kind of challenges do you run into when you're spending a summer like that?
Everything was a challenge. Life was a challenge for me. At that point, living was a challenge.
It must be overwhelming to be in that state so frequently.
It just depends on how you look at it, different strokes for different folks. Everything becomes unmanageable when you decide to live that way. Other people can do that naturally, I'm not one of those people.
When did you realize it was unmanageable?
I couldn't pinpoint exactly when, and I'm not sure if it was one thing as opposed to a combination of things, but you know I have great people around me and we were pretty much able to get a hold on it before it ran wild.
I guess you just run into a point where it's not fun anymore, right?
Well yeah, it finally wasn't fun for me at all. I don't think I was taking it to have some fun. And you know, with drugs, if you take enough of it it's not having the same effect. It won’t have the same effect on you that it once did. You start taking a bigger dose and then you start taking different drugs. None of that, with much respect, is fun at all.
Were there any fun stories or memories from that time, or was it all just generally not cool?
No. None of it was fun.
Do you think it's weird that doing molly has become so popularized in rap? Because, anyone who's done it knows that it’s not a casual thing to do. Do you find it sort of strange that it's been depicted as innocently as drinking a beer or smoking a joint?
No, because hip-hop will popularize a bunch of bullshit. That part is not shocking to me. You know, we're a very ignorant culture when it comes to that.
Fair enough. You also mentioned on The Breakfast Club that Love in Hip Hop isn't scripted, but that the producers hand out a bunch of booze and let everyone go crazy. But, since you don't drink, is it weird being the only one that's not drunk? Or do you just get used to that?
Yeah, I'm pretty much the only guy that's not drinking or not taking drugs. But whatever works for other people. Some people feel like they need to take a drink to ease their nerves. Some people feel like they wouldn't be comfortable unless they take a drink. So, just for me, this whole experience was a particularly natural one.
After this album comes out, what's next for you?
I have no clue. I've spent so much time on this album just making sure it was executed that way that I wanted it to be. I'm going to celebrate when this album comes out, and deal with the rest of it later on.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire