There’s been some rumors that you may be going to Shady. Is there any truth to that?
That’s false. I haven’t signed anywhere.
Have you been looking at any majors?
I’ve pretty much did all the talking that I needed to do with people to see where my worth was. At this point, I’m just recording music and letting my lawyers go back and forth. That’s about it. Once that’s all taken care of, then I’ll sit back down with everybody and weigh my options.
Now that Jay-Z has left Def Jam, would you ever go back there?
What do you think of Jay-Z leaving Def Jam?
I don’t think. It’s none of my business and none of my concern. I’m off there. It’s none of my concern. Let me ask you a question. Why do I always get hit with these Jay-Z questions? Let me ask you that.
Because you’re going at him on “5th Gear” and “Talk To ‘Em” on Mood Muzik 3 and you have spoken out against him in the past.
I don’t really care about anything that doesn’t have to do with me. Once I go in the booth and get everything off my chest, I’m pretty much free of it all. I said what I needed to say on Mood Muzik 3. I caught a lot of slack for it. A lot of people didn’t understand but they don’t have all of the information. Once I say what I have to say, it’s pretty much a done deal.
You really went at Jay on “Talk To ‘Em”. Looking at the feedback, do you think you went too far?
No, not at all. I normally think before I do or say things. Well, sometimes. For the most part, anyway.
You mention that a lot of old rappers need to leave the game on “Talk To ‘Em“. Is there a list of rappers you think should retire?
I have a list of a few I think need to call it quits. Don’t start asking for any names. I’m not going to name any. What I mean by that is that the life expectancy of this game is not very long and with physical product selling the way that it is, I think it’s time to give some of the up-and-coming and newer artists some shine. Show some love to the new generation and let the young guys breathe some life into this dying culture.
Why don’t veterans in hip-hop get treated with respect the same way rock and roll veterans do?
Rock and roll has always been different. If hip-hop were more similar to rock, I think more of the older artists would retire because in rock and roll, you need to go on tour for about three years and you get a lot of money that way. In hip-hop, you can’t really do the same thing. I don’t really know. But why are some of these guys still around? They’re looking like Larry Holmes – flabby and sick.
On “Hiatus” you say you’re creating your own path instead of following a trail. How important is it to you that you make music an offer no apologies, no regrets and no retractions?
Like I always say, the problem with being an innovator is that you have to wait for the rest of the world to catch up. I come from a place where I’m a fan of hip-hop and when I was growing up, the songs that were being released were “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me” and “Mama Said Knock You Out”. You were able to go in the booth and really say how you felt and really get a point across and have some substance in your song while being mainstream at the same time. There’s a way to be mainstream without being mainstream. It’s not impossible. Kanye does a good job of it. Jeezy does it and Lil’ Wayne can do that. It’s pretty difficult to do that. I try to do that as a fan of hip-hop and I try to convey that through the music. Like you said, there’s no regrets and no apologies. It’s pure, unadulterated hip-hop, Joe Budden’s style.
Do you feel the fans are starting to catch up to you when looking at the response to Mood Muzik 3?
It’s not even just the fans. I would say so. I just think that people take notice. I will leave it at that. When you look at some of the things and some of the songs that artists are making nowadays, I think that people take notice. I don’t want to say that I’m solely responsible for it, but I would like to think I played a part in some of the certain introspectiveness that certain artists have geared towards in the last couple of years.
You also said on “Hiatus” that “music is what feelings sound like”. Can it be difficult to approach all your music like that?
No. Not at all. The majority of music you hear stems from how somebody is feeling at the time and you can take that from Mood Muzik all the way to “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)”. It all comes from feelings. I don’t think it’s difficult to convey that every time or difficult to apply that every time, or every time you do a song for that matter.
Can you go platinum without losing your soul, as you said on “Hiatus”?
Sure you can. It just takes time. The thing that a lot of fans fail to realize is that you have a lot of artists who will put albums out and they’ll sell 80,000-100,000 copies in the first week and all the fans will call it a flop. It’s not a flop. You just have to build your audience and build your fanbase. It’s like when Fab put “Breathe” out. It didn’t do very well but Fab needed to put “Breathe” out. It was a building block in his career.
On “Ventilation” you say you have to lose some fights to win the war. Were you referring to any of your battles or beefs?
No. I haven’t lost any of my battles or beefs, on wax anyway. (laughs) Well, at least I think so anyway.
You also say, “Stuck in a different decade like Da Brat”. Can your sarcastic humor catch fans off guard where they don’t know you’re making a joke?
Definitely. That happens to me in real life. I keep a good poker face and it’s pretty hard to tell when I’m joking or when I’m serious. But a lot of the things I say are said in a condescending way.
On “Ventilation” you also mention how you’ve always been a have-not. Will you ever lose that underdog mentality no matter how far you go in the game?
No. Probably not. I mean, who knows? I can’t predict the future and I can never say never and nothing’s impossible. For now, just for today, I will say no. Just for today, the answer is no.
Do you feel as though people don’t want to see you succeed, as you said on “Talk To ‘Em”?
I would say so, but that’s the case with every human being there is in the world. For everybody there is, there is somebody, somewhere that does not want that person to go further and does not want that person to be successful. But you can put me in a special category.
It sounds like you were really venting on “Roll Call”. How do you feel after a song like that is recorded?
Oh yeah, definitely. That’s the sole purpose of me doing it. I never expect the fans to fully agree with what I’m saying because they don’t have all of the knowledge and the information and the inside scoop. The fans only know what the industry wants them to know. So when I start off by saying that Jay-Z is a bad president and that Def Jam is horrible when it comes to promoting hip-hop, when I start saying those things, I risk the fact of coming across as a bitter MC or a hateful MC. I run the risk of all these things when in all actuality, none of that is the case. I’m in a great space right now and I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt. Sometimes I have to use the booth to get out certain frustrations that I may not have presently but I have had at some point.
You gave Jay props for his rapping on “5th Gear”. It seems as though you can separate Jay the President from Jay the Rapper.
Oh, definitely. I have to. I have to be able to differentiate the two. You know, I’m a fan, first and foremost, of music. So I try not to apply anything or any characteristics of artists, personally, that I don’t like. I try not to apply them musically. If that were the case, I probably wouldn’t be a fan of hip-hop. Everybody has their character defects and things about them that you may or may not like.
Jay being a horrible president has absolutely nothing to do with his body of work, his excellent catalogue, his excellent cadence, his mic presence and his wordplay. You know, it has nothing to do with any of that. It doesn’t take away from any of the work that he’s put in.
Can you listen to a Jay-Z album without thinking about how things went for you at Def Jam under his presidency?
I can listen to a Jay-Z album and enjoy it if it’s enjoyable. Me, personally, I didn’t enjoy Kingdom Come. I thought it was worse than what people said was the worst Jay-Z album, which was Volume 3. I don’t listen to it but not because I don’t respect Jay-Z as one of the greatest lyricists to ever pick up a microphone.
Was “Invisible Man” inspired by Ralph Ellison’s novel of the same title?
Sort of. It’s inspired by the novel, but I didn’t want to just go in that. I really could have went a lot deeper with that record and I didn’t.
You still said “Me and my mental got two addresses.”
Trust me, that record was going the deep route. I had to redo it in my mind. In my mind I had to redo it. It was definitely going the deep route. I didn’t wan t it to be too deep. I already felt like Mood Muzik 3 already had enough shit that would go over people’s heads and enough shit that people would have to think about.
Lyrically, Mood Muzik 3 is a lot better than Mood Muzik 2 if you really get into the lyrics. Mood Muzik 2 had a lot of lyrics that would just smack you in the face immediately if you heard it. On Mood Muzik 3, you would have to do a lot of thinking to understand what is being said.
Your fans will take the time to dissect your lyrics, but could it be hard for the casual hip-hop fan to get into your Mood Muzik series?
Mood Muzik is not for the casual hip-hop fan in no way, shape or form.
How should fans listen to Mood Muzik 3?
Maybe it’s the term “casual hip-hop fan” that’s throwing me off. When you say “casual hip-hop fan”, I picture someone who likes to listen to hip-hop occasionally and doesn’t care about the lyrics. They care about the beat and the hook but they’re not going to be up on Hip-Hop Jeopardy. Mood Muzik is not for them at all. “Fire” is for them and “Focus” is for them, but not Modd Muzik. Mood Muzik is for somebody who enjoys lyrics.
Mood Muzik 3 is for somebody who’s very knowledgeable when it comes to hip-hop. It’s for somebody who enjoys lyrics and enjoys listening and can sit and listen for a long period of time without becoming bored or without losing interest. And it’s my job to keep their interest and I’m very long-winded in the booth.
Is that why you make 7-minute songs like “Dumout”?
I enjoy making songs like that because of the freedom. Everything today has to come with a format – hook-16-hook-16-bridge-hook. Sometimes, you know, when you’re a rapper, you want to hear a rapper rap. I like to get in there and just spit 100 bars, 80 bars, 150 bars, 60 bars. The minimum you will get is 50. When Canibus first came out on the mixtapes, he used to talk a lot about lyrical fitness and it stuck with me from the minute that he said it. So I was very big on that.
These rappers can get in the booth and come out with a finished product, but are you able to go bar-for-bar to where the bars just seem endless? Are you able to get in the booth in one take and just run through a verse? Are you able to have the breath control that it takes to compete? A lot comes with rapping besides actual rapping. So I’m pretty big on that. How fast can you write a verse? How fast can you write a verse and have it be a dope, quality verse? What kind of concepts can you come up with? I put all of that into the lyrical fitness category.
Are you constantly trying new techniques and approaches in the studio?
All the time. All the time. Even if I don’t necessarily put it on a record…I have a million songs in the studio where I’m just trying different flows and I’m trying different ideas. There’s just a bunch of different things that haven’t been released. I think stuff like that is important.
How do you decide what works for you?
For me, I know “Focus” worked and not because of the radio play. I know it worked because it was innovative, it was different and it was something I couldn’t stop listening to the minute I recorded it. It’s the same thing with “Pump It Up” and it’s the same thing with my early work on mixtapes. And when it comes to just painting a picture and being introspective or being able to put somebody in a certain frame of mind with details, I do know that I’m good at that. Even if I’m the furthest thing from the best rapper in the world, there are certain things that I do that are better than 95% of the people recording music.
Look at ‘Pac. ‘Pac was never the greatest rapper. He was the furthest from it, actually. But if you ask me who the best rapper was to ever pick up a microphone, I would probably tell you 2Pac. His music is timeless and he was able to convey a different emotion on damn-near every verse and every bar you could feel. You could feel everything that he was saying, which is what made him so great.
On “Invisible Man”, you also said you would pick anonymity over being famous. Do you ever wish you had never pursued rapping?
No. No, because I learned so much. I learned so much going through it and I saw so much and I met so many great people, so I don’t wish that. But as of today, right this second, everybody talks about me having a song out or a record out and I need to put an album out. I haven’t been out too long and I’ve really, really enjoyed my time away from the limelight and I cherish it. Does that mean that I don’t ever want to put an album out? That’s not what it means. But I absolutely relished my time off. I haven’t really been off, but in my “time away”.
What makes you an “’80’s baby with a ‘60’s mindstate” like you said on “Get No Younger”?
I’m old. I’m old, man. (laughs) I got an old soul. I’m not even going to get into the things that let me know that, but everybody around me thinks that. I just think differently than your average 27 year-old, 30 year-old or 35 year-old for that matter. I just think differently. I’m on another plane.
On “Dear Diary” you talk about your problems with your son and his mother, like you did on “Old School Mouse” and other songs you’ve done in the past. Is it hard for you to put that struggle in your music?
It’s not hard for me to put it in my music. It’s hard for me to talk about it outside of music. Music is the only time I talk about that which is why it’s been such a repetitive topic throughout my career. You can look at “Dear Angie” and “I Want You Back” and “Old School Mouse” and the pre-mix to “Survivor” off the first album. That’s definitely a topic I’m going to infuse in my music until my child’s mother and I get things together, which doesn’t look like it’s going to be happening anytime soon.
You get into a deep story on “Secrets”. Does your storytelling ability get overlooked because you do so many other things well as an MC?
Oh yeah. Yeah. I think so. But that’s all right with me. You won’t be able to look over it once I’m 15 stories in. It’s just something that happened that I continue doing. I pride myself on being an MC that can do everything at least a little bit and at least half-decent. (laughs) I would like to be able to say I can tell a good story, spit a good punchline, I can spit off the top of the head all right and I can write about me. I can write a club record and I can write a girl record. I like to consider myself a pretty good writer even if I’m not a pretty good rapper.
Was Killa BH rapping in a gravelly voice going at Ransom on “Folgers Brothers”?
Nah, not at all. Actually that shit was done before Ransom released his freestyle over it.
Can you see how it could be going at Ransom with the voice and the beat?
(laughs) No. That was just him trying to rap. No, we weren’t going at him. I’m over that. A few people have asked me about some different bars on Mood Muzik 3 and if it related to Random, or Ransom, but not at all. I’m over and done with it. I said on my last diss record that I was done with it and I am. I don’t care if he goes out and releases 20 million more. I’m over it.
Has anything gotten better between you and Ransom?
Not really. I wouldn’t really say there’s been any progress and I wouldn’t really say there’s been any regress either. I haven’t spoken to him and I have no desire to speak to him. I haven’t seen him and I have no desire to see him. That’s pretty much where I stand. If I see him, will I shake his hand? Yeah, I’ll shake his hand. That will be it though. Don’t ask me about my day. No, no, no. Don’t ask me about my day. I won’t ask about yours. Let’s not talk about life and let’s not talk about music. Let’s not talk about none of that shit. Those days are faraway, long gone.
As long as we’re talking about rappers you haven’t gotten along with lately, Saigon said on HipHopGame that he would break your jaw when he saw you in regards to your punchline about how you “hit and run like Saigon”. Have you spoken to Saigon since then?
Haven’t spoken to anybody. I pray for Saigon. And I pray for Ransom. And I pray for all these other people with these thoughts that just fucking let you know that they need some type of help or guidance or direction. I don’t have any ill will towards them, but I haven’t spoken to Saigon.
You keep a consistent sound throughout your Mood Muzik projects but you switch up producers. Do you care who you work with as long as they bring you what you want?
I care. Of course I care. The thing with that is that on Mood Muzik 2, me and C4 had established our chemistry. On Mood Muzik 3, me and the Classikz and me and Sultan had that chemistry. It’s about producers having that sound that you can work with.
How close do you like working with producers?
I like to get a folder of beats and then contact the producer. Nine times out of 10, when I hear a beat, I can hear something that I want to be added or maybe I want the song sped up and then I’ll call the producer and build with them and let them know the direction I’m going in and we build on that.
You’re releasing Mood Muzik 3.5 digitally. What’s the difference between Mood Muzik 3 and Mood Muzik 3.5?
We wanted to put some different songs on it. We wanted to fix a couple of the sound issues that we were having. And we wanted to try and get it into more people’s hands. That’s what that was about. It was kind of a good faith measure with the label to where I’m putting out an album in the spring called The Padded Room. So if you want this album, you have to take this album. It’s kind of one of those deals and it’s working out great. It’s being received well. We started recording so far and the music is coming out insane. It’s been awhile since the people were able to hear a Joe Budden album. I think they will enjoy it.
Is The Padded Room going to have all new material that you’re recording now?
Are you varying your approach to The Padded Room that you used on your Mood Muzik series?
No. There will be some…Well, yes and no. It’s still going to be very lyrical and it’s not going to be “dumbed down”. But the mood will be a lot lighter on a few records. There will be a club record and there will be a girl record and things of that nature. It will basically be like a Joe Budden album. On the Joe Budden album, there were songs like “Pump It Up” and “Focus” and “You Ain’t Gotta Go Home” and et cetera, but the base of that album was very different and that will be the same thing. That will be the same thing on this album.
At this point, have most of the songs that you recorded for The Growth been released?
Most of them have been released. Any of them that haven’t been released…Actually, they’ve all been released. They’ve all been released. The only thing that hasn’t been released is ideas that I had that I haven’t recorded yet. Those haven’t been released but they will.
What’s your main focus for the next few months?
The same as it’s always been. I’m going to be recording music. During my tenure on Def Jam, Joe Budden fans were deprived of music so I’m doing my best to put my best foot forward now. I got an album coming out in the spring and if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be signing my major label deal and I’ll be releasing another album before the year is out. Three albums in one year is pretty good. That’s gotta get the fans to pay attention. No, I’m talking too fast. First I gotta make it happen. Then I gotta get the fans to pay attention.
Can recording that much music dilute the quality for you?
I never run out of material! I got so much shit to talk about between shit that happens on an everyday basis, between things I’m going through, between things that people around me are going through and between things that I’m hearing firsthand. It’s about trying to be creative. I try to be creative every single day, whether it results in music being released or not. I have a million ideas that I haven’t even put on a record yet. They’re really, really great ideas that I have that I was saving for my album on Def Jam that never came to fruition. I’m anxious. We have a great time just going in and making music and that’s what it’s all about.
What do you want to say to everybody?
What up? What’s ‘hood? Shout out to Jersey, every single city in New Jersey. Jersey City, Newark, East Orange, Orange, Irvington, Plainfield, Trenton, Camden and Atlantic City, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, Englewood, fucking Union City, North Bergen and anywhere that I may be forgetting, shout out to all of that. They’re not going to be able to hold us back for much longer. Oh, and thank you. Did I say thank you? Thank you. I appreciate the love and support.