There was a time when Joe Budden was my favorite rapper. Even ahead of Jay. With Hov “retired” from 2003 to 2006, someone had to fill the void. Joe Budden was that guy. His Mood Muzik mixtapes (namely 2004’s The Worst Of Joe Budden and 2005’s sequel, Can It Get Any Worse?) opened up the rap game for what would become the norm a few years later: the vulnerable MC.
But let’s take it back to 2003. Fueled by the bombastic Just Blaze produced “Pump It Up” as well as the street single “Focus”, I was ready by the time Joe’s self-titled debut arrived. We all know the story: it bricked and it took Joe 4 or so years to get off of Def Jam in order to release his second album Padded Room (although, I still would REALLY like to hear what The Growth would’ve sounded like). By that time Slaughterhouse was formed, Budden became known more for talking than his rapping, Love & Hip-Hop, and here we are today. But I’m here to tell you his debut album was solid. Obvious club songs aside, the true Joe Budden is all over the place.
The very last song on the album (before the unnecessary bonus tracks) is called “10 Mins.”. When I first came across it, I had never heard a 10 minute rap song. I’ll even say as much that Budden was the inventor of long form rap; no one (other than The Game) can rap at such a high level and maintain your attention throughout. The premise is simple: Joe is stressed and wants to smoke one cigarette, a 100, in peace. As Joe smokes his cigarette, he relays three different tales. The first one about the pressure he has as a fledgling rapper, the second about his family and addiction struggles, and the third about a girl he has feelings for who is in another relationship.
For as much credit as Kanye and Drake got for baring their souls on wax, Budden was doing it 5 full years before 808s & Heartbreak. “10 Mins.” was only the tip of the iceberg as the Mood Muzik series gave Joey the true space he needed to vent about any and everything. The song is also an almost perfect 10 minutes and 4 seconds, which we’ll allow as Joe probably took one more puff after getting all of that off his chest. “10 Mins.” is the perfect theme for when you’re in a foul mood. It wasn’t even that long ago that I turned to the track when my old job had me stressed on my lunch break. It’s a groundbreaking moment in hip-hop for me.
Joey went on to revisit this concept for Mood Muzik 2’s “Three Sides To A Story, another must listen for anyone who’s interested in hearing more of this Joe Budden versus his commercial material (but way more graphic). I still wish we were in those ‘Joey stuck in Def Jam” days. His material started to slip with me once he got to Amalgam and it’s been hit or miss ever since. But if there was ever a moment where I would’ve taken another rapper over Jay-Z, this era of Budden’s career would’ve been it.