Joe Budden is a sort of anomaly within hip-hop. He is looked up to by nearly every established or aspiring lyricist out there, his life seems to be stuck in a constant state of eclipse that produces nothing but darkness and sadness around him. He is revered yet has little resentment for his own self-destructive tendencies; and he tells his story like a modern day poet laureate. All of this unequivocally creates the ideal situation for a rap artist to flourish. While commercially he has been strained by the lack of an audience for his often disquieting material, he has found footing in underground crowds as a legend.
Time and time again he has taken his addictions, insecurities, and instability and created poetic afterthoughts that can serve as cautionary tales to the rest of us. This process is most evident on a string of mixtapes known as the Mood Muzik series. There are four tapes in total, each gaining notoriety from those before it, culminating in the fourth installment released in 2010. Very few musical series have extended for four outings and been able to maintain such a consistent mood through and through.
The fourth installment, Mood Muzik 4: A Turn 4 The Worst, is another trip down memory lane. Before the project dropped, Budden had gone on record and said that this would be the lightest of the four projects in term of its mood. In reality, trying to hear its lighter tone is like trying to pinpoint the differences between two apples from the same tree, few exist. If anything, the lighter weight is established by the two humorous skits (‘Mop Salad’ and ‘The Shoes’) that consist of R&B laced fillacio explanations and punchlines about rappers crying from onions and bunions causing shoe problems.
Don’t be mistaken the rest of the album is classic Budden, lyrical dominance asserts itself over every other aspect. Storytelling is prevalent in plenty of forms, like Budden rapping from the perspective of someone who witnesses the life of someone with crippling family problems as well as a woman who objectifies herself for a taste of the glamorous life on ‘Welcome To Real Life’. It’s hard to pluck songs from Joe and decide which one are most capable of expressing just how good he is. There is no doubt that Budden is one of the top lyricists in the game. His ability to carry a rhyme scheme non-stop for the entirety of his lengthy and complexly structured verses is amazing. On ‘Black Clouds’, a song about Budden finally starting to overcome his struggles and escape the metaphorical storm that looms overhead he beautifully describes his old drug habits and how he hid beneath a doped-up shell.
“Been medicated, meditated
Character assassinated, all theses years I masqueraded
Hard headed, if it was on my mind I had to say it
Tongue on the devil’s pitchfork to see how disaster tasted.”
The articulation and conviction that Joe puts into each word makes every sentence sound like a release from the pain contained within it. The structure of the songs is perhaps another way in which it could all be interpreted as the least dark entry in the series. They periodically begin with Joe pouring out his inner darkness, or that of his past and then they lift up into a chorus that has the weight of a feather, flipping the mood on its head. The albums all winds down to its carelessly optimistic ending that seems fitting for a guy like Joe Budden who has seemingly been through it all. ‘If All Else Fails’, Joe will envy all the things he currently despises as he reverts back to his hood antics in his studio apartment dealing with the same lowly problems of everyone else on his block – and he is confident that he would be fine doing that after looking through the glass from the other side of fame. Joe’s life may be strides, oceans or even worlds away from beautiful, but the music he has turned it all into is something so much more.