The Joe Buddens Era/Error

Written by Wil

There’s too much music. We’ve over saturated the market and weakened the value of our product. On any given day, you can go to 2dopeboyz.com and find 20 new songs from hip-hop artists, and that doesn’t even account for the mixtapes and all the hundreds of songs that won’t get posted by a site of that caliber.

John Regan, the Baltimore hip-hop artists who I partnered with to create Sorry I’m Late, might never release another song as long as he’s alive, but he’ll always be associated with quality. If five years from now he decides to record music again, it’ll be welcomed with open arms because they’ll associate him with the quality of Sorry I’m Late. Matter of fact, we’ve been having a disagreement lately because he wants me to send him the sessions for some of the tracks that didn’t make the album so he can “put them out (whatever that means). We have records produced by J. Cardim and Frequency, and songs that feature some well respected artists. Solid ideas, great beats, but just not finished songs. I refuse to send them to him. I told him if he wants to release them, invest the money to go into the studio and finish them properly. I refuse to release sub-par, lower quality music under my brand. He’s upset about it now, but he’ll be happy that I held my ground down the line.

This is a huge problem in the urban industry. Rappers release so much music that’s below their talent level. Rihanna would never release songs where she’s singing off key. Drake has amazing control of what’s released. Even his unfinished songs are mixed well, him singing on key, and most of all – good songs. Rappers tend to record something, email a verse to someone else, throw a quick mix, then send it to nahright.com. Sure, it keeps their name out there, but now we’re associating this weaker music with their brand.

I understand, not every artist can do what Jay and Kanye did. Basically take nine months off and fly around together to record a project, bringing in each contributor and keeping the circle tight. But they can take better care of their product.

So many albums, specifically independent projects, spend all their budget on beats and features and save nothing for mixing and mastering. They’ll also record up until the last second and not leave the appropriate amount of time for a quality mix. They’ll spend $10,000 on a Nottz beat, but will find some kid to mix and master the album for free. See, the features are sexy, but the mix is boring. But guess what? The mix is such an important part of the process. A good or bad mix can completely change how people view your work.

The most obvious example of this would be Joe Buddens. He’s one of the most talented rappers in the industry but suffers from some of the worst quality issues this side of MySpace. In this day and age, there’s just no excuse for poor quality. It’s as if he feels his words are so powerful that his beats and mixes don’t matter. It’s so bad that J. Cardim actually released the Joe Buddens Mood Muzik 4 instrumentals so people could see how the beats were supposed to sound. The mixing was so bad that they actually ruined the beats. I’ve had a couple of the other producers involved in his projects email me their original beats after I critiqued them just so I could hear what they had originally submitted. It ruins the listening experience. When I have a playlist of my favorite songs, I can’t add anything from Joe (sans his self-titled debut that was handled by Def Jam) because the drop off in quality and sound is too severe. As a fan, it’s frustrating.

There is a lack of attention to detail in everything he does. His last official album, Padded Room, actually had his name spelled incorrectly on the CD spine (Joe Buddden). His book, Enter the Mind of Joe Budden, had his wrong website link. It also claimed to be a “lyric book that gives fans a closer look at his personality and his songwriting methods. Handwritten lyrics of Joe’s hit songs“, yet was nothing more than typed lyrics copied from a website with no insight to his “songwriting methods”. Tactics like this, and charing money to fans for a “VIP” experience to meet Buddens, are what bring some short term money but injure your brand in the long term. Artists need to focus on building quality again. His theme seems to sign a front-loaded deal with a small, obscure label and then complain later when they don’t handle him properly. Well, every artist is responsible for who they partner with. A better idea would be to partner with a more established group and take less up-front money but secure a better fu ture. Sure, doing things his way makes a little more money in the short term, and you save money by cutting corners with mixing and mastering, but your brand loses value and you lose a lot more in the long term. This industry is built on residual income, not one-time cash advances.

Buddens is hardly the only one, just the most noticeable. But poor sound quality and too many records are only two parts of the problem. A third is the way that albums are presented. These leaks have to be better controlled. Leaking seven songs from an album before the release ruins the listening experience. We’ve seen through the years that it’s “monkey see, monkey do” when it comes to Jay, so I’m assuming we’ll see a lot more staggered digital/physical release dates in the coming months (let’s just be glad he didn’t tell us to all wear diapers outside of our clothes, or else the Huggies stock would be through the roof right now). But that’s only part of it. Artists can’t send songs all over the place. They need better control of their product. They need to invest more time.

Take Skyzoo, for example. He’s an independent artist, but all of his music sounds crisp and clean as if it was released by a major label. Sky isn’t a billionaire. How come his music always sounds pristine? It’s because he invests time and money into his work. He takes pride in what he releases. There’s not enough pride in urban music these days. There’s plenty of egos, but not enough pride. Rappers are so concerned with their words that they forget they’re supposed to be making music.

Artists need to remember – everything they release is a direct reflection of their brand. You release a quick freestyle or an unmixed collaboration and that becomes a part of your legacy. You never know when someone is listening to you for the first time. The only records that should be leaking out are records that you believe are a positive representation of you. Artists need to take better care of their brand.

Also, don’t be in such a rush to release music. Put it out when it’s right. If you’re working on a collaboration and the featured artist isn’t adding anything to the song, don’t be afraid to cut it off. Don’t leave it on just for the name. If you must, save the verse for a remix or something, but have the balls to make a call on your music. Not to call him out again, but Buddens had a song on MM4, Remember the Titans, that had Royce the 5’9”, Lloyd Banks and Fabolous on it. It was beyond obvious that Banks didn’t fit on the record. His flow was lazy and boring and brought the song down. Instead of cutting the verse, he left it on – either for the name recognition or because he couldn’t bare to tell an artist that he begged for a feature that he was leaving him off. Either way, it severely hurt the song.

Remember, this is your music. The only way you should collaborate with someone is if it’s adding to the music. Unfortunately, because of constantly updated blogs and the instant availability of music, artists force themselves to play the “quantity” game and it’s killing the industry. Don’t continue to dilute our genre. Keep it exclusive. Take pride in yourself and your music.

Just my two cents. Please leave comments, I’d love to get your feedback.

If you enjoy my posts, please follow me on twitter: @culturevi

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Wil

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  • But don’t you think the lyrics seem to be what people focus on the most, thats why rappers tend to make sure lyrics are the focal point and everything else comes 2nd?

    • lol no way. lyrics are what a small niche of fans focus on. the rest of the world can give a fuck about the words. in songwriting, it’s common knowledge the the melody comes first, followed by the music, and lastly lyrics. and that’s just a staple. if you’re interested in words, join the spoken word or poetry circuit.

  • Remember the Titans was a mess. Obviously everything else you’ve said has been overstated to the maximum. Joe can’t be that clueless can he? Does he have a hearing impairment? If it is a financial issue, Joe doesn’t need the big name features. He never has and never will. But to have amateurs mixing a “professional” musician is unacceptable. When it’s all said and done, I just think that Budden’s core fan base, including myself, will always put way more stock in to what he is actually saying. We (Budden fans) can live with the mediocre sound as long as we can relate…

  • And just to quickly add on. Budden, I believe, has recognized his niche/ realzied that there isn’t ever going to be a huge influx of “new” fans. Everyone is too caught up in the Wiz’s, Wale’s, etc.

  • Great points. As I read through the post I realized it could actually be applied to anyone building a brand in hip hop (producer, model, etc), or a brand in any niche for that matter:
    1. Don’t rush the product
    2. Invest time and money
    3. Pay attention to details.

  • Antoher post where u talking about what u dont know:

    The problem is the money that budden put into the mixing/mastering is well more important than what skyzoo put on his own.
    If u think Charles roanne who mixed somme 50cent, ludacris, Aguillera, MJ album and his partener parks are amateurish, then u buggin son …
    I admit there is a problem with that headquarterz stu!!, that primo studio got something wrong, just listen to royce projects, its the same: dope engineers but something is wrong with sound quality. But if you think its money issue, then u wrong

  • I’m a sucker for lyrics (i.e. if the lyrics are right but the mix blows, I’m likely to still enjoy the song). I’m also a sucker for Budden, and I know, from listening to his lyrics, that he really doesn’t give a shit about a lot of things including what people think about what he puts out. Many times, when a person doesn’t give a shit, it’s likely to reflect in the end product, somehow. I agree with you, CIV, that Joey’s music lacks in quality and sound, at times, and he is one of many artists that have features on their track that seem like they don’t belong and that often do a disservice to the song … However, that will not stop me from coppin Budden’s shit… I’m not an expert, but it seems that there are many lyricists that just wanna get their message out by any means necessary, and their focus might be far from the mix, etc…Some really give a shit about what they spit over and some don’t. I will admit, I agree supporting amazing lyrics with a strong backbone most likely would result in increased listening pleasure. Personally though, when I hear a song that has a dope beat with crap lyrics, I’m quick to turn that shit off. There have been times where I listen to a couple songs that were catchy or nice on the eardrums, the interest in this music never lasts as long to me as a song with some great lyrics. Earlier you stated, “The rest of the world can give a fuck about the words” and I couldn’t agree with you more. A part of me is sad and frustrated that many people don’t care about what they are listening to lyrically… but to each their own.

    So many individuals could be affected by albums that are out right now…you’re right, there’s too much music out, it’s almost overwhelming, but I love it and i try to pass it along when I can. You mentioned it’s like The Great Debaters and Sorry I’m Late – people could easily fall in love with these albums because they are so well put together, so fluid and have great lyrical content. Sorry I’m Late is an album that I consider to be great all around – I’ve raved about it in the past many times to the artist involved and to the people that I interact with in my life. It’s one of those cds that I’ll always be able to put in and listen to from beginning to end, over and over, but do you know what else I think about sometimes when I listen to this album? I think about the first day that I found out that John did not write most of the songs. His delivery was impeccable because it had me believing LOL but hey, it happens in hip hop once in a while. I just have to accept the fact that the person spitting is not the person speaking. I will always still love the album to def, and you have given me a different perspective on what it takes to make an album like Sorry I’m Late…

    Great blog Will, and please pardon my babble ! Lol

  • this is why I respect you man, this is the way that artists need to be thinking. i love that you won’t give John Regan the songs unless he invests the money and time to make them complete quality songs lol, but that’s really how it should be.

    it’s always kind of confused me why an artist would choose to put out a song that they KNOW isn’t up to their standard. while i suppose it gets them more exposure, all its really doing is making them look worse than they really are, right?

    this can go in 2 ways though…jay electronica is doing the the right way. dr. dre is doing it the wrong way

  • I was just tryna make this point to someone. Another rapper who shall remain nameless bashed me for not releasing any music. My response was because I’m new to the recording process I wanted to perfect my craft and put out 3 quality projects as opposed to dropping 50 half assed tracks. I’m very self conscious about how I introduce myself to the world because as the saying goes you only have 1 chance to make a 1st impression. If you are really passionate about what youre doing why not make sure you get it right?