Like many people, I heard of Joe Budden through the YouTube series Everyday Struggle. He and co-host DJ Akademiks discussed the music industry, Hip Hop artist and the overall stories and narratives surrounding hip hop and rap culture. I never grew up being heavily invested in that, in fact, I hardly listened to music regularly until my junior year in high school. Even then, I consumed music because it was required of me by my music class. What drew me to Everyday Struggle was hence not the music discussion or the music but Joe Budden. Joe came across as argumentative, sage-like in his knowledge of the music industry, loud, humorous and at times condescending to his co-hosts and people he interviewed (the most legendary being the one with Migos). To say Joe is a complex character is an understatement. But that is precisely what drew me to the show. Joe felt like a real and authentic person. Not afraid to speak his mind, articulate his points and demand a further explanation when he disagreed with something.
Leaving Everyday Struggle
In Episode 141 titled “Everyday Struggle,” Budden delves deep into the reason for his departure from Complex and starts hilariously with a story about not being allowed to smoke in the bathroom at Complex. Joe continues by expressing how he was deeply concerned with the way Complex was allowing other corporations to insert their influence on the show, “Spotify calls them. They want us to talk about a Rap Caviar playlist, they want to insert topics for me to speak about under the guise of it being “candid” for very little money. As the creator of this show, that’s a problem.” Joe ultimately refused but Complex still tried to push the deal through without him. It failed. They also pushed for more guests on the show which Joe was also opposed to.
He delves deeper and explains that when in a corporate atmosphere, it becomes very hard for creatives to not conform. Everyday Struggle became a success seemingly overnight, and with that came no change in the way Complex perceived Joe’s value. An article by Central Sauce sums up Joes take on this,
“if the executives can’t understand your worth, you leave and take that value with you. Complex is a massive media machine backed by Verizon, and when it was time to renegotiate contracts, they failed to accommodate the star of their flagship show.”
Joes willingness to not conform and believe in himself is admirable. We’ve witnessed countless examples of creatives who compromised their morals to get more notoriety, money or hold on to their newfound success. The Complex debacle is one example that made me realize that Joe loves what he creates and he believes in it because it comes from an authentic place. His material is grounded in his experiences being a rapper in the music industry, having issues with women in his life, dealing with mental health, and navigating so much of the life that many people glamorize. In the end, The Joe Budden Podcast is a distillation of all these things that to my ears, sounded unorthodox in its delivery at first.
The Joe Budden Podcast
Unfortunately, I cannot remember the first episode that I listened to but I still remember how I felt, UTTERLY CONFUSED. It was chaotic, with random gunshots, horns, beat drops, and soundbites. Joe would be ranting one moment, laughing in his characteristic wispy laugh the next, and staunchly arguing over semantics a few seconds later. But Joe could also be passionate, self-aware, and open to sharing his experiences whether they were hysterical or painful. The result is a unique blend of so many things that shouldn't work but manage to do just that.
Although Joe is the charismatic anchor of the show, his cohosts do a great job of elevating the podcast to even greater heights. There's Rory, AKA Sunset, who has dry and witty humor that can be underrated at times. Mal, AKA JBone AKA Rashid Sunflower, is the one who generally roasts everyone and his often comedic comments are always masterfully executed. It’s a running joke among the podcast fans that Mal says, “That's Crazy!” to everything. Finally, there's Parks recently referred to as White Thought. He is the audio engineer and the podcast is recorded in his living room. In the YouTube videos, he's usually out of the frame and doesn't talk too much. He adds to the discussion though and his jokes usually land pretty well.
The JBP Experience
One of my favorite segments on the podcast is in Episode 204: “Bust A Right.” The episode starts with some context, the beef that had once again resurfaced between Kanye and Drake. Most notable of course, was the long series of tweets by Kanye wherein he demanded an apology from Drake for mentioning 305s on various records, sneak dissing him(that's where Sicko Mode comes into play) and other slights he felt towards Drake. It gets weirder, some would say comical when Kanye alleged that Drake tried to threaten him. The discussion is at first serious and Joe reads off the tweets and gives his thoughts while Mal, Rory, and Parks added their bits of commentary. But about 30 minutes in, Joe says, “What if Drake killed Kanye?” and I remember at that moment that I exploded with laughter. That statement opened up the flood gates. The crew then started adding “commentary” to Sicko Mode in light of the beef.
Joe: Yeah the beat is just making me paranoid. There's a lot going on, I don’t wanna hear this looking out my blinders to the right.
Parks: While the sun is down
Joe: Yeah and it’s cold outside, here comes a car with the lights out
Mal: That's how you already know
Joe: Making a slow right
Rory: And then cutting the lights
Joe: Kim, go to the basement.
It ends up being funny precisely because the jokes are constantly flying, each feeding off the other. It’s by far one of my favorite episodes and what's unique about the JBP is how the conversation can unexpectedly branch off into all these different areas. From a more serious discussion about the beef, into a lyrical breakdown that presents a caricature of Kanye as a man scared for his life and Drake a stone-cold killer putting a hit out through some verses; It serves to not only make fun of the farcical nature of it all but show how much regular people don’t know what goes on between figures like Drake and Kanye when they are beefing.
Another moment that I enjoyed was in Episode 290, where Joe recounts a trip to a Nail Salon. No women were available to give Joe a massage. In the end, the owner of the establishment, a guy, gives him the massage. Joe expressed how he had some misgivings at first but Rory, living up to his nickname Irish McNasty at the time, starts making evocative jokes like, “Young rub and tug.” Joe also makes a few jokes while telling the story, “Ya swear I'm coming out right now.” It’s genuinely funny and honest.
You might think it’s sorta crass and in some ways it is. But when the discussion does not call for jokes, the pod can have very constructive conversations about sensitive issues like drug use, mental health, and racism. It struggles with issues regarding women and the crew has come under fire several times because of it. Besides, they also get a lot of stuff wrong so don’t expect to be the most informed person as you listen to the podcast.
Why do I recommend this podcast? because beyond just talking about music and the music industry, the JBP is about friendship, sharing experiences, and speaking your truth. The pod can at times veer off into being loud, ignorant and sometimes even problematic much like casual conversations with a group of friends. But they always manage to right the ship. The fun aspect is never lost and I have found myself laughing many times as I went about my daily tasks.