Polarising and uncensored but never predictable, how did Joe Budden's podcast become a media powerhouse?
Love him or loathe him, there’s no denying that Joe Budden has enlisted his divisive personality for his own ends over the years. Known for garnering the ire of his fellow MCs since the jump, the New Jersey lyricist saw the twilight of his rap career descending upon him and wisely made the transition into media personality. Just as many retired athletes go on to analyze their former professions from the comfort of television studios, Joe has mimicked this career path by transforming himself into a talking head on all things hip-hop. In terms of his credentials, it’s hard to argue that a man who's been through the industry wringer and lived to tell the tale is anything less than well-qualified, but what makes him special is his completely unvetted outlook.
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When it comes to the Joe Budden Podcast, its appeal lies in the combustibility of a group of friends hanging out. By sitting down and broaching all the big topics of the week, Joe and his co-hosts Rory, Mal and Parks relay music news and societal issues to listeners in a way that feels both authentic and uniquely familiar. Initially known as “I’ll Name This Podcast Later,” the show has gone from a relatively low-tech operation into a media juggernaut with billboards on Times Square. After inking a deal with Spotify last September, his status as a commentator now came with corporate backing but thankfully hasn’t led to the dilution of his content or a change in format. In the wake of some disrespectful remarks by The Game, the podcast has found itself enveloped in a fresh batch of controversy that will have avid fans and intrigued hip-hop heads listening in.
As this new war of words ensues, it seems a fitting time to look back at some of the most pivotal moments in the history of his podcast and to assess what makes it such a routinely fascinating listen. While it can’t be covered as one of those crucial incidents that helped Joe turn the hip-hop media on its axis, no guide to the show would be complete without giving the rapport between its regular on-air talent its fair share of the credit. By acting as the bedrock of the podcast, the organic camaraderie that allows for Budden, Mal, Rory and Parks to playfully riff on or challenge one another with equal zeal has made for some ludicrous conversations on their love lives, childhood and more. Plus, it’s also yielded this incredible Twitter thread of Joe Budden “singing the hits.”
Joe Budden Vs Eminem
Unlike active rappers, the beauty of Joe Budden’s podcast is that fans know to expect dispatches from him at least twice a week and can rest assured that all relevant stories will be attended to. In fact, sometimes new developments can arise during the recording process and grant us unprecedented access to his genuine gut reactions. Much like a soap-opera or episodic TV show, it allows fans to chart a storyline’s progression from week to week as things gradually begin to pick up steam. As a former Shady Records employee, it was his tendency to lose his composure on-air that opened the floodgates for the beef between Budden and Eminem. During "Episode 140: On A Different Time," Budden’s co-hosts pressed him on why he’d come down on other artists- in this case Big Sean & Metro Boomin- but tip-toe around Em’s material. Right on cue, Joe exploded and labeled his 2017 single “Untouchable” as “some of the worst music I’ve ever heard”:
“I don't care if there's good rapping on there...When that album comes out, if it's fuckin' trash, I'ma be the first n***a to call it trash...That shit he doin' is trash.”
As innocuous as this may have seemed, taking it out of the vacuum of the podcast world and into the industry at large ensured that this slight wouldn’t go unnoticed by Em. When Shady’s surprise record Kamikaze arrived, he left no stone turned unturned when it came to responding to his detractors and his former signee wasn’t spared from the lyrical onslaught. Following some barbed words on “Fall” that alluded to Budden’s domestic violence case, all pleasantries were officially left at the door. On "Episode 177: TV & Mayonnaise," the former Slaughterhouse member charted their entire history from the earliest dealings right up to the present day. Never one to back away from an inflammatory remark, Budden doubled down and claimed that “I been better than you this entire f****g decade.” Whether or not you agree with his stance, this diatribe made for incredible listening and gave context for their feud that we’d otherwise never have received.
Leaving Everyday Struggle
During his spell with Complex, there was a lingering feeling that Joe’s time at the company was a shoddily-constructed timebomb that just needed a spark. Ironically, post-departure, Joe Budden spent the first section of his first podcast with a rant about their unwillingness to let him light up and smoke in the bathroom. Uploaded just one day after Complex announced the split, "Episode 141: Everyday Struggle" addressed all of the factors that prompted him to leave behind co-stars DJ Akademiks and Nadeska Alexis in favor of independence. Fueled by corporate influence, Joe lifted the lid on how they’d tried to make him wear Nike clothing and discuss tracks on Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlist without transparently explaining why they were doing so. A riveting listen that displayed his deep-seated responsibility towards honesty and realness, he recently took umbrage with Nadeska and co.’s dismissive handling of Soulja Boy, and claimed that “(Complex Founder) Rich Antoniello told me his f***ing self that he has trouble selling ads to a show with Black people.”
Joe vs Offset
While serving as co-host of Everyday Struggle, a heated exchange with Lil Yachty led to the whole Quality Control team inheriting the beef. As a result, tensions between “Joey Jumpoff” and QC all came to a head at The 2017 BET Awards when he stormed out mid-interview and was hastily pursued by Migos and their crew. In the aftermath, Budden took it to "Episode 118" to provide the background for the incident before claiming he could take “2 ½ Migos by myself.” In another case of a narrative bleeding into numerous episodes, this story would take a turn for the farcical in October 2017 when Budden detailed his latest run-in with Offset. Along with reiterating his love for Cardi B after some comments on his Revolt TV project The State Of The Culture, Budden claimed that a supposed encounter with Offset in a store didn’t happen due to his need to urinate:
“I don't know why I still think I'm the guy that can hold a piss. Just my luck that Offset would be blouse shopping on the side, looking at me running around. He saw me, I didn’t see him.”
Pusha T Vs Drake
When the Pusha T Vs Drake beef resurfaced this summer, Budden and his co-hosts were just as enthralled as the rest of us. On "Episode 164: Outstanding," the hardnosed vet spent the vast majority of the edition decrypting “Duppy Freestyle” and “The Story Of Adidon,” providing listeners with a unique insight as to whom the battle-ready MC thought had the upper hand and how much disrespect is too much.
Five months on, Joe and his co-hosts would go from the sidelines to major players in the lore of this beef when Pusha appeared on the podcast. Over the course of three hours, The G.O.O.D Music president regaled Budden and co. with stories from the Daytona era and demystified one of the biggest mysteries that surrounded “The Story Of Adidon.” While the leak had been attributed to Kanye West by internet theorists, Pusha delivered the bombshell that it was actually Noah “40” Shebib’s girlfriend that had let the news of Drake’s baby slip to Pusha’s camp. In addition to this revelation, Push also played countless voicemails from friends and associates that called him after they’d been offered $100,000 for intel on Pusha. For anyone that relishes the inner-workings of rap beef, "Episode 188: Steven Victor" is essential listening.
Sparked by Joe’s dismissal of a new track on Everyday Struggle, there was an air of palpable tension between Budden and Chance The Rapper for well over a year. Declared as “too positive” by the wizened MC, the pair would finally clear the air on "Episode 185: Tick" of the podcast. In a rare longform chat, Chano broached every gripe that Joe had with him in typically level-headed fashion including his status as an “independent artist” and his relationship with Kanye. Used as a platform to dispel some myths around how his dealings with Apple Music went down, one of its main talking points came when Chance candidly vocalized his doubts about whether his collab with Ye will ever see the light of day.
Aside from courting headlines, Joe and his co-hosts must be commended for their unique approach to discussing issues in the cultural dialogue. A running motif since the podcast’s earliest days, this presented itself when the similarly polarizing Charlamagne Tha God stopped in to discuss his issues with Joe face-to-face and left an exemplary precedent for how to minimize drama when it’s unnecessary. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this sense of cultural responsibility was on full display when Joe rallied against Peter Rosenberg’s handling of XXXtentacion’s death at the hands of an armed robbery in a lengthy tirade:
“Who the f**k are you to tell somebody they’re not an angel. Let me tell you this Peter Rosenberg the hypocrisy! I feel you owe your entire career and hip hop to gentleman like XXX and gentleman like myself. Gentlemen you like to discredit because you feel inferior in your spot.”
Unafraid to sacrifice the jovial tone for seriousness when need be, their takes on everything from whether or not Tekashi 6ix9ine would snitch to the injustices of Meek Mill’s prison sentence proved that this wasn’t just a space for idle gossip but an outlet for socially pertinent issues around the rap game. When the next edition rolls around, there’s every chance that the plight of 21 Savage and his extradition to the UK will be on the docket just as every cruel hand that fate deals a rapper will be in future episodes.
By straddling the line between sensationalism and sincerity, Budden dispels the perception that he’s just a bitter, one-note former rapper that’s prone to bouts of anger and proves himself to be far more multi-dimensional. Whatever you may think of the podcast, it can never be said that he or his co-hosts are phoning it in and that’s exactly what could make it into a longstanding institution in hip-hop for years to come.