Joe Budden – No Love Lost

No Love Lost cover art

I think it’s only fair to start this with a douche-baggish disclaimer: for me, Joe Budden fell off when the DJ Clue mixtape days ended. Joe’s problem is that he tries to make his music personal but fails and it ends up landing in cliche-territory. He’s still good sometimes, but I miss that simple-minded battle-rapper. Now he makes this pop-tinged emotion-soaked shit and it’s completely missing me. 

Accordingly, I didn’t have high hopes for this album, but I expected to find at least a few good songs. Seems I ask for too much.

Hip-Hop intros are made to be skipped. Especially one where no rhyming happens, instead random singers chant “our first again” and Joe only shows up to quote the serenity prayer. Moving on…

Top of the World starts with a corny synth. Then Joe’s verse starts right before the bass kicks in, and he’s not really saying shit but damn if it don’t sound aight. I’m good till we hit Drake mode and some non-singer starts moaning about the title. Turns out it’s Kirko Bangz, a Houston rapper who apparently is also a half-ass singer. Drake done ruined the game for R&B niggas, there’s too many lazy-singing rappers out here eating up all their hook-money. O yeah, Joe works in some talk about lesbians, twice. UGH! When will hip-hop get over lesbians?! Regardless of these flaws, this song is good. Joe’s sounding pretty good and the beat holds it all together.

After stealing Drake’s hook-style, She Don’t Put It Down pretty much steals the melody from Drake’s song with Khalid, I’m on One. And again we have a different, cornier beat for the first half of the hook. This time the singer is Tank, representing for singers that can actually sing. The rest of the song blows. No surprise there based on the name and the Lil Wayne feature.

NBA features Wiz Khalifa and French Montana, and the title means “never broke again”. Don’t disrespect your ears with this shit.

You and I is an extremely sappy ballad with another sung hook. But sappy doesn’t always mean bad. The beat screams for some Amerie or Teedra Moses vocals instead of Joe’s forgettable verses. Emanny sounds nice on the chorus though but can’t raise this song beyond its insipid star.

Two songs later Royce da 5’9 shows up to join Joe in a “I got problems” type of song called All in My Head. Sorry, I’m still not moved. I’m sure a bunch of people will love this song. They’re the same cats who loved the deep songs on Slaughterhouse’ first album. But this stuff is always done by the numbers with these guys. Pedestrian emotional hip-hop beat? Check. Hook with someone sing-yelling? Check. Lyrics about my problems that only deal with the surface-level and never delve farther. Check.

An artist simply talking about their personal issues isn’t special anymore. The writer needs to use either imagery or insightful analysis or some other method to make their experience real in the mind of the listener. Joe Budden does none of these things. Bars like

Headed up field but couldn’t dodge the last tackler
How could a forward thinker move so ass-backwards

are wastes of space that could have been used much more effectively. More to my point, his two verses on this song seem to deal with every issue he’s ever had in his life. The only discernible meaning to such loose writing is that Joe has been through a lot but he’s improving and thankful for the second chance. Ground-breaking stuff there. This lack of original thought is what separates Joe Budden from the Geto Boyz (Mind Playing Tricks on Me), Amy Winehouse (pretty much all of Back to Black) and Mobb Deep (Drink Away the Pain).

So add some songs like that to a “something for everybody” approach to album composition and you have No Love Lost. There’s some songs for women that might as well be full-on R&B ballads. Some pseudo-deep rap with sung hooks, and a few regular songs that are mostly wack besides Top of the World. These don’t usually approach any gangsta topics, but they hit the other basics: spending money and women. Note that on these songs the women are whores, but on the ballads they’re worthy of much more respect. Not that I’m surprised by the contradiction, I’m just a snooty jerk.

Rating: 1/5. I still think that Joe could do much better than this album based on past glimpses of talent. His story might be real interesting to hear if he ever gave it a serious chance.

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