Review: Jump-Off Joe Is Back

Budden Returns to Hip-Hop Limelight With ‘Padded Room’

After years of being stuck in developmental hell due to countless push backs on his original sophomore album, “The Growth,” it makes sense that Joe would name his new album “Padded Room.”

Gone are the days when one would hear Budden talk about his release from Def Jam after a not-so-successful debut of his self-titled album back in 2003. The rapper behind the hit record “Pump It Up” is back to let the world know that he is about more than just club songs and that he is a deep, troubled artist looking for his niche in the mainstream world.

Surrounded by conflict with other rappers like Ransom and the infamous “Saigon,” Budden has gracefully bobbed and weaved through the controversy to give what many fans have been waiting for: an album that pushes the boundaries of his lyrical esteem with clever punch lines and subliminal metaphors.

The album cover appropriately reflects the concept for the album as “Jump-Off Joe” allows listeners to explore his troubled, complex mind. When their backs are against the wall, some artists cave under the pressure and flee from the limelight of hip-hop. With his sophomore album, Joe Budden is determined not to fall into that same pattern. Instead, he attacks each track with lyrical ferocity. “Now I Lay” offers an up-tempo jazzy intro and sets the bar high for what the rest of the album should sound like.

Longevity is a major challenge that many hip-hop artists face in their careers. Being able to stay relevant in the hip-hop world for years without releasing an album is a hard feat to accomplish. Fortunately, with his “Mood Muzik” series of mix tapes to support him, Budden has built up a reputation in the hip-hop underground circuit for being superior in lyrical skills and making many emotion-driven songs tapered with vicious freestyles. Ultimately, his underground success and cult following are what has catapulted Budden back into the mainstream world with his latest independent release. His strong delivery and personality are exemplified over tracks like “In My Sleep,” which takes listeners on a psychoanalytical journey through the mind of one of hip-hop’s arguably most troubled artists. The track is reminiscent of the thriller “Vanilla Sky” as Budden confronts his inner demons through deft wordplay and subliminal messages. This is by far the most interesting track on the album.

One thing Budden is known for in his songs is his brutal honesty. Indeed, much of the content in his music derives from personal experiences and situations. He is most talented when he says what he feels over a track.

The album as a whole may fall short of some fans’ high expectations when it comes to beat production. The “Mood Muzik” series allowed Budden to vent about his frustrations with the music industry over beats by Ron Browz, Scott Storch and Scram Jones. “Padded Room,” however, doesn’t feature tracks by any well-known producers and has a few songs that do not quite fit in with the rest of the album like “Adrenaline” which is a hit-or-miss track. Where the production lacks, Joe makes up for it with his witty flow and undeniable talent.

With the occasional shortcoming of a misguided track, “Padded Room” definitively shows the evolution of Joe Budden as he reappears into the public’s eye. The concept of the album and the topics addressed are very personal, but still allow listeners to experience Budden’s thought process and openness about character defects.