Joe Budden and Rap Retirement: An Analysis of When Rappers Should Retire — Editorial

*Listen to the audio of this blog post as your reading for speedy consumption

In recent “Everyday Struggle” episodes, Joe Budden occasionally reminds the audience “I’m retired!” As I was driving to work, it dawned on me why, for him and many rappers, this would be a good move.

Before moving forward with my point, allow me to preface this expose by stating that I believe Rage and the Machine is quite possibly the best of his career: short, concise, top-tier rapping, and strong song sequencing. I only mention this for what I’m about to say next: I love his hilarious, make-you-look-stupid, self-aware commentary more than I do his music. To me his voice and insightful delivery is charismatic and entertaining. That’s what it boils down to.
 
 

Joe Budden: the Accidental Radio Personality of the Internet

I guess this all started back when his Youtube channel was simply known as, “Cheah701” or something to that effect. Then he was posting videos of him and Tahiry clowning around and doing silly couple stuff. At the time when I was single and dating around, I thought their chemistry was cute. I’m not going to front. But Joe really grabbed my attention when he addressed the 2009 Vibe Best Rapper Ever tournament bracket.
 
 

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Joe Budden says he’s better than half these dudes on the list.

 
 
It was from this video he received a lot of backlash because of his boasting that he would pretty much demolish Method Man if the two were to rap against each. And I agreed at the time and still agree now. The Ticallion Stallion was more known for simple energetic features that raised the entertainment value of the Wu-catalogue at the time. His presence on 8 Diagrams was needed to contrast a drowsy sounding GZA who I can only assume had “Darker Matters” to attend to. He would later re-emerge on Wu-Massacre continuing to reinvigorate his relevance alongside Ghost and Rae with comical lines and classic Wu bars.

Despite, his lyrical acumen was still not of high caliber and very much forgettable. And Joe was on a lyrical cusp going bar for bar with his Slaughterhouse peers. So yes I agreed and agree with Joe.

What many trolls under the bridge don’t give Joey enough credit for is the fact that he is one of the many rappers to pioneer internet documentation and web only albums (Mood Muzik 3, Halfway House, Padded Room, and Escape Route respectively, though Padded Room was released on CD). Joe Budden taking a supposed “escape route” has found ways to feed his core audience when mainstream held his career hostage.

But this same escape route is where Joe Budden would ironically experience a paradigm shift as he became more notorious for his popular opinion rather than his music. Speaking again as a Joe Budden fan, my musical interest transitioned with his burgeoning media perception. If he is to never make another album again, there would be no love lost.
 
 

The Business of Retiring

Using the Joe Budden illustration, when rappers begin to migrate and explore unexplored avenues experiencing new success, old ventures tend to fall behind. As Joe Budden started documenting his relationship on Youtube, expressing his strong feelings on taboo topics, graduating into reality television, fans began to see a different side of the rapper…to his detriment or not. As the overly abused gesture on Love & Hip-Hop goes, “at the end of the day,” Joe Budden witnessed an increase of polarizing attention.

And when you start getting noticed more for one thing rather than another, it may be time to see what monetary options exist for you to capitalize on. I believe it is the time for retirement to be considered from one practice in order for the sun to rise in the dawn of a new era.
 
 
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Many people may find Joe Budden’s television personality exploits to reak of clown juice. Or believe the opposite could have done elevating his reputation. I honestly can not answer this, but whatever the case in 2017, Joe Budden is making new business moves: Everyday Struggle with DJ Akademiks and Nadeska Alexis, The Joe Budden Podcast (formerly I’ll Name this Podcast Later) with Rory Lanez and Mal and possibly more media exposure in the pending future. Regardless of Trolls, and they’re all under Twitter’s bridge, reducing him to “washed up,” Budden looks to have a very illustrious new career. And ironically, it’s all thanks to the internet for better or worst.

If Slaughterhouse has anything left to say, they’ll say it in a new album where Joe will continue to have a vehicle to pump lyrics into while maintaining the “retired” status.
 
 

The White Flag False Flags

Retiring in rap is trendy. Ask any of these guys in this XXL article. But my focus is not on the many, many artist claiming to hang up their microphone. A rapper who has false flagged their retirement I believe as a publicity stunt is none other than Lupe Fiasco. In past Dead End Hip Hop reviews and conversations regarding Lupe Fiasco, the Dead End Hip Hop panel has discussed Lupe blaming his record label for his shoddy musical productions or simply rode waves and trends in rap to win new fans. (See the various vids all about Lupe here.)

I’m going to go a bit further with a thesis statement: rappers who false flag their retirement do not need to simply retire…they need to be held accountable and produce better music. The curious case of Lupe Fiasco who has teased with fading to black on numerous occasions, is one who hides behind the “this is my last album” excuse in many ways to mask questionable music decisions.

Sure he has core fans who will support him no matter what junk food he calls cuisines he feeds them, but publically, what else is Lupe involved in? Like Big Sean, I decided to answer this question within myself…with Google’s help. In a October 2015 Inc.com article, Lupe and Google/Waze executive Di-Ann Eisnor were inspired to launch the Neighborhood Start Fund. Still…not many bread crumbs leading back to an entire slice of bread let alone a whole loaf.

Here’s another thesis: most rap retirement candidates need their rap career and to unnaturally improve a la Royce Da 5’9. It’s time to stop blaming record labels or imaginary circumstances that are played up as realistic truths. In these contemporary times, the margin of excuses is shrinking as opportunities for independence are becoming more available. Make great music and not great lies.
 
 

White Flags on Yachts and Megaboats

Where Lupe seems to fails at using the “retirement” announcement not only for musical experimentation, but as a business move, Jay-Z masterfully excels. And the best part? It was only once. I liken Jay-Z’s retirement to what Michael Jordan did when he left the NBA for the MLB. In 2003, he took a bow with his outstanding Black Album. It was at this time Jay-Z was transitioning to more a CEO role with the Roc-a-Fella brand which would serve him later when He became head of Def Jam in 2005.

In hind sight, Jay-Z probably had the most appropriate assumed exit out of any rapper: two classic albums under his belt, multi-platinum releases, and a double album accomplishing what every rapper strives for back in 2003. Jay-Z left the building at the peak height of his career. Jordan left his career sport in ’93 at his career height still in his prime with MUUUUCH more to give to the NBA.

According to NBA.com in an article titled, “Part XII: Jordan retires, heads to the minor leagues” the writer states, “Jordan believed he could do anything, and who would argue anymore? James always actually thought Michael would be a better baseball player.”
 
 

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Jay-Z was at the same seminal point in his career. With his successful catalogue and business undertakings, who would argue that Jigga couldn’t do anything he set his mind to? As Jordan had two loves, so the same with Jay-Z rapping “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man!” on Late Registrations “Diamonds from Sierra Leone -Remix.” Business, rapping, and thanks to the branding of Jay-Z, other rappers have successfully followed suit.

Now, unlike Jordan when he entered back into the game with so much grace and authority (Jordan would return to the Chicago Stadium for its final game, Scottie Pippen’s charity game in September 1994, in which Jordan led his team over Pippen’s with 52 points in a 187-150 victory.) Jay-Z, ahem…dropped the ball. Jay-Z would return to the game with Kingdom Come to mixed reviews, less hits (American Gangster, Watch the Throne) and more misses (Kingdom Come, Blueprint 3, Magna Carta Holy Grail, Unfinished Business with R.Kelly).

No matter, the final verdict is this: Jay-Z and Jordan were able to leverage retirement for their own brand advancement; whether it was to re-hype the public or for reinvention, Jigga and Air Jordan are brand names that values in stock.
 
 

Exit Strategy with no Exit Wounds

Joe enjoying retirement
Joe Budden enjoying his retirement on Complex Media’s Everyday Struggle

 
 
Joe Budden announcing retirement after Rage and the Machine is fantastic in which he leaves on a musical high note. While fans agree for this to be his best work to date, it’s a perfect way for people to remember his last release. For now, money bags are dropping more for his stark personality as a speaker than I believe they ever had for rapping.

He’s justified in dismissing the rabid social media sphere (Twitter, Youtube commenters, and where ever else) whose inaccurate comments become contagious leaving little room for thoughtful responses. Though memes abound in hilarity and creative content, the thoughts and opinions expose a laziness of research, lack of analytical reasoning, and a rush job of gossip all powered by this sad need to be first and heard. On MediaTakeout.com, it’s a bit ridiculous–most commenters just comment to be the first one to comment by simply posting, “first” on the comment! Whether this gives a dopamine rush so people will feel important, this behavior runs rampant on the internet.

And it’s sad.

Social media is often times the little village who feels seriously threatened by a misunderstood monster; and because time is not taken to understand if the entity is a monster or not, a lynch mob is formed to castrate this supposed threat before this “monster” can speak for themselves. Of course all in an effort to protect the sensitive feelings, which is the real threat, that have unfortunately plagued the village.

Joe Budden, if you’re listening, retire from rap. Because you probably know better than anyone, love or hate you, trolls and billy goats alike, the internet fame and infamy is about to net you, in Mal’s terms, “The Bag!” And it’s a bag Scrooge McDuck would be “happy” to reward you with.

DeShaun Johnson

DeShaun Johnson puts fingers to the keyboard producing content, stories, and websites roughly at 40 - 60 wpm. You can see his results at dljworks and DeShaun's Bibliography in addition to this blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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