Live: Joe Budden Tears Down S.O.B.’s While Tearing Up


Joe Budden
Tuesday, September 4

Better than: The second-best sex ever, apparently.

Joe Budden’s lyrics are a minefield of emotions, bringing skeletons out of the closets and into the streets; there are times he’s put the TMI in traumatic. Moments after getting jumped by Raekwon and Method Man in 2009, Joe Budden turned on his web camera. That same year, he released a song that discussed his 89-year-old grandmother’s time in the hospital; in a later song, she was 90 and fine. Joe’s love life is too-well-documented, making sudden stars of Tahiry, Yaris, and Somaya, among other King cupcakes. On 2011’s “Ordinary Love Shit Pt. 3,” he revealed the ugliest details of his super-ugly relationship with model Esther Baxter—miscarriage, abuse, cheating, police, pills, etc. Its release prompted a no-holds-barred fight to the bottom on Bossip and Twitter. He’s comfortable putting himself out there for free, so it’s no wonder that the crew from Vh1’s Love & Hip-Hop filmed portions of the show last night.

And yet, it’s not the tough stuff that makes him cry, that curls his always-open mouth in a knot. Last night, while running through a decade-long catalog—a tour-de-force that stretched for two hours—he kept himself together for almost all of it, performing all three parts of the hard-to-swallow “Ordinary Love Shit” trilogy for the first time ever; delivering lyrics about not wanting full custody, about fear and pain and death and sadness with nothing less than hardened eyes. No. Budden cried when he related the story of his 10-year-old son telling him that he’s at ease in his own skin, a conversation included at the tail-end of “Truth or Truth.” There he stood in front of us, so close, and yet so far.

Amazingly, a Budden show isn’t like going through a breakup, an emotional rollercoaster of bumps and whirls and stomach cramps. This owes to the fact that he enjoys rapping a bit less, it seems, than telling jokes and getting laughs; each break gives way to distraction, each distraction turns into an opportunity to roast someone else on stage. His hypeman brought him a chair to sit on: “I’m not forty, n—a. This is why I tried to fire you.” His humor isn’t easy; he pokes, he prods, each conversation a can-you-keep-up challenge. When he’s not being entirely too genuine, he’s being 100 percent sarcastic. These exchanges in no way help to move the show along, but they are necessary to get one through it.

And then there’s the music. The music was what people came to see, right? It was a crowded stage: for over half of the show, the R&B singer Emanny was rendered superfluous, emerging from the very edge of the stage to fill the role of babysitter or wet blanket. (Later, he proved his worth as music director and one-half of Summer Leather Vest, unmemorable as their sound is.) The full band managed to give life to production that has never lived up to their lyrical counterparts: a smart and considerate Santana-esque guitar solo added to “Exxxes,” clawing at the high notes; “Russian Roulette,” a funky boot stomper turned pulsing slow jam. (And nothing less than justice was paid to Frank Ocean’s “Novacane,” sampled under “Ordinary Love Shit Pt. 3.”) Joe noticed their worth, repeatedly: “I think the days of doing a rap show with a DJ are over.” Later, “Am I the only one amazed at the difference a band makes?” before launching into an extended metaphor about the best sex ever. (He claimed that most of the audience hadn’t gotten that, yet.) As a performer, Joe expresses often complicated emotions through simple and often subtle movements: not-unwarranted jealousy will get an eye-raise; unfortunate comeuppance, a sneer. And then he’ll catapult his body backwards in defense, or sweep his arm full forced, like explosions in the desert.

He hit the stage in a leather vest; three minutes later, he stood in a black tank top. And when that got too hot, he peeled that off to reveal a white beater underneath. Girls swooned, seemingly not caring much about his past history with women.

Overheard: “Being famous is the greatest thing. You could just say some bullshit, and people go ‘AAAAAAA’.”—Joe Budden, wagging his tongue and rolling his eyes back.

Random notebook dump: Joe made a point of pointing out his father in the audience. The night was special, he said, because he’d finally be able to perform 2003’s “10 Mins.” with him in the audience. In introducing him, Joe said something telling: “Some of y’all seen my dad, from the Slaughterhouse vlog.” And, throughout the show, people took pictures with Mr. Budden, as well as Joe’s friend Ice, who currently has 36,377 followers on Twitter. Maybe they’ll all be on a reality show someday. Until then, they just exist in Joe’s Truman Show.

Set list:
Quality of Life
Keep On
10 Mins.
Are You In That Mood Yet?
Under the Sun
Russian Roulette
Ordinary Love Shit Pt. 1
Ordinary Love Shit Pt. 2
Ordinary Love Shit Pt. 3
Pump It Up
I Messed Up (Emanny feat. Joe Budden)
Unison (SLV)
Tell Him Something (SLV)
Who I Am (feat. SLV)
Other Side
Truth or Truth
Follow My Lead
Black Cloud
All of Me