Is Joe Budden a Good Journo?

Known for his acerbic tongue, Joe Budden has been steadily building a little media empire over the last few years. The former artist was an early adopter to vlogs, amassing a cult audience in the halcyon days of YouTube.

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So his transformation into a media personality seems like a logical lateral move after changing times in the music industry. A brief stint at Hot97, and massive pool parties that became viral sensations on Joe Budden TV, showcase Budden’s ability to cotton on to the media.

The Joe Budden podcast, originally entitled “I’ll Name This Podcast Later” was a loose podcast that predated the juggernaut that is the Joe Budden Podcast of today. Initially set up with the help of long-time radio DJ and host at Hot97, Peter Rosenberg — Rosenberg had one of the earliest popular hip hop podcasts with Juan Epstein    Budden’s podcast had an iconoclastic take on hip hop culture.

So “Media Joe” as he likes to call himself has been around for a while. But does media Joe practice what he preaches?

Budden likes to see himself as a truth teller, famously critiquing Eminem’s widely panned Revival with feverish candour. The criticism eventually landed him in hot water with the Shady Records boss, as Slaughterhouse the rap supergroup that Budden was a part of was under his imprint. Budden maintained that he was being “objective”, and that his role in the media required him to be critical.

However, over the years Budden has become a caricature of himself, adopting a personality epitomized by the Chappelle Show in a skit called “When Keep It Real Goes Wrong”. He famously once chased down teenage hooligans with a rock after they teased Budden for his beef with Drake. Then there’s the epic meltdowns.

Budden once stormed the offices of his workplace at the time, Complex Media, demanding to speak with writer Angel Diaz for calling his beef with Drake, a well-timed publicity stunt. The beef itself is a matter that should be critiqued with the same scrutiny as the Eminem album. But first, let me break down the Angel Diaz situation.

The video starts playfully, with Joe Budden asking to speak with Diaz under the pretense that his Everyday Struggle co-host, Dj Akademiks wanted to speak with Diaz. Budden then goes to challenge Diaz himself, claiming Akademiks is too scared. Budden says Diaz lacks objectivity for writing a piece in which he claims that Budden is a conspiracy theorist.

For one, the piece by Diaz is an editorial. For those unfamiliar with journalistic practices, editorials are places where practicing journalists under the editorial staff are allowed to give their two-cents. Think of it as op-eds done by the staff. The piece entitled “Joe Budden Is Pioneering Think Piece Diss Tracks To Promote His Album”, is written in tongue-in-cheek as Diaz compares Budden getting ready for the smoke with Drizzy to Alex Jones whinging about gay frogs. As an aside but very much telling is Diaz taking note that Budden provided Genius-dot-com annotations to explain how references in  “4PM in Calabasas” were about him. So much for objectivity.

Then there’s the turning point in the video right at the 4:00 minute mark. Budden starts to raise his voice and berate Diaz, claiming that he only cares about forwarding the culture. Diaz remains calm the entire time. A lot of the points Joe makes are unfounded as he claims Diaz is potentially harming relationships with artists that come through Complex and yet he and Akademiks acted so unprofessional towards the Migos, it became a meme. 

Were the Migos being difficult during the BET Awards? Sure. However that does not excuse a lack of decorum.

The beef with Drake is a perfect example of how Budden will potentially ruin a friendship over seemingly nothing. As is widely-known, Drake has hung out with Budden as documented by the photos circulating the internet. It would stand to reason, that whatever their differences, they may be able to resume a friendship in the future. But Budden loving drama pokes the bear. Not only did Budden mention his problems with Drake publicly on his massive platform but he released several tracks in anticipation for a beef that was all in his mind.

Budden constantly cuts his nose to spite his face. He turned his back on several friends of his when they no longer served a purpose for him. He delivered a screed against Peter Rosenberg and all but labeled him a culture vulture for his thoughts on XXXtentacion. Then of course there’s the firing of Marissa Mendez.

Budden has his moments. His interview with Vince Staples for The Pull Up was probably one of the most comprehensive interviews with the artist. As a former artist, Budden is able to empathize with both Staples’ artistic sensibilities and trauma. It allowed Staples to be himself and express himself as he wanted to be heard. And Budden challenged him when necessary.

So is Joe Budden a good journalist? Truthfully, he’s more of a pundit than journalist. He isn’t forwarding the culture so much as he reflecting back what people want to hear. That is not a bad thing in itself but quite frankly there is just too much bluster coming from Budden. He keeps on about forwarding the culture but his contributions aren’t as meaningful as he proposes. Are they popular? Sure. Do they critically examine the ethos of hip hop in its current form? No. Budden blames this on the code of silence of the streets. There may be some truth to that but as a journalist his role is to speak up and be put in those difficult positions.

Joe Budden vs Vlad

A perfect foil for Budden is DJ Vlad of VladTV. Vlad is constantly critiqued in hip hop media and by artists, even gaining the appellation “Officer Vlad”. In contrast to Budden, Vlad will gladly ask difficult questions to his subjects as he claims he has taken the role of a journalist. Vlad says he believes in journalistic integrity.

Now while Vlad has certainly been accused for being exploitative, I do think he earnestly believes he’s doing journalistic work. Here is a video of DJ Vlad on the phone with Joe Budden and Angela Yee (pre-BreakFast Club) explaining his reasoning behind documenting the infamous Ransom video.

For better context, here is the video that Joe Budden takes issue with:

In fairness to Vlad, the video is not a “World Star Hip Hop” moment. Vlad isn’t egging on the subject on video who even acknowledges he is being filmed. Vlad is noticeably silent. He is documenting the situation and not framing it in any particular way.

So maybe Dj Vlad has more journalistic credibility than Joe Budden. To me, Joe Budden isn’t the Howard Stern of Hip Hop, he is its Alex Jones. A caricature of a conspiracy theorist. He’s a loud mouth pundit who knows what people want to hear and says it. And for that he is rewarded a king’s ransom inking deals with both Spotify and P.Diddy’s Revolt network.

He would likely say that this another example of an attack on black men in America; rather than take into consideration how abrasive his public persona has become; or that he is being held under the same scrutiny of a public figure that an Eminem or a Dj Vlad or even an Alex Jones has to endure. The conspiracy continues.

What do you think? Is Joe Budden a good journalist? Let us know in the comments.

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