There is something to be said about the career of Joe Budden to this point. Though he has never really achieved huge commercial success, his introspective lyricism has been winning fans over for years. With his latest album No Love Lost, he seems to find himself at what appears to be a new peak for his career. Having found recent success as a member of Slaughterhouse, as well as co-starring on a reality series, Joe Budden has never been more in demand than he is at this very moment. Choosing to add to his catalogue as a solo artist once more, all that’s left is determining if the music lives up to the hype.
From the very beginning you get a sense that Budden is using this album as a reintroduction of sorts. The appropriately titled “Our First Again” is a typical opener, with Joey opting to recite the Serenity Prayer as opposed to a traditional verse to set the tone. Without wasting any time he formally kicks things off with “Top Of The World”. The celebratory track lets listeners know where Joey is at in life right now. Longtime listeners will understand that a track such as this speaks volumes on how far he has come not only professionally, but in his personal life as well. In fact Joey seems to be embracing the good life more than ever before with tracks such as “N.B.A. (Never Broke Again)”.
Now before you start questioning the mainstream reach of this album, fans of Buddens’ Mood Muzik series will see that there are profound moments here. Moments that may not showcase his full abilities as a lyricist, but certainly highlight his introspection. “You and I” is an ode to the current love of his life that comes off very mature and genuine. “All In My Head” and “Skeletons” has him separately rhyming alongside his Slaughterhouse band mates. While both songs offer different sides of the same perspective, it’s nice to hear the other voices of Slaughterhouse on this project. “Castles” is vintage Joe Budden, as he tackles themes of isolation and human nature in a way that only he could. With these bright spots however it should be noted that the shining point of this album comes in the form of “Runaway”. The 2nd verse is arguably the best the album has to offer, as Joe lays it all on the table.
Of course as with past full-length projects by Joey, No Love Lost is filled with many missteps. For every moment of triumph there is a questionable decision that weighs heavy. For the most part the production is pretty unremarkable, and the reason why it wasn’t referenced until this point. While the soundscape isn’t necessarily the worst, there is much to be desired, and considering the lyricist that Joe is perhaps that was the intent. Until one realizes that very few songs truly showcase his talents on a lyrical level. The Lil’ Wayne assisted “She Don’t Put It Down” sounds as dated as it does redundant. It’s an obvious attempt at mainstream play that comes up flat. “N.B.A.” and “Last Day” are essentially the same song, with a different cast of guests. Both come off as forced, and while they are certainly records you would expect from the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and French Montana respectively, Joey just sounds out of place. “Tell Him Somethin”, “Switch Positions”, and “Ghetto Burbs” are forgettable, filler tracks at best. One thing that’s always been a constant in Joe’s music is the guest vocals of frequent collaborator Emanny. While the duo work magic on “You and I”, every other track with the two of them misses its mark. Perhaps enlisting a more versatile singer to provide chorus duties would enhance the record, because the results here are far from impressive.
In the end, this album will leave listeners wondering what to make of it. While Joe clearly is in a good space and has the ability to incorporate his more intimate rhymes, his attempts at mainstream acceptance leave much to be desired. As an artist that ha spent his career going against the grain, No Love Lost is as commercially systematic as anything else out right now. Unfortunately it lacks ultimate replay value, and while diehards will appreciate the gems found here, it’s hard to believe that this marks a new beginning in his career. His intent is clear, it’s the execution that failed to make its mark.
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