Release Date: Feb 5, 2013
Record label: eOne
With his hard-hitting crew Slaughterhouse acting as an outlet for his inner thug, rapper Joe Budden uses this 2013 solo effort as an opportunity to get introspective, capping off a quadrilogy of concept albums that began with 2008's Halfway House. Padded Room and Escape Route (both 2009 releases) are the other albums that comprise Budden's epic memoir on wax, and now that he's come to the enlightened and reflective point of the story, he's gone a bit Drake. No Love Lost is filled with long, personal stories of struggle and alienation, delivered over beats that are midtempo, R&B-flavored, and packed with organic elements.
With his third studio album, Joe Budden puts together an assortment of moods — from rowdy to resigned — alternating between confessing his sins and perpetuating them. He explains on the album's intro: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference." This could mean any number of things, but namely: Budden can't help that hip-hop's one big party, that its art often encourages unhealthy consumption, but he can help his fate and change. The first half of the album registers as a party record, with some tracks best suited for satellite radio ("NBA," "Last Day") and others for Top 40 ("She Don't Put It Down,").
Though Joe Budden makes headlines more through Slaughterhouse, inflammatory tweets and reality shows that cater to the lowest common denominator, more than he does as a singular emcee, he hasn’t given up on his work as a soloist. It’s an uneven career with its share of bright spots offset by label woes and beefs of varying credibility. Still, Budden has endured for over a decade, and has earned his loyal following.
Joe Budden’s career, for the most part, has been that of a fish flopping along the coastline, water just beyond reach and death right around the corner. This metaphor applies to much of his music as well, having long been banished to the land of budget beats and cult fandom. Despite all the bitterness and moral quandaries that are pervasive in Joe’s music, or perhaps because of it, No Love Lost is an appeal to hitting the refresh button.
Starring in VH1’s latest Love & Hip Hop series, being a member of Slaughterhouse and other commitments have not sidetracked Joe Budden’s solo career, which makes headway thanks to No Love Lost, Budden’s new LP that eases him from his past and resolves him to improve in the future, when possible. Diehard Mood Muzik fans may feel both shocked and disinterested after hearing the second track, “Top of the World” featuring a tuneful hook by Kirko Bangz. The song’s upbeat, almost unsettlingly distinct from Joe’s renowned mixtape series, Mood Muzik.
Over a peppy, horn-laden Just Blaze beat fabricated from a vintage Kool & The Gang tune, an emergent Jersey City emcee erupted with buoyant youthful hubris about his sexual exploits and plans to change the rap game. With a DJ baiting radio-friendly hook, 'Pump It Up' marked Joe Budden's big break into the hip-hop mainstream. His music and virtual personage was shoehorned by marketing geniuses into video games -including two different branded Def Jam vehicles - and Hollywood movies.
What is it about love that drives so many MCs to lose artistic focus, as the consistently sharp-tongued Budden does on this wobbly solo effort dedicated solely to the subject? Budden has been releasing tart, clever music for a decade, but he sounds completely adrift here, struggling to articulate vulnerability or trying to figure out relationships. More problematic, he seems to have cherry-picked beats off a thrift store rack. Tracks like “Switch Positions” or “Tell Him Somethin’ ” are filled with cliched hooks and treacly piano lines, while “Runaway” features a generic hard rock guitar solo completely antithetical to the tenor of the disc.