In the wake of Rory and Mal's controversial exit, we take a look at how Joe Budden has made a career out of tearing down his business ventures, and then building them back up.
When you’re trying to affect change, stubbornness can be an asset. Armed with an impenetrable vision, it is this single-mindedness that has led some of the most important thinkers, creators, and inventors, to leave their mark on this planet. However, that same headstrong approach can be both the engine that pushes you forward, and the pollutant that causes your undoing.
At any given point in his career, Joe Budden has exemplified this hard-headed trade-off. Never one to accept setbacks or perceived injustices that could hamper his creative vision, each phase of Budden's decades-spanning career has seen things end, often in chaotic fashion, in order to give way to a new era. And when it comes to safeguarding his interests, history has shown that neither conventional business practice nor the possibility of having to take a few steps back is enough to stop Joe once he's made his mind up.
Joe Budden with podcast hosts Rory and Mal at live podcast taping - Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images
So, when the news broke that Joe had fired his co-hosts Rory Farrell and Jamil “Mal” Clay after what was an immensely successful spell for his podcast, it was met with a feeling of deja-vu from both fans and detractors alike. As he’s done time and time again, just when things seemed to be harmonious, Joe has thrown himself into a tailspin of uncertainty and personal acrimony.
Initially unrepentant after he fired Rory on air, Joe appeared unfazed by this latest shift in circumstances, offhandedly dubbing the podcast’s most profitable and critically-recognized period as a “helluva run.” But for the podcast’s listenership, this dismissiveness towards two of the pillars of the show that they’d loved wouldn’t suffice, leading to certain fans letting him know that this was one exercise in implosion that they wouldn’t stand for.
Screenshot via Joe Budden Twitter
Once again, Joe stood his ground and when a fan asserted that "you can’t keep destroying everything you build," Budden nonchalantly replied "Yes, I can."
Petulant as this may seem if uttered by anyone else, the blasé response actually makes a lot of sense for Budden. Since the dawn of his fame, Joe’s journey has been defined by escaping the wreckage of vessels that he’s deemed unsuitable, in order to forge ahead. Meaning that, just as one branch is cut off, another is liable to sprout.
Among the few recurring threads throughout his entire career, this willingness to destroy and rebuild is well-established. As a result, his recent claims that "I can’t tell you how we got here" feel devoid of self-awareness. Not least of all because Joe’s tendency to leave a trail of destruction in his wake had been brought to his attention.
"I say look, I like Everyday Struggle. I hope Joe Budden doesn't fuck it up, the way he fucks up a lot of things that he's involved in," Charlamagne Tha God said in a now prophetic assessment of his on-again, off-again ally’s fortunes. "I'm actually rootin'. I'm like, yo, Joe, don't self-destruct this time."
Amid warning Rory and Mal that they should’ve prevented Joe from placing his name on the marquee of the podcast due to his erratic ways, The Breakfast Club provocateur has also been quick to point out that "If you keep having the same issues with various companies because it was the same thing at Complex, it's probably not them. It's probably you, Joe."
Throughout his musical and media careers, the sense that he is undervalued or creatively hamstrung has become a familiar trope for Budden. And with each dissolution of a deal that’d once seemed prosperous, "Joey Jumpoff" has rebounded.
Back in the days when he had to watch his proposed sophomore album, The Growth, languish in the Def Jam vault, Joe brokered a partnership with Amalgam Digital that predated the rise of the internet as the go-to music marketplace. When that relationship imploded after allegations of underhandedness from both parties, he turned his attention to Slaughterhouse, eventually progressing from E1 to a major deal with Shady Records. Then once the record deal and relations within the group began to sour, Joe closed his career out on a high with the Empire-distributed Rage And The Machine.
Joe Budden with Slaughterhouse groupmates - John Ricard/Getty Images
In his pursuits away from the booth, Joe has maintained a similar philosophy of discarding what’s no longer fit for purpose. Towards the beginning of 2015, the first episode of what was then I’ll Name This Podcast Later emerged online, co-hosted by HOt 97’s Marissa Mendez and Rory. Re-energized by this shift into broadcasting, the traction that he’d picked up from the show-- which would lose Marissa after Joe fired her via text in summer of 2016-- and his proven knack for cultivating an audience would lead to the creation of Everyday Struggle with Complex. Reliant on the fiery dynamic between himself and what Joe saw as a "lil" rapper apologist in DJ Akademiks, it would take just a little over a year for Joe to part ways, citing their refusal to share the revenue with he or Ak as a "red flag."
Disillusioned by the "corporate games" that he saw as an extension of what he’d endured at record labels, Budden’s guiding principle shone through as he claimed that, whenever required, he wouldn’t hesitate to burn it all down and be reborn through conflict.
"I created that show," he informed his followers as news of the separation emerged. "I’ll create another if need be… & another & another."
Save for his deal with Revolt and Joe’s hosting duties on the similarly styled but less impactful State Of The Culture, the end of Everyday Struggle marked a new beginning in which TheJBP-- which was growing exponentially after the addition of Mal perfected the recipe for success-- was no longer sidelined, but the primary focus.
Joe Budden at a live State of the Culture taping - Johnny Nunez/Getty Images
Routinely yielding news stories in its own right as well as becoming a prime source of analysis on all the cultural goings-on, soon, TheJoe Budden Podcast’s commercial viability became undeniable. Designated as "The Hip-Hop Howard Stern" by The New York Times, the unique drawing power of Joe, Rory and Mal’s banter would lead to a groundbreaking exclusive partnership with Spotify that, at the time at least, Joe believed. was indicative of "a new way of thinking."
But as Spotify entrenched themselves deeper into the podcast world, Joe believed that he was, once again, receiving the short end of the stick, severing ties in an on-air rant that harboured similar rhetoric to what we’d heard in regards to Complex.
"There’s an entire ecosystem you have to respect if you are looking to feed the soil," Joe proclaimed. "Everybody’s not looking to feed the soil, some are just looking to take the fruit."
Independent once more after a spell with a multinational corporation, Joe found himself in familiar terrain. In essence, the deal that he struck with Patreon after his run with Spotify ended, serves as the modern day equivalent of his digital partnership with Amalgam.
Seemingly poised to be the masters of their own destiny, Rory, Mal and Joe presented a united front when it came time to head out on their own. But with the benefit of hindsight, we know that this was the beginning of the end, as Rory and Mal grew aggrieved about the lack of transparency in regards to their position as "profit partners."
Foreshadowed by Rory during an appearance on the freshly-minted Joe Budden Network show, See, The Thing Is, his allusions to times where he felt that those on the pod "shouldn’t even speak to each other cause we’ll f**k up the chemistry we have" seemed like minor grumbles, as opposed to irreparable issues. Conversely, what has come screeching into focus is that once the trust was gone the podcast was as good as dead.
In fact, Joe’s 2019 appearance on Math Hoffa’s My Expert Opinion made it abundantly clear that not only does he approach everything with marked suspicion, he’s actually reached a point where he sees impermanence in everything.
"See how I walked up here, stood outside and smoked for a little minute? That’s the same thing I do in life. Got to Def Jam, looked around, I don’t want to be here, I’m out. But you need to walk into the room to know it."
"Joe Budden gets bored as a creative," he elaborated when asked if the Spotify deal was the endgame. "Everything is great this second, but I can’t speak for how I’ll feel in six months, a year, two years. I plan as if I don’t know. I’m a creative, I’m nuts."
Candid about his penchant for self-sabotage as he claimed that "I know what I’mma do in most situations, it’s about combatting that," Joe’s innate resolve has meant that watching a record deal, group dynamic or even a friendship perish isn’t a cause for concern when you know that it could all erode at any second.
Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images
That said, there’re a few reasons why this philosophy has paid off for him in the past that are potentially absent from his latest predicament. For one thing, through the testimony of Rory and Mal, it appears that Joe’s refusal to show them the podcast’s accounting has meant that he was functioning more like the companies and labels that he’d always rallied against.
"Who did you just turn into?," Mal solemnly enquired in a recent video response. "Everything that we stood for… about corporate fucking over the creatives… Never in a million years did I think you’d be sitting somewhere talking crazy about me."
Portrayed as "the man," Joe, for the first time, has found himself struggling with the weight of being seen as disingenuous when it comes to his own business dealings. In the past, the one constant in Joe’s tumultuous career path is that audiences, whether they loved or hated him, believed that he was real to a fault and when he spoke about being on the receiving end of duplicitous deals; we listened and empathized.
Not averse to on-air meltdowns, flagrant oversharing or giving opinions that could jeopardize future deals, his content felt like a safe haven for truth within an inherently nefarious industry. But now, with Rory and Mal providing the receipts for what they see as his hypocrisy, his unimpeachable reputation for authenticity is now under scrutiny and the contradictions of Patreon's "head of creator equity" are being logged by the very people that once supported him.
Deftly recast from hero to villain, Joe finds himself in the familiar throes of the rebuilding period and, potentially with new co-hosts already lined up, it seems as though The JBP could continue to roll on. Be that as it may, the real question is if he’ll be able to mend the rifts that have suddenly emerged between him and the hip-hop-loving public that has allowed him to rise up after each dissolution.