Joe Budden

Joe Budden and the Price of Creative Freedom

Joe Budden left shockwaves throughout the hip-hop world when he left Everyday Struggle, but is there more to the story than what we’ve been told?

If we’re being honest, Joe Budden’s success as a commercial hip-hop artist was short-lived. Most casual listeners wouldn’t know any of his songs if you asked them and the ones who follow a little more closely remember him from “Pump It Up” and maybe “Fire (Yes, Yes Y’all)” with Busta Rhymes. That’s not a slight on Joe, those are just facts.

The New Jersey representative was never a household name in hip-hop despite his above-average lyrical abilities. Most people who know about Joe, in this day and age especially, know him as a former cast member from Love & Hip Hop or, more recently, the co-host of the Complex Internet talk show Everyday Struggle.Joe Budden

In April 2017, Joe and YouTube sensation DJ Akademiks teamed up for Everyday Struggle and the chemistry between the pair was immediately clear. Moderated by Complex staffer Nadeska Alexis, Joe would often play the role of the bitter old hip-hop head who valued lyrics over melodies while Akademiks would do his best to put him up on game when it came to dread-headed rappers with blue and red highlights. It was a fun dynamic and it genuinely seemed like Joe had a deep passion for a lot of the subjects he talked about. In terms of viewership, Everyday Struggle also did very well on YouTube, averaging hundreds of thousands of views and creating unforgettable viral moments with the likes of Migos and Lil Yachty.

That all changed on December 19, 2017 when it was announced Joe would not continue to be part of the show heading into 2018. This came as an absolute shock to most fans and there was mass confusion surrounding his departure with some believing it was a marketing ploy and some wondering whether he was on maternity leave for his newborn baby. The truth, as Joe would explain shortly after on his podcast, came down to the corporate games being played by Complex that compromised his creativity.

Joe gave examples of instances when Complex tried to leverage the show’s success into media partnerships that would generate more income without compensating him directly. He also pointed out the introduction of guests as being another reason for his departure as he felt the real essence of the show was in the interactions between himself, Akademiks and Nadeska. He felt Complex never had his back on the creative end of the show and instead saw the success and simply wanted to make money off it.
Unfortunately for Joe, this isn’t breaking news.

Complex is a large media outlet that became a joint venture subsidiary of media conglomerates Verizon and Hearst in 2016. Their primary objective is to see significant returns on their investments, one of which is Complex, and that trickles down to someone working within that organization like Joe. To them, he’s simply a vessel to make money and once that stops happening, none of the executives will look at Joe and say “he’s not making us a lot of money, but we love his creativity and want to keep him around and pour more money into his ideas.”

Joe really doesn’t have a leg to stand on here. If he wants total creative freedom, he needs to continue doing his podcast and realize that whenever you get into bed with a media outlet of Complex’s magnitude — the money comes first. Always.Joe Budden

This is an important lesson for Joe that he can take with him to whatever, if any, media outlet he decides to work with (or for) next. He was, after all, at Puffy’s New Year’s Eve party talking about getting money with the man himself. That’s all good and well, but the same situation could occur if he doesn’t plug Cîroc like a madman on Revolt.

Whether or not Joe made the right call leaving Complex is irrelevant. He followed his gut and that in itself is commendable. That said, the loyal fans are left without a show that was beloved by many and one that most people felt was only finding its real momentum heading into the New Year.

That’s just the cost of doing business.

Words by Patrick Cwiklinski.