We The Smoking Section take our jobs as tastemakers and critiquing the latest albums in Hip-Hop very seriously. In an effort to show our readers how the process of granting an album with our Cig Ratings takes place, here’s the discussion between our review committee for Joe Budden’s Padded Room.
TC: Alright. As long as this album’s been in the making and promoted across the internet, did anyone else feel like this didn’t meet the expectations by any stretch? My biggest grievance is how does this really differ from Halfway House in terms of song structure or cinematic theme? Why weren’t we met with any surprises instead of what we’ve come to expect?
Landon A: Definitely falls short. Joey is nice on the mic, no doubt, but he came soft with this one. Perhaps it was the hype of a comeback that spoiled this one. Who knows? When artists have a lot of hype surrounding a record, a decent showing turns into an utter disappointment.
Contra™: Wish-washy production, forced concepts, forgettable lyrics at times, and some terrible, terrible, terrible, terribly haunting lack of cohesion.
Jesse H: Absolutely. Joey’s just not an album rapper. Put him on the list with Busta, Jin, etc.
MZ: Joe Budden can rap his ass off but unfortunately, his songwriting & song structure skills will always be his crutch. He raps at one speed and relies on vocal inflections to try and liven his flow up (i.e. “The Future”) throughout the album. I’ve come to accept the fact that he’s at his best when he’s in a piss poor mood and I’d rather hear him speak on his Tuesday afternoon, than strain to make a club joint. Also do my ears deceive me or does The Game spit a name-drop free verse?
K1NG: Every song blends into the next one, and I feel like I still don’t KNOW Joe Budden at all. He’s not even close to a bad rapper. He’s actually pretty damn great at rapping. Thing is, albums are not just a place to spit crazy metaphors. His flow never changes. EVER.
TC: Well I feel like we know him through his debut Joe Budden, and his Mood Muzik series, but topically: it’s never changed. And if you splash in the same pool, you have to give us different ripples. None of the melancholy numbers match the quality of “10 Minutes” or “If I Die Tomorrow” and “The Future” is just unfit for radio and any respectable club.
Gotty™: Right. “Exxes” is not “Dear Angie.” It is a slower tempo, which is usually where he seems most comfortable but this is almost too slow. And like MZ pointed out, he’s trying to feign emotion by stretching his syllables but it falls short.
David D: Yeah, man. That “Just get the abortion and I’ll give you the 250!” line from “Are You In The Mood Yet?” on Mood Muzik 2 still gives me chills. The delivery, emotion- the whole song. It hits close to home and was pivotal in one of the most human
albums mixtapes I’ve ever heard. Padded Room seems to try to recapture this emotional depth but it misses the mark on almost every song. It just doesn’t connect like his mixtapes do, which is sad because this album took a while to make. Not to mention, the production is subpar throughout.
Patrick M: Co-sign David! The beats are not strong — at all. And funny you say that this took a while because my first instinct was that it sounded rushed. Probably because its all over the place; sometimes it sounds like he’s trying to make a concept album but then he’ll throw in some straight garbage girl song track (“The Future”) or just something sappy like “Happy Holidays.” The more I listen, the more my original stance doesn’t change. Beats are weak and a lot of them such as “Adrenaline” and “Do Tell,” seriously sound like Budden said “I can rap over anything, just throw it on there and I’ll make the song.” Does not work on an official album.
K1NG: The beats aren’t HORRIBLE. They just don’t stand out at all.
Gotty™: Tracks like “Don’t Make Me” or “In My Sleep” = Stale. Weak keyboards & synths abound. Early 80’s disco sounds & Hip-Hop don’t go together unless you have Puff’s secret recipe. Seems to be a reoccurring flaw with this project. It’s not that the beats are bad. It’s that when they’re bad, they’re turrible © Sir Charles Barkley, thus bringing down the whole project.
Patrick M: “Don’t Make Me” is probably my favorite track, even if the 80’s recycled beats are getting played out. This is the kind of song he does really well, talking about his insecurities and trying to keep doing his thing. I love the line “the boy won’t bend/though the road to the riches looks like it’ll never end.” How many rappers are willing to say that hey…they may not make the level of stardom they thought they would?
Landon A: When we talking production, it should be strong enough to stand on it’s own. Fans should be eager to cop the instrumental LP just as well as the originally if the album is worthy enough. It’s like the beats are just present for the fuck of it. Mixtape mentalities were the water that put out the 5 Cigs.
TC: Yep. There’s NOTHING on here that stands out to the point where it will go down into Hip-Hop lure. No “oooh-gotta-spin-that-one-twice-before-I-move-on” moments. Even the biggest Budden stan has to admit that.
K1NG: “In My Sleep” sounds like a song he actually wrote while he was sleep walking. I had it on repeat and I have a pretty abstract mind that can understand left-field lyrical songs, but this one really has NO sense in it. Four minutes of just random spaced out bars thrown together for the sake of being spaced out bars…
MZ: I’d say “In My Sleep” had a nice concept as did “Pray For Me,” (although it is a little unsettling to hear him cuss @ God, but I can live with that,) but punchlines and metaphors will only get you so far. For the most part though, he’s a 3.5 – 4 Cig MC regardless of what he’s talking about, but the fuckin’ beat selection is his true downfall this go around. A few of them sounded like Tinkerbell came in and waved her wand over the board and they don’t match his lyrics at all. Give me the “mood” music sound. “Blood On The Wall” is one of the most engaging beats on the album and he wastes it by going at Prodigy.
Patrick M: As for the Prodigy beef, Budden’s approaching that 50 Cent level where he’s crying wolf too many times. He seems to always have beef with someone.
TC: It’s ironic that he disses Prodigy cuz “I Couldn’t Help It” constantly reminds me of “Diamond.” Matter fact there’s a lot of familiarity going on here. “Angel In My Life”…What is that: G-Unit’s “Order Of Protection?” That children’s prayer on “Now I Lay”…For real? Pac’s “Life Goes On” on “Blood In The Wall”…where’s the originality???
Contra™: In true spirit of fanaticism, I spent some time trying to figure out how to make this album more palpable. To start with, you have to listen to it enough times that you finally say “Oh, okay. I see what you were trying to do.” Then let your blind empathy supersede your taste and you pick out about 5 songs that you can ride to. The next thing you have to do is make sure you only listen to one of those songs at a time. I find that makes it more tolerable and sometimes almost enjoyable (except for “The Future.” I wish Jesus would turn water to Vodka so I could smash two shots into either side of his head just to numb my ears before hearing it again.)
TC: LMAO!!! U’s a fool Contra™.
Contra™: Seriously! Makes you wanna throw on Mood Music 2 and get a lobotomy.
TC: So what’s the overall consensus? It seems like we agreed on the low points pretty easily. The album doesn’t totally tank because well, like MZ said, Joe can rap. But it’s aiight at best.
Patrick M: Nothing really binds this together; he should have gone all out with the “padded room” idea which would have meant sacrificing any poppy beats or crossover aspirations and turned up the lyrical weirdness. He’s a good rapper so I think it still probably deserves a 3.
K1NG: Well, like Gotty™ stated, “Exxxes” could’ve been a real good song, but listening to a kick-snap drum pattern over a repeating guitar loop for 6 minutes makes me lose interest in the story.. This song is like the song equivalent of a double album.. Shortened up, it could’ve been pretty cool, but there’s just too much filler. I’m sure there are other songs I can point out the inconsistencies in like “Adrenaline,” which sounds like a Nirvana cover band produced it, but I think my point has been proven. I can’t wait to see what he does with Slaughterhouse, but his solo albums just don’t seem to cut it. Rapping is a skill and Joe Budden is one of the best rappers out right now. Songwriting however, is just not his strength in the least. Dude has a lot of hardcore fans, and for them this is gonna be a great album. 3 Cigs.
Gotty™: A 3.5 is a blessing. 3 is being generous. I lean towards being generous. And I’m an admitted Stan/fan.
MZ: I’m all for being generous with this one. This is pretty much all Joe will give us from this point on.
Jesse H: It’s tough to really get through it. My main problem is his obsession with self-exile. There’s a very short-order list of MCs that can carry an album by themselves with no major guest spots. Nas can do it (even with mediocre beat selections). Joey can’t. He’s not multidimensional enough. I wouldn’t oppose a below average rating a.k.a. 2.5 Cigs.
David D: The inconsistency is strong in this one. How the hell does “Happy Holidays” fall in line with the rest of the emo-ness going on here? Same with the picnic basket of a track “Family Reunion.” Happy Cup-O-Joe? I prefer my Joe dark and depressed, no sugar, no cream, no homo.
Contra™: Joey FTL with this shit. I think if it was less hyped, a lot of our perspectives would change, but that sadly, is not the case.
Landon A: It is a hard album to get through and despite the bright spots, the lack of fludity takes it down to the point of chronic monotony. When it all boils down to it, this album was fair at best. Welcome to the rap game.