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. No Love Lost finds him attempting to cash in on all of the above with some of his more radio-friendly material since his 2003 self-titled debut.
“She Don’t Put It Down” is particularly horrendous, with Lil Wayne providing a signature throwaway verse ($75,000 not well-spent) and an awful hook courtesy of Tank. It’s hard to tell whether “All In My Head” is an indictment or a affirmation of Budden’s abilities. Certainly he’s much better on the cut, but it seems that he only steps his game up when joined by a capable lyricist such as Royce Da 5’9. Regardless, “Skeletons” provides a similarly fired-up Joe, joined by other two Slaughterhouse members, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, the latter of whom takes top honors on the cut: “Fuck all that rappin’ I’ma let the conversation rock / I got skeletons in my closet / The living dead livin’ in a nigga head / behind a combination lock / When will the occupation stop and make it a vacant lot / …It started as a kid at my school desk / Aced every quiz but I wanted to pass the cool test / Ain’t nothing cool about school shoppin’ at the thrift store / And livin’ in an abandoned station wagon because you was piss poor.”
The most glaring issue with No Love Lost is the truly terrible production featured throughout. “She Don’t Put It Down” and “You And I” sound like limp versions of some generic top 40 hit of yesteryear. “Castles” and “All in My Head” are more lush and interesting, but too much of the album is glittery, banal R&B a la “Switch Positions.” As the production might suggest, there’s a lot of homogenous discussion about women on the project. And while that’s a subject that can get a lot of mileage if addressed properly, Budden’s love/sex talk just rarely ever rises to the level of compelling. Where Joe really shines is on “Runaway,” where he delves into his drug addiction with gripping imagery: “I’ve said all that I’ll say so I’ll stand with no apologies / I’ve popped all that I’ve popped wasn’t too recently that it got to me / Those of y’all who love Joe gotta admit the shit was a lot to see / I lost weight lost faith / I got caught up in that vacuum / My stomach turned my eyes burned / And I became best friends with a bathroom.”
No Love Lost is an interesting title for this project, because it would presumably signify some sort of indignation. And, let’s face it, there’s plenty for him to be indignant about, whether it’s Jay-Z’s treatment of Budden at Def Jam or Wu-Tang’s overreaction to pretty harmless comments about Method Man. Unfortunately for Budden, this project only serves to detract from the credibility of any such indignation.