Clue put his street anthem “Focus” on his mixtape (it was re-released on DJ Envy’s Block Party, Vol. 1: The Desert Storm Mixtape) and now everybody’s checking for Joe Budden. Now the 22-year-old is ready to release his Def Jam debut, Joe Budden in June. Read about who swiped his album title, why he didn’t name it, Walk With Me and why he’s a huge risk for Def Jam.

How did you get on so many mixtapes?

When I signed to On Top, my production company, they pretty much knew every DJ. They’re in Queens and a lot of DJs are based in Queens, Clue, Envy, Cutmaster C. I started with a Cutmaster C and with an Envy just on favor, personal relationships and them thinking I’m alright. Then I made a Clue tape and I’ve been on every Clue tape, every Envy tape, every mixtape period, whether it be DJ my-mans-‘n-them from around the corner.

Did your life change when you got deep in the mixtape circuit?

Everything changed when I hit that DJ Clue tape. When people picked it up and saw the name Joe Budden. Cousins I never heard from. They popped up. The hood, n***as in the hood start thinking you got money. When you don’t get paid for mixtapes. Well, I don’t anyway. You can be on a Clue tape unsigned. People think you got a record deal. People start getting a lot of misconceptions.

Envy called you the next rapper to watch. Do you feel any pressure?

Not at all. If you’re not humble in this game, you’ll never go anywhere. #1. And #2, it’s not like you’re asking me. I didn’t ask to be put in this position. All I’m doing is being me. Like all the great rappers do. I think Jay-Z is so successful because he is just rapping being him. It’s not a gimmick. Eminem is rapping being him. I’m just being me. I had no idea from the very first time I did a mixtape that I would be so critically acclaimed. It’s God. I’m extremely grateful for it.

How do you feel about your label, Def Jam?

Def Jam was my dream label coming up, so it is a dream. And at one point I felt a little bit of pressure. Def Jam puts high expectations on me. They call me the future. They want me to carry on the Def Jam tradition for the next 10 years. I’m relaxed. But I do think Def Jam too needs to learn. It’s about time for that next person. Jay-Z, one more album, he’s done. DMX has already said he’s not doing anymore albums, like after this. Ja Rule has said the same thing. What is Def Jam going to do? Are ya’ll just going to go down with your artist? I would certainly hope not. That’s my beef. You’re a sinking ship. This is the first year I picked up The Source magazine in the Power 30 and looked at #1 and I didn’t see Def Jam. And it pissed me off because they can be #1. I’m here. I’m not going nowhere.

Your album title was The Jump Off, like Lil’ Kim’s song, but has since been renamed to Joe Budden…

Yeah, wonder where she got that name from?

Do you have a favorite track?

It’s called “Walk With Me.” I would have named the album Walk With Me but Sheek is naming his album Walk With Me and I didn’t want any beef. It’s basically a before and after I got signed. It’s called “Walk With Me (AM)”