On Kamikaze, Eminem played the role of nefarious pet-owner, dangling proverbial catnip over a pen of rambunctious kittens. Lo and behold, the bait was quickly seized. One after another, those targeted emerged from the woodwork with responses at the ready. Machine Gun Kelly came out swinging with “Rap Devil.” Die Antwoord issued a brief freestyle clowning Slim Shady’s “botox.” Lil Yachty met his namedrop with a digital shrug. Yet Joe Budden was having none of Em’s commentary. Using his podcast as a pulpit, Budden unleashed a heated tirade, targeting Em’s character, business acumen, relevance, and musical aptitude. While Em’s “Fall” shot felt like a surface level warning, it seemed as if Joe’s response stemmed from a deeper, more personal place.
Recall, that Slaughterhouse signed to Shady Records in 2011, as revealed through an iconic XXL Cover. In that regard, an element of Budden’s musical fate was ushered into Eminem and Paul Rosenberg’s hands. Having garnered a loyal cult following off the strength of his independent grind and prolific mixtape run, Budden’s return to the world of major label politics was perhaps doomed from the start. A focused and savvy business mind, Budden has garnered a reputation for not playing nicely with others. Was it really surprising that he might develop animosity toward the man in charge of his creative process?
Such suspicions were all but confirmed by KXNG Crooked, a former member of Slaughterhouse. Taking to Instagram live with stogie firmly in hand, Crook revealed that Joe had been harboring a grudge against Eminem, largely over his treatment (or lack thereof, depending on who you ask) of Slaughterhouse. As such, Budden’s criticism of Eminem’s Revival, which ostensibly set this whole debacle off, was inherently tarnished by a deep rooted issue. Crooked saw right through it, and broke it down accordingly. “There was something else behind that critique, and that was my only thing,” he explains. “When I saw what he said about Em’s music, I knew there was something else there.”
But what is this “something else,” and how did come to bring two former label mates to such hostility?
LIFE IN A GLASS HOUSE
When rap fans heard that Slaughterhouse would be joining the ranks of Shady Records, the news was met with cautious optimism. For every D12 and Obie Trice there was a Cashis and Bobby Creekwater, and the already established supergroup deserved better than to suffer a shelving. Yet Em rang in the news with panache, dropping off an introductory track called “Shady 2.0,” which coincidentally marked the first official collaboration between Eminem and Budden; as you might know, Slaughterhouse was featured on Recovery bonus track “Session One,” although Joe’s verse was ultimately absent. The partnership continued to prove promising, as Em and Slaughterhouse held it down on a scene-stealing BET Cypher (prompting Royce’s iconic “Hi Rihanna”). Once again, Joe and Em traded verses like healthy competitors, two lyricists given ample space to shine on their own merits. Little did we know, tension was brewing behind the scenes. Mild at first, but it would clearly grow into something darker: open disrespect, maybe even disdain.
Upon receiving the group’s debut Welcome To Our House in 2012 (executive produced and arranged by Eminem), many felt the major label debut was a betrayal of their original modus operandi. Gone was the raw approach to sheer lyricism, discombobulated structures and mixtape sensibilities; instead, Slaughterhouse had morphed into their best impression of a commercially ble quartet, complete with Skylar Grey hooks. The album remained enjoyable, though fans continued to raise eyebrows; talk of Eminem’s influence turned from a positive to a negative, especially for those fatigued of Recovery’s more anthemic sound.
Fast forward to today. On his latest episode of the Joe Budden Podcast, Joey delved into some of the behind-the-scenes drama permeating Welcome To Our House and its creative direction. “Whatever tension exists between me and my brothers soley exists because of how all of us view Em,” explains Budden. “I just the group could do better without him. I thought that we were better than him. I thought we could get paid for a very powerful brand that we created as an Indie Festival monster.”
“For me I got a little lost,” continues Joe” “I had always been in control of my music. When we did all the music, we couldn’t hold it…By the time it came back, it was different. It wasn’t the same.” He continues, breaking down his perspective amassing beats for their divisive debut, which was not exactly favorable to say the least. “Every time we had to go do five or six more songs, it was always mad Eminem beats,” says Joe. “They were horrible! They were horrible fucking beats. They were bad fucking beats, man!” Though he proceeds to take it back, claiming they simply “weren’t for Slaughterhouse,” it’s clear that Em’s involvement left a sour note in Joe’s mouth.
In short, Joe believed Eminem and Paul were attempting to apply Em’s formula to the group, despite it being destined for failure. “Being Eminem works great for Eminem,” says Joe. “Just not so much for us.” Such a theory was given further credence on Pull Up, where Joe and Crooked clashed over who deaded Slaughterhouse. “The geniuses that I think Em and Paul are really really mismanaged our brand,” he says. “We are not him!”
To this day, Slaughterhouse’s second Shady Records effort, Glass House remains in limbo, tangled in a complex web of intertwining narratives.
The Joe Budden Podcast – “TV & Mayonnaise”
Given that Joe Budden has cleared the air, establishing that he and Eminem did not see eye to eye regarding Slaughterhouse’s creative direction, some of his post-Welcome To Our House actions are worthy of analysis. For one, the track “Slaughtermouse,” which appears on Joey’s 2015 project No Love Lost. Cut from a similar thematic cloth as Kanye West’s “Big Brother,” Joe pens a heartfelt dedication to Eminem, culminating in this passionate dedication:
Still when I hear your voice, my head goes wrong
Takes me back to that little boy with my headphones on
And the way you saved my life back then is how I’m savin’ them
Plaques and charted tracks won’t take me away from them
So I hope you understand
Fuck this record deal, you inspired me as a man
I’ll cut it short, before I start feelin’ like a Stan
True, “Slaughtermouse” clearly addresses some of Joe’s aforementioned issues with Slaughterhouse, albeit it a far more level-headed light. “We learned what’s good for the goose ain’t good for the gander,” raps Joe, alluding to Eminem’s failed formula. Still, the ultimate message of “Slaughtermouse” is one of respect, a far cry from Joey’s irate revisionist history. Lest we forget, the reputation he carried during early installments of Everyday Struggle, which found Joe unanimously riding for Eminem’s integrity, given that co-host Akademiks harbored a clear dislike for the lyricist.
Perhaps it was pressure from his co-host’s constant ribbing that led Joe to open the floodgates. Perhaps the direction of Revival simply opened old wounds. In any case, Budden unleashed the Kraken on Eminem’s “Walk On Water” and “Untouchable,” hitting the latter with a particularly pointed criticism. Going beyond his signature ranking of “trash,” Budden took to his podcast to dub the single “the worst record [he’s] ever heard.” Moreover, Joe actually went after Eminem’s character, essentially accusing him of exploiting the plight of black Americans to sell records. Suffice it to say, “Untouchable” marked a shift in Joey’s demeanor toward Eminem, finding him aligned with Slim’s open detractors. For better or worse, such changes did not go unnoticed.
Joe Budden on “Untouchable”
EM’S COUNTER RIPOSTE
At the beginning of 2018, Eminem unleashed “Chloraseptic Remix,” once again aligning himself with the fans Revival alienated. A narrative quickly spread that Em’s scathing verse was targeted at Joe Budden, albeit in a warning capacity. D12 member Bizarre seemed to feel that Joey was put in the crosshairs, sending a few shots at Budden for good measure. Em collaborator Joyner Lucas also felt Budden was being targeted, while Slaughterhouse member Royce Da 5’9” felt Budden overstepped his boundaries. Tension was clearly brewing, and many wondered if Eminem would ever make time for Budden on wax.
As it happens, the day has finally arrived. On Friday, August 31st, Eminem dropped his surprise album Kamikaze, forsaking the more dubious elements of Revival’s production. Single “Fall” found him calling out Joe Budden by name, hitting him with a relatively lenient bar, considering the circumstances. “Somebody tell Budden before I snap, he better fasten it, or have his body bag get zipped,” raps Em, “the closest thing he’s had to hits is smackin’ bitches.” As it happens, Em is alluding to Budden’s previous history of reported domestic abuse, which went on to be dismissed over lack of evidence.
The brazen nature of Em’s callout prompted a heated response from Joey, who went on a heated tirade on the aforementioned “TV & Mayonnaise” podcast episode. Clearly, Em’s line struck a nerve, as narratives once explored on “Slaughtermouse” were revisited with an open sense of hostility. In fact, Budden wasted little time in asserting his dominance in nearly every field. “I heard the album, and because I don’t think you know all the members that were in the group, I don’t really think you know our history,” he says, referring to the Slaughterhouse era. “Let me tell you what Joe Budden has thought this entire time. I’ve been better than you this entire fucking decade!”
Though he claims he’s not about to emerge from retirement for a domestic abuse bar, Budden certainly ends the topic on a foreboding note. “I know you don’t know about me,” he warns, “you better go ask some n***as close to you, I live for this type of shit. All of that rappity-rap, lyrical miracle bullshit, any n***a that want it like that, that think they want it with me? I don’t think you would fare well.”
All pretenses have disappeared. Gone are the days of fake smiles and unenthused handshakes. The animosity between Eminem and Joe Budden has officially entered uncharted, and notably dark territory. While Em’s beef with MGK feels more along the lines of healthy competition, the history between Em and Joe grounds this one in something much deeper. Should both artists decide that lyrical warfare is the only solution, it could very well get ugly. Is Eminem the one to pull Joe Budden from retirement? We can only hope, for such a conflict would prove magnificent to behold.
Eminem – “Fall”