The Growth capitalizes on the musical strengths of Budden’s debut, delivering a stream of hard-hitting party anthems, including the sinister West Coast homage “Gangsta Party” featuring hip-hop vocalist Nate Dogg and produced by Scott Storch and the bubbly, seductive uptempo “Sacred” featuring R&B crooner Marques Houston, produced by Budden’s up-and-coming hometown cohorts Presidential. In the two years since his debut album dropped, Budden has maintained public visibility by making cameo appearances on remixes by Jennifer Lopez, Fabolous, Christina Milian and 112, among others. He also briefly co-hosted the morning show on New York’s hip hop radio station Hot 97, and he’s made musical contributions to the Cradle to the Grave soundtrack and even emerges as a character in Electronic Arts’ popular video game Def Jam Vendetta. Last year, along with artists like Jay-Z and P. Diddy, Budden protested the Rockefeller drug laws in support of Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.
The Growth not only refers to Budden’s resilient ability to bounce back from professional adversity - it’s also his general prescription for self-improvement. While recording his follow-up album, Budden became increasingly aware that too many of his peers from his Jersey ‘hood seemed to lack goals and ambition. “I began to see too many smart young brothers with no type of aspiration,” Budden declares, “just wanting to stay on the block for the rest of their lives.” In response, some of songs on The Growth speak directly to the possibility of self-transformation. For instance, “Star in You,” produced by long-time collaborator White Boy (aka D-Dub) – who delivered one of the debut album’s best-known singles, “Focus” - is an affirmative, uplifting tune featuring a looped old-soul sample. The song’s lyrics focus on developing self-worth through self-help.
Hip-hop has always served as therapy for Budden. Born in Spanish Harlem before relocating to Queens and then Jersey City, the rapper spent many of his teenager years dangerously addicted to narcotics and battling severe depression. Listening to music at home (his father is a multi-instrumentalist) and in the streets became Budden’s release from a turbulent upbringing.
Songs on his debut album like “Walk with Me” and “Calm Down” featured cathartic, emotionally naked lyrics that were inspired by Budden’s idols like Rakim. On his follow-up album, Budden demonstrates even greater sophistication and thoughtfulness as a lyricist. “Three Sides to the Story” is a brutally honest, tragic masterpiece about incest in which Budden steps in the shoes of three family members: the first verse is told from the perspective of the brother who sells drugs to support his family; the second is told from the perspective of the sister who is being molested by her stepfather; and the final verse is told from the perspective of the abusing stepfather himself. Budden was inspired by an real-life situation in which an extended family member confided to him that she had been raped. “I used to only be able to talk about my own stories,” he reflects. “I now recognize that my story was unique – I didn’t have the normal story that everyone can relate to. I can now observe and watch and write about other people’s stories, not just my own.”
Budden’s musical ambitions have also become more complex. The Growth is a more diverse collection of sounds and sonic ideas. Budden’s brought on board an accomplished list of top-notch producers including Scott Storch (“Gangsta Party”), Timbaland (“What’s Up Tonight”), and Swizz Beats (“Ain’t Nothin’”). True to his underground roots, Budden is also eager to promote lesser known producers: Doula offers “Get it Started” featuring Roc-a-Fella crooner Rell and Ryan Lugo (SPP?) who produces the hard rock “Unforgiven” featuring Lars Ulrich from Metallica and an interpolation of the metal anthem of the same name. With two accomplished albums under his belt, Budden has also become more astute about the business of making music. He’s currently diversifying himself by developing new music and film projects with On Top Management. “I got my record deal at age twenty-one and when my first single ‘Pump it Up’ came out, I was 22,” says Budden. “Everything happened extremely fast, and I was just going with the flow. I didn’t know too much about how the business worked. I was on the boat riding with whatever happened.” This time around, as a businessman