Working Against the Culture: The Latest in the Joe Budden Podcast Saga

Last week, the Joe Budden Podcast raised a furor when the podcast’s host and namesake Joe Budden fired his co-hosts Rory Farrell and Jamil “Mal” Clay for what he saw as conduct detrimental to the workflow of the show.

But that was only the beginning. 

This past Monday, Olivia Dope, a woman and former collaborator, spoke out against Budden with allegations of sexual harassment. Budden apologized in a statement to Rolling Stone the following day, but the damage had been done.

It could be easy to just wonder where it all went wrong, but for long-time Budden observers, the red flags had been present for a while. McCoy remembered hearing murmurs from business partners of Budden that he should be careful in working with him. “Joe wouldn’t do that with me… It never crossed my mind,” McCoy told Farrell in a YouTube video after the fallout.

Joe Budden has worn many hats during his career in entertainment. As a rapper, he achieved his highest level of success in 2003 with the release of “Pump It Up,” an energized, percussion and horn-driven hit song produced by Just Blaze that was featured prominently on the soundtrack to the dance film You Got Served

While his rap career was never more successful than it was at that time, Joe Budden was an early adopter of social media, such as the now defunct video platform Ustream, and used it to connect with his fans. He began a transition into media that included appearances on ESPN’s First Take and in 2013, he landed a role on VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop: New York

While his personality could be seen as abrasive at times, he found ways to stay relevant in a fickle hip-hop ecosystem. In 2015, Budden put out a weekly podcast, I’ll Name This Podcast Later, with co-hosts Farrell and Marisa Mendez. Mendez would later leave the show after Budden’s beef with superstar Drake, where she was replaced by Mal. Budden’s propensity for beef with other rappers like Wu-Tang Clan legend Raekwon is rivaled only by 50 Cent, an expert antagonist in his own right.

Farrell and McCoy claimed that Budden took exception to the co-hosts asking to see financial paperwork, and that contrary to Budden’s version of what happened, they were actually partners in the Joe Budden Podcast, and not just employees. That the three were supposedly friends is of questionable importance. The simple fact is that business matters need to happen on paper, and according to Rory and Mal, Budden breached his contractual obligation to each of his partners. 

One of the most concerning aspects of the situation is if any of the red flags matter enough for his fans and audience to finally stop devoting time and energy to his projects.

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After launching in 2015 and being distributed independently, The Joe Budden Podcast increasingly gained popularity and was getting offers from some of the biggest media companies in the world. But instead of making the partnership more exciting, it quickly took an odious turn. According to Farrell, he and Budden had discussed getting contracts when they started getting offers from platforms like Tidal. To his surprise, Budden called him insecure for asking about contracts. Through verbal agreements, the then-friends eventually came to a profit-sharing agreement and continued what was a difficult alliance that only recently came to light.

In 2018, the podcast quickly became one of Spotify’s marquee exclusive products and frequently ranked in the top 20 most popular podcasts on the platform. But contract complications led to him not renewing his deal with the multimedia giant. “I am not going to succumb to any bad deal that is not working favorably toward the people who have created that path,” he said at the time.

He clearly wasn’t talking about the people like Dope, Mendez, Farrell and McCoy that helped him get his podcast to where it is today.

For all of its success stories, hip-hop’s history has been riddled with bad deals, poor communication and ulterior motives. The Joe Budden Podcast saga is only the latest. But will it be a wake-up call for his throngs of supporters, or just another footnote in what has become a volatile, sometimes toxic career?

Only time will tell.

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