Joe Budden’s “Music Lovers Only With Joe Budden,” which launches today on Amazon’s live radio app Amp, is the latest entry to a deep resume that includes the super successful, 100% independent “Joe Budden Podcast.”
The New York City native, who retired from the rap game, has become one of the leading voices in hip-hop culture, creating an empire along the way that includes co-hosting “Everyday Struggle” for Complex, and “State of the Culture” for Revolt.
But it’s his often-controversial twice-weekly podcast, which launched in 2015 and touches on sports, current events, relationships and, of course, music, that has taken his influence to new heights — and had Amazon calling.
“Music Lovers Only With Joe Budden” takes one act of the podcast, his unfiltered take on records old and new, and makes it the focus of a live show that’s scheduled for Mondays at 5 p.m. Via Amp, the new live-radio app from Amazon, Budden plans to play the music he loves and talk about how those songs figure into the culture. He’ll also feature guests and take calls from listeners.
Variety caught up with Budden ahead of the show’s May 16 launch.
You figured out, before many artists in your space, that podcasting and talk broadcasting is the way to go for those with opinions who have the voice and the stomach for it. How would you describe your evolution?
I’m still learning. Still growing. It has been a beautiful journey — one filled with lessons, one that affords me opportunity to talk to great people and those I admire. It gives me a chance to spread information that I deem necessary to a large audience. And it’s all quite a responsibility — and I’ve adjusted to that in the six or seven years that I’ve been doing this. Plus, it’s great to see everyone else invigorated by podcasting, the growth of it all, not just mine, but the genre as a whole.
How will “Music Lovers Only” be different from the podcast?
On “The Joe Budden Podcast,” we talk about music. On “Music Lovers Only,” while they’ll be some talking, will really focus on music — playing joints. To be frank, I’ve waited a lot of years for the right opportunity to be able to highlight music in this way. I didn’t ever want to just sit at a desk and play programmed music, or something from a playlist. I wanted there to be creativity involved — something different; radio re-imagined.
On the podcast, it’s me and my cohosts, who happen to be friends, talking about everything, not just music. On the new show, the conversation will be toned down — just me, by myself. And while I’ll be talking about music and all things related to music culture, we really want to focus on the sound of music. Not just R&B and rap, but all genres where you can vibe out and have a good time. I can’t stress that enough. Normally, when you put a rapper or a retired rapper out front, you’d expect a lot of hip hop and R&B. I want to get into jazz, get into my rock bag. That’s definitely something that I can’t do on the podcast. I think how we focus and react to music on “Music Lovers Only” will be completely different.
You wanted to curate?
Yes. Amp allows me to do exactly that. The opportunity was great. And this was years in the making, waiting for the technology to be able to just play music directly from your phone. Amp has full licenses for this music. It’s been difficult to play music without the proper licenses until now.
I’m excited about doing this, and I think my audience is excited about me doing this; people over the years have gotten to know my musical palate. There are times that I wished I could play 10, 15, 20 songs on the podcast, but that’s not what that audience is there for. On “Music Lovers Only,” we’re going to jam out.
How will the live call-in aspect work?
We’ll be taking calls, talking to fans. I wanted to base “Music Lovers Only” on mood — not just my mood, but the callers’. You want to see where people are listening from and what vibe they’re on. We want to truly connect that way, have a different connection than we have on the podcast.
On the podcast, some of your unfiltered opinions are incredibly controversial, yet there have so far been no petitions to cancel Joe Budden. To what do you attribute such Teflon-ness?
I don’t necessarily look at it that way, but, what other choice do we have but to live life and take life at life’s turns? I think what you’re talking about is perseverance. When you sign up for a job as a broadcaster, there is an understanding that everyone will not agree with everything you’re saying. I’m not just reporting fact on the pod. I’m stating opinion. You have to be willing to take what comes with that territory. I signed up for that a long time ago. You don’t retire a rap career, and not go full-steam-ahead with whatever your career path becomes. I take it that seriously.
Last year, around this time you joined the crowdfunding service Patreon’s board as Creator Equity Advisor with a goal to address everything that’s wrong with the monetization system for creators. What advances have you made, and do you feel fairly paid for your services?
I want to start by saying that I am blessed beyond my wildest imagination. I have extreme gratitude for what I do, but also for what I have been able to accomplish. But, when you talk about payment for creators, I’ll probably never think that it is fair, right? That’s just the side of the coin that I’ve been on. Yet, when I look out at the marketplace, I see sooooo many creators getting paid more, and better, from different, varied platforms. I’m proud of that. I like to look at myself as a trailblazer. When you do that, you don’t always reap the largest benefit — going first, creating a path for others. So when you talk about monetization, the fight that I’ve had for how many years now, and the messaging — that messaging is resonating more now than ever. People in podcasting are a little more ambitious, fighting for ownership. That’s the goal. Not everyone wants to own, but those who we can reach, we want to reach them.