Photography: DeWayne Rogers
Wardrobe Styling: Linday Hillyard
It’s a cold New York City morning at Manhattan’s Auction House, and hip-hop star-turned-reality star Joe Budden is in a talkative mood. He’s had a busy few weeks; the new season of “Love & Hip Hop” has premiered, beaming the Jersey-born emcee into America’s living rooms weekly, and the release of his third studio album, No Love Lost, looms just a few days away. His journey to get to where he is now — a place of peace, he claims — was fraught with missteps. He’s had more than his fair share of high-profile relationships go bad. His breakups with video models Esther Baxter and Tahiry Jose were public and messy, with allegations of abuse and miscarriages plastered on countless gossip blogs. In 2009 and 2010, he was sought by authorities for failing to make child support payments. The Slaughterhouse member has also openly struggled with sobriety and he missed his famed supergroup’s concert in March of 2012 due to being jailed over a simple parking ticket.
But today, Budden views all of those moments as simply part of his evolution as a man.
“My sole purpose is just to improve and evolve and keep the focus on me,” he explains. “Doing that, you pick up on certain things and you learn certain things. Looking at myself back then, my mind-[set] was in a very different place. Not to say volatile, but I wasn’t as intact as I am today.”
But he’s still not afraid of rolling the dice. How else can one explain his willingness to allow his notoriously tumultuous love life to play out on the small screen? He and Jose have gone back-and-forth via Twitter and exchanged barbs in interviews; and now the world is witnessing their personal drama unfold. “Closure would be nice,” Joe says of the ongoing push-pull with Tahiry. “But that’s a luxury at this point between her and I. Would I prefer it? Yes. Will it ever be? Who the f–k knows?”
Exacerbating the tensions has been Joe’s relationship with his former “friend” Raqi Thunda, who’s also featured on the show. “That relationship is nonexistent,” he says bluntly. “I won’t say it’s because of the show. It’s because of her. The show didn’t do anything — to me, anyway. That was bound to come to its end whether the show was happening or not.”