Hear Me Out: Joe Budden on Why New York Needs Kentucky’s Best Player and the City’s Biggest Sports Villain

Joe Budden is an avid sports fan. He bleeds orange and blue. And despite his New York Knicks being marred with injuries this season, he remains optimistic. The NBA Draft is where many futures take a spin for better or for worse and the rapper thinks his Knicks have a shot at making a splash in this year’s draft.

You see, Budden knows all about struggle. After several skirmishes with rivaling rappers and a sour relationship with his label, Def Jam, Joey was barely hanging on by a thread. Despite dropping his biggest hit “Pump It Up,” his label refused to give him a second album. After enduring years of dismay, the embattled rapper finally found an escape route. His heartbreak and agony served as the leading ingredients in creating his opus, Mood Muzik 2. After that, Budden continued to thrive on the independent circuit. During that time, he released two more albums, Padded Room and No Love Lost, joined the lyrical supergroup in Slaughterhouse, and became a reality star on VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop.

With a new tour in sight this month for his recent project, Some Love Lost, Joey is ready to hit the road again and bring some quality mood music to a city near you.

Champs Sports sat down with Joe Budden to discuss his love/hate relationship with the New York Knicks, his favorite sports movies of all time, his favorite throwback jerseys, his NBA MVP for this season, why he doesn’t consider himself a sneaker collector, and why he believes real hip-hop is back on track.

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The last time we spoke prior to the season starting, you said the Knicks would win 49 games. Where did it all go wrong for your New York Knicks?
I know, I know, I know. (Laughs) That was pretty optimistic. But you know what I will say, I’m glad that it turned out the way it did.

Why is that?
The Knicks are about to get a draft pick. For us to have a draft pick, that’s pretty huge.

Who should they be leaning on drafting?
My order is [Karl-Anthony] Towns, [D’Angelo] Russell, [Jahlil] Okafor, and [Justise] Winslow.

Why Towns?
Well I think his skill-set goes better with Carmelo‘s. He’s a big guy that can shoot the 15-17 footer, rebound, and play defense. I think Okafor is a liability when it comes that. And they say he’s projected to probably be about 7-3 when it’s all said and done.

I was on Instagram the other day and noticed you posted a picture of the 2009 Draft when the Warriors took Stephen Curry one pick before the Knicks. What kind of damage do you think Steph could have done in a Knicks uniform?
You know I was just talking about that with somebody, man. Oh, if Steph Curry was on the Knicks, oh forget about it. That would be amazing. But that also goes to my theory that you need to build through the draft. All the teams that are doing something, they’ve done it through the draft. The Knicks have always shot themselves in the foot as far as the draft.

What Knicks moment was the most gratifying for you as a fan?
For me, “The Dunk.” The John Starks dunk in ’93.

The dunk over Jordan?
Yeah, that was huge ‘cus of the timing and just the way the Bulls were regarded. That dunk just spoke volumes on New Yorkers’ feelings towards the Bulls. The Allan Houston shot was big for me. I think that was Game 5 in Miami. The [Larry Johnson] four-point play was big for me. Most of my moments were in the ’90s. But yeah, we had some good ones. We had some real good teams in the ’90s.

Now what about the most painful moment?
Oh, that’s real easy. Reggie Miller‘s eight points in like 10 seconds. That was very, very easy for me. I’ll never feel pain like that.

Do you think he was a bigger villain than Jordan?
That’s tough to say. Jordan was so unbeatable. He was viewed that way. The Pacers though, they were a team built very much like the Knicks and he was a Knick killer. Like for those guys to have never won it, yeah, he was a villain. I won’t say as much as Jordan, ‘cus Jordan is Jordan, but not too far away.

If you had to choose your MVP for this season, who would you choose and why?
Oh, that’s tough. It’s difficult. For most of the year, I had [James] Harden winning it because I felt Dwight Howard missed so many games. And for him to will that team basically to the second seed in the West, that was pretty unbelievable. With Curry, the numbers don’t particularly match up with Harden’s, but he’s had a better supporting cast. So when you talk about winning the West by 11-12 games, or however many they won it by, 67 wins in a season, they really could have won 70. That was one of the best regular seasons we’ve seen. So it’s hard to make a case against Curry.

I like asking rappers this question, so I’ll pose this one to you: Name your top three favorite sports movies.
Hmm. Man, that would take some thought.

I could toss you one. How about He Got Game?
He Got Game was amazing. He Got Game was one of them. I was real big on Blue Chips. I was real big on The Program too, actually.

I was a youngin’ and that movie explained a lot to me at the age that I was at, at the time. It was very detailed concerning some things that I wasn’t too knowledgeable about. What else? There’s so many great sports movies.

I’m surprised that you didn’t say Friday Night Lights with Boobie Miles and those boys.
That was a good movie. That wasn’t one of my favorites though. Oh my god! I loved Remember the Titans.

Classic Denzel.
I loved Remember the Titans. There’s so many movies. There’s a lot of them. I wouldn’t even be able to keep it at three. I would need more time to think.

I would have thought you were a Love & Basketball kind of guy. Like, you would just have a girl at home and pop that movie in.
Love & Basketball, that’s another great one. I feel like there’s another really good basketball or football that I’m forgetting.

How about Any Given Sunday?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s it. (Laughs) Any Given Sunday. I was a big Mighty Ducks guy. There’s another baseball one that I’m forgetting. There’s a lot of them. I’m really a big sports and movies guy.

Let’s take it over to the rap side of things for a second. How about your favorite sports punchline ever?
That’s another one that I would have to think about. I’ve said so many sports punchlines, especially during my earlier years. I wouldn’t be able to answer it at the drop of dime.

I remember you said something on “6 Minutes of Death” like, “For once trust me, you don’t wanna start problems//the pound’ll make you Eddy Curry with a heart problem.”
Yeah, yeah. I had another one in there about [Mahmoud] Abdul-Rawf that I really liked because I felt like not too many people were giving him the respect that he deserved.

I remember you had more, man.
I got a million of them! I did so many sports punchlines. There were so many on this track I did called “NBA.” Not the recent one, but something I did earlier.

Yeah, that was over the NBC beat. I remember you had a line about Kurt Thomas in there. That was pretty hysterical.
Yeah, yeah. That was back then when I wasn’t too fond of Kurt Thomas. I grew to respect him over the years.

As long as I can remember, you’ve always had an affinity for fitted caps. So if you had to choose your top three favorite fitteds, which ones would you choose?
Oh, the Yankee fitted number one, of course. I’m a big Cincinnati Reds all-red, white “C” fitted fan. That’s probably my second favorite fitted. What is my third favorite? The Toronto Blue Jays royal blue fitted. That’s another favorite of mine. I got an old Green Bay hat with this white and green stripe all around. It’s a really great hat. But I’ve had a lot of great fitteds.

Do you wear snapbacks? Or are you just solely a fitteds kind of guy?
Oh no, I don’t wear snapbacks at all. AT ALL. Number one, my head is too big. Number two, I was never really into that trend. I just stay true to my fitteds.

I’m going to take it back to another trend that was pretty popular in the early 2000s: throwback jerseys. If you had to pick your top three favorite throwbacks of all time, which ones would you choose?
Hmm. Top three favorite throwbacks of all time? Hmm, which ones did I have? Yeah, that’s another one. My short-term memory is horrible! It’s difficult to think about at the drop of a dime. But, let me see. I had a few back then. I just got a brain freeze. I had so many basketball ones. I liked the old Washington Bullets jersey. I liked the old Nuggets jersey; the navy blue and gold. Those were pretty great. What else? There’s so many basketball ones that I loved. I’ll go with those two for now since I’m drawing a blank.

I remember you did video interview with Nice Kicks and were showing off your sneaker closet. Would you consider yourself a sneaker collector?
Nah, I wouldn’t consider myself a sneaker collector. I’m just pretty fortunate to be afforded to buy the sneakers that I like and enjoy. But these guys, you have guys out there who try to get every sneaker that drops and know all of the sneaker connects. They’ll stand outside overnight on lines for sneakers. My affinity is not to that extent. But the sneakers that I enjoy, I buy.

This might be a hard question for you, but I think you’ll get it done. Name your top five favorite sneakers of all time?
Oh, that’s actually not as tough (laughs). The Concord is one. What’s another Jordan that I really, really love? The all-grey joints? The patent leather joints? I got a brain freeze, so I can’t remember the exact name. The original Bo Jackson, that’s another one. The Barkley is another. And there was one of the LeBrons that I really enjoyed. They were like two or three generations ago. I don’t really remember the name of that one either. But it’s the LeBrons, the Bo Jacksons, the Barkleys, and two pairs of Jordans.

Do you have a particular outfit or a pair of go-to kicks that you wear when you perform?
Nah, nah. It depends on what type of show it is. If it’s a show that I came to do a lot of jumping around, jump with the audience, and do a lot of sweating, then I’m probably gonna have some sweats or a t-shirt. You know, the sneakers need to be fly, but they need to be extremely comfortable as well. So I don’t really have a go-to. If I have a live band, then I’m going more for style. You know, it’s all contingent on the outfit. So I don’t really have a specific go-to pair.

I know you’re continuing the “Some Love Lost Tour” next month. Ideally, how many pairs of sneakers do you think you’ll bring on a tour like that?
The lesser the better because I like to pack light. I got a tour and I’m gonna go for five days. I’ll try to bring maybe three pair. I try to bring the three that I can wear with the most stuff.

You know what I thought would have been cool, if you jumped on Drake’s “6 P.M. in New York.”
That’s funny. I actually tried going about getting that instrumental from Boi1da.

Before it dropped?
No, after it dropped. I wanted to get it so I could put a couple of words on it, but it didn’t happen.

How do you feel about the current shape of hip-hop with everybody reverting back to doing it for the culture and for the love?
It’s great. That’s a trend that I hope continues. You know, I’ve always been one that advocated for doing it for the love, dropping bars, and showcasing the ability to rhyme. In recent years, that kind of changed a bit. But I’m real glad that it’s starting to get back to that because that’s what I enjoy. That’s what I want to hear from artists.

Were there any albums that enjoyed hearing so far in 2015?
It’s been a good year for hip-hop period. All of the projects that came out this year have been good in some way or another. I won’t name any specifically but I thought Big Sean was good. I enjoyed a few joints off Drake’s joint. Kendrick‘s album was amazing, but it’s not something I would particularly listen to daily. Cole was good. I digged Wale‘s album that he put out recently. So it seems like everybody is working hard and releasing music. I like the trend of the content coming out quicker, as opposed to the six, eight, 10, 12-week rollouts.

Do you think that it might become a little bit corny after awhile if everybody follows the whole no release date trend? Or do you think it elevated hip-hop in a sense?
Well, not everybody can do that. We all can’t do that. I’m not afforded the luxury of just dropping an album out the clear blue sky. But it puts less into the marketing and more into letting the music speak for itself. I’m always gonna be for that. Now will it become tacky with everybody continuing to do it? Probably so. But the fans want the music. If it’s less about gimmicks and less about you know…I remember there was a time you were pretending to s**** people to try to sell albums. You know people would do all types of bulls*** to try to sell an album, but not focus on the music. So I’ll take it.

Any updates on All Love Lost?
As soon as I’m done. I’m working diligently to get it done. I’m very happy with the way it’s coming along so far. I’m not gonna put it out until I’m 100 percent satisfied and I’m well on my way there. I’m sure we’ll speak again before that time comes. Hopefully, we’ll have better things to say about the mix by that time (Laughs). But that’s it. All Love Lost coming soon.

Follow Carl on Twitter at @therealcl24