Recording information: 934 Studios, Totowa, NJ; Digital Services, Tomball, TX; Gang Green Studios; Headqcourterz Studios Ltd., New York, NY; Isolation Studios; Kasakoz Studios; Oz Studios, New York, NY; Treacherous Recording Studios.
With his hard-hitting crew Slaughterhouse acting as an outlet for his inner thug, rapper Joe Budden uses this 2013 solo effort as an opportunity to get introspective, capping off a quadrilogy of concept albums that began with 2008's Halfway House. Padded Room and Escape Route (both 2009 releases) are the other albums that comprise Budden's epic memoir on wax, and now that he's come to the enlightened and reflective point of the story, he's gone a bit Drake. No Love Lost is filled with long, personal stories of struggle and alienation, delivered over beats that are midtempo, R&B-flavored, and packed with organic elements. The Roots come to mind on cuts like "You and I" or "Skeletons," with basses popping and drums beating in a way that's all the way live, while late album highlight "My Time" is a cross between Coldplay and B.o.B.'s "Airplanes," and gives way to the title track/outro where guitars wail. Things change when Juicy J and Lloyd Banks join in for the worthy beat-'em-up number "Last Day," while "She Don't Put It Down" ("Ass so mean, I'm always on its bad side") with Lil Wayne and Tank is great strip club stuff, matched in energy and swagger by the weed, money, Wiz Khalifa, and French Montana number "NBA" ("Never Broke Again"). So many highlights make the album trophy-case worthy, but the best party numbers sit right next to one another, and long stretches of emo and midtempo threaten to alienate newcomers. At 17 tracks, the last being a remix of "She Don't Put It Down" with Twista adding the fury, it's a long haul as well, even with all the pop touches and crossover appeal. The casual listener might think it drifts too much, but fans who wrap it up in the Slaughterhouse universe will find it's a somewhat jumbled effort with plenty of literate, thoughtful writing to explore. ~ David Jeffries