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Joe Budden 

Joe Budden (Def Jam)

Joe Budden's self-titled debut comes to us courtesy of "Pump It Up," a seemingly omnipresent club hit, on which producer Just Blaze turns a sample from Kool and the Gang's "Soul Vibration" into a stop-start, high-energy raveup. Not surprisingly, the underground success of "Pump It Up" and its lesser-known predecessor, the slinky, fly-as-a-kite "Focus," has rap critics wondering whether Budden is the new 50 Cent.

But while 50 Cent stocked his overrated Get Rich or Die Tryin' with tracks by Dr. Dre, Budden relies on relative newcomer Joseph "White Boy" Kuleszynski. Most of White Boy's uptempo tracks (especially the overheated "Fire") sound like a phantasmagoric circus organ -- all toots and whoops, rattling hi-hats, and pumping kick drums. The exception is the glossy, guitar-inflected "Ma Ma Ma," which inexplicably features 112 rehashing the chorus from J. Lo's "I'm Gonna Be Alright" in a brazen bid for R&B/pop crossover success.

These club-rattling beats conspire to smother Budden's intermittent stabs at originality, as when he double-tracks his singing voice on the vindictive "Survivor" and accuses his mother of neglecting him (shades of Eminem?) on "Calm Down." Budden still comes off like an awkward 22-year-old on these songs, too, stuck somewhere between an unrepentant New Yawk "nucca" and a tentatively open-minded vocalist. Still, they suggest that he may have what it takes to be more than a one-hit wonder.

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