Joe Budden is the worst. That’s a variation of the phrase my friend Alex and I kept repeating while fleeing a “performance” by the New Jersey rapper back in 2008; that saying and the moment that inspired it springs to mind often enough for me to consider Budden’s concert a total flop, and thus a perfect fit for this week’s Variations on a Theme.

I wasn’t a Budden fan prior to seeing him onstage—I actually ended up at the show for a school assignment. I’d been taking a sociology class on youth subcultures in my final semester at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and part of the coursework for one particular project required my peers and me to attend a few hip-hop shows, much to my delight. But due to my overly packed schedule and the difficulty that comes with trying to see live music in a Boston suburb with few public transportation options, I wound up snapping up a ticket to see Joe Budden at Cambridge’s Middle East Downstairs out of academic obligation rather than interest. Fortunately I had a comrade-in-arms in Alex, who shared my lack of interest in Budden.