Who the Fuck Is Joell Ortiz? It’s
2007 and most can answer the question as they have heard the latin emcee spit
flames alongside rappers like Sha Stimuli and Immortal
Technique and even legends in the game ala Big Daddy Kane
and Kool G. Rap. Last year, not so much. While the New York
rap scene was steady searching for a new king, with artists pushing mixtape
after mixtape (after mixtape), Joell resorted to one release. Who
the Fuck is Joell Ortiz?
At the age of 17, Ortiz made one of the largest decisions
of his life; to pass on both an academic and basketball scholarship to stay in
Brooklyn. Using the streets as a tool, hustlin’ to survive; Ortiz
suffered the rejections from A&Rs who seemed set off based on his “look,”
ignoring his unbelievable talent to rhyme. Being declined by some proved to be
a blessing in disguise as one man couldn’t refuse. That man was none other than
super producer Dr. Dre, who promptly signed Joell
to his Aftermath powerhouse.
“I sent eight songs. He flew me to LA the next day. He signed me the day
after that. I was back on a plane the day after that.”
And now we have The Brick (The Bodega Chronicles), A street album
that Ortiz is releasing under KOCH Records to
serve as an appetizer until his Aftermath debut hits shelves.
Driven by the ode to classic Hip Hop – simply titled “Hip Hop” – Ortiz
demands the people to “accidently step on your white sunglasses,” cause
“we don’t wear those over here, this is hip hop!” The single was
matched with an equally dope video which can be viewed HERE.
The Brick revolves around Ortiz‘ “125 Grams”
series. Tracks that showcase the essence of rhyming, 125 bars of Hip Hop – no
hooks, just rhymes. “125 Pt. 1 (The Bio)” has Joell naming off
his accomplishments up until now, from an appearance in The Source‘s
Unsigned Hype to XXL‘s Chairman’s Choice (and Show
N Prove). “125
Pt. 2 (Fresh Air)” comes later on with Ortiz rhyming on life in the BK. “Pt. 3 (Connections)” brings on guests Ras
Kass, Stimuli, Grafh and Gab Gotcha for a posse cut
that’s blazed mixtapes for quite some time. The album ends with “125 Pt. 4 (Finale),”
a heartfelt song that gives Joell the opportunity to speak on
topics that hit home. From his struggle to get his music heard, a loss of a
close friend to his errant father.
Now the album isn’t JUST the “125 Grams” series. “Brooklyn Remix” has
Ortiz alongside Cashmere, Maino,
Big Daddy Kane and Solomon repping the BK to
the fullest. Immortal Technique joins in on “Modern Day
Slavery,” a conscious joint about the “prison” that we call the projects.
Replacing a verse from a Style P‘s track with his own and you
get “Time is
Money.” As dope as it was originally, Joell‘s
swag cooks it up to crack.
Where the verse replacement worked well with Styles P, the
same can’t be said for “Keep On Callin,” a song belonging to New Zealand
DJ/Producer P-Money. Some things weren’t meant to be re-done. Akon
and P-Money did fine the first time around. While the Lord
Black and Alex “BQE” Santiago assisted “BQE” (which
bears a hook that shouts out their favorite neighborhoods in both Brooklyn and
Queens) might have NY residents nodding their heads, it won’t do the same for
the rest of the world.
“If Hip Hop is dead, I want to come across as the Spanish nigga who
shows that Hip Hop is nice.” Now even though I despise this whole “hip hop
is dead” bullshit, Ortiz definitely shows that there still is
plenty of talent in the game right now. The only thing that bricked this time
around was the album’s title. The rhymes were all net. Didn’t KRS
once ask “who’s got next?”