The Brick: Bodega Chronicles
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?"