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Joell Ortiz the Brooklyn Representer
11/7/05 - exclusive interview


rapper Joell Ortiz picture

From the streets of Brooklyn comes Joell Ortiz, an underground artist that may not stay incognito for much longer. Joell's credibility as a "complete package" mc has been bubbling up with the release of each mixtape that he's featured on, garnering the respect of fans and established artists alike.


Joell would begin to hone his craft in junior high, taking a hiatus from making music when he struggled to care for a mother with a cocaine addiction.

He would end up selling the same poison that affected his family to keep the bills paid and food on the table, things eventually improved and Joell would end up back to writing seriously again. He developed a name for himself as a fierce battle rapper and has been quickly generating an industry buzz, we speak to Joell in this exclusive interview. First of all, you're name always comes up when people discuss the hottest underground prospects out there. What was it that really jump started your buzz and got people approaching you about your music?

There a lot of reasons that my buzz started growing over the last year but if I had to choose one, I'd have to say, HARD WORK! I know that seems like a real generic answer but hard work is very important to me and everyone that I have around me. Me and my whole team have busted our tails to get my name out there.

You made Source mag's Unsigned Hype section, as well as Chairman's Choice in XXL, beyond the actual promotion if offered, how significant was it to you personally to be selected for those features?

Any kind of recognition is good when your grinding to get your name out there. But I gotta tell you, when I get emails from kids all over the world telling me they feelin' my stuff it makes me feel really, really proud. Magazines are great and I appreciate being recognized by the industry but when I hear from one of the people directly, I am touched.

Our last interview was with AZ, an artist with tremendous cred but not in the spotlight as much as he deserves it. What's it going to take for Joell Ortiz to break out of underground recognition and achieve mainstream appeal?

I think its going to take me working harder on making a great radio record, doing more shows, more press and more retail runs. Generally, shaking more hands and kissing a lot more babies! (laughs)

What are you presently working on at the moment?

I'm working on a street album called the brick. It’s a bunch of my long 125 freestyles that have become popular and some new songs as well.

Whose producing the beats?

I'm using only new producers… Frank Dukes, my DJ: EMZ, Moss, Fusion and some others that will kill me for not mentioning there names (forgot)

What do you think the status of your music career would be if mixtapes weren't as popular?

I'd be ok cause I make good 12 inches and my shows are solid

How important do you think mixtapes will be to breaking artists over the next ten years?

Mixtapes will always be important but I think the formats will be different. Everything will be digital therefore the artists will be able to get to audience faster. From the studio right to your hands. You will also probably be able to watch the process.

What's your most memorable or significant collabo to date, and why?

By far the most memorable collabo is the one I did with Big Daddy Kane. I was very very young when he started but I remember being around when dudes were blasting his music around me. At the session he told me that he co-signed Biggie and Jay before anyone else did and he felt I was in there league. I almost passed the f**k out (laughs)

Are there any artists out there you'd like to collaborate with at the moment?

Ludacris, he is ill and he has fun on records.

What artist has made the biggest influence on your music and career?

Big Pun, he showed me, as a Latin Rapper that we can be ourselves and win.

What do you think distinguishes you from most other unsigned artists out today?

I strive to be a total package emcee. My songs are great, my shows are tight, my freestyles are ill, my pen is sick and my battle game has been tested and I won. Sounds cocky but I been at this for 8 long years, NON STOP. I have a right to be confident. I'm Just like someone that goes to college for four years in a field, then after graduating works at that same field for another four years gets called an expert. I feel I have the right to be called an “expert”

Ask any hip hop head to name Brooklyn MCs that made an impact on the game and you'll hear names like Biggie, Hov, Mos Def, Guru. Do you see yourself being mentioned alongside artists of that stature in the future?

I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t.

Who is rap music's G.O.A.T.?

LL Cool J… He is a total package emcee to the tenth degree! He went through battles, great and not so great albums, great Shows, he has come back from defeat and reclaimed his title, he is the man!

You used to hustle, do you think rap glamorizes that lifestyle, or does the industry offer hustlers a way off of the streets?

A little of both. If you a real hustler you gonna find away out the street and into a legal hustle. But at the same time the rap game does glorify the getting paid by any means bulls**t too much. I wanna get paid just as bad as anyone but I ain't hurtin' nobody for a chain, pocket money or a car to do it.

What's similar, if anything, between the dope game and making a career in music?

Product, location and great salesmanship is important in any business.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to make it in this rap game?

I haven’t “made it” in order to really give advice but from my experience I suggest y'all get some thick skin, be coachable, work hard and have fun.

Any last thoughts?

I am one of you. I do this cause I love the artform. I love my people and I am proud to be able to represent y'all. That’s why I work so hard at my craft. No one will ever be able to say Joell Ortiz was a gimmick cause he is Latin.

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