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Joell Ortiz "The Brick: Bodega Chronicles" Album Review

Release date: 4/24/07 - Koch Records

Review by Angel Navedo for LatinRapper.com

 

Joell Ortiz album review

It seems like every time I turn around these days there’s a new rapper whose life story I know all about before I’ve heard their album. I know how many times he’s been shot, his most recent brush with the law, the exact block he sold drugs on, and his plans to put New York on his shoulders and represent the most diverse city in the nation.


Then I find Brooklyn’s own, Joell Ortiz’s debut album “The Brick: Bodega Chronicles” resting on my desk, and hear an MC whose sole desire is to represent himself, what he knows, and capture the attention of anyone who’s really making the effort to listen. Everyone that listens to him knows one thing when the song is over – the man can rhyme.

The album centers around his popular “125 Grams” series where he effortlessly and seamlessly dumps off 125 bar verses detailing his life, the struggle to get where he’s at today, and letting the listener know why he’s an MC that’s unlike any other that’s releasing music today. Ortiz sarcastically mocks the thought processes of record label executives on the Frank Dukes’ banger, “125 Grams (Pt. 2)” where he says, “’He’s kinda heavy, he’s gonna be hard to market/ Plus he’s Latin, is that who he’s gonna target?’/ So I’m big – so was B.I.G. so was Big Pun/ And you know like I know that you know that they both get dumb/ So just stop it, know that my target is everyone/ 5’ Mexicans, Africans that’s 7’1/ I could even cater to all the Native Americans…”

But do not worry, not every song on the album is a lyrical workout with 5+ minutes of rhyming and no breaks. There is definitely no shortage of headnodders that follow the more traditional song format of 16 bar verses and hooks. Always keeping his lyrics creative and crafted cleverly, Joell Ortiz drops sense on “Hip Hop,” and brings a smile to the faces of anyone who could relate on “Brooklyn Bulls**t.” His purpose isn’t to alienate any fans though. He’s not trying to get in the way of what anyone else does with their music, or say what doesn’t have a place in the genre; it may be a cliché, but he truly does paint pictures with his lyrics.

Unfortunately, the album is not absolutely flawless. The main shortcoming of the album arrives in the hands of Akon. “Keep on Callin’” didn’t need him, and follows the trend of having an insightful track about urban poverty while Akon sings. It’s not a terrible song, and Ortiz is definitely saying things that the listener should hear, but he’s not a contribution to the overall quality of the music.

When I first looked at the track list and saw a song featuring Styles P, my anticipation was mounted. This is another situation where the song isn’t terrible, but it’s just nothing outstanding. On an album where the majority of the production matches Joell perfectly and most tracks have a theme, “Time Is Money” simply comes off as lazy.

In Joell Ortiz, you find an MC with a keen sense of self-awareness that knows how to rap and how to construct a song that he needs the listener to relate to. If you’re interested in an MC that refuses to compromise who he truly is for airplay, then “The Brick” is something that should find it’s way into your collection. This album serves its purpose as an official product to whet our appetites until Joell Ortiz’s Aftermath debut is ready. The Brick: Bodega Chronicles is a better offering than his Who the F**k is Joell Ortiz? street mixtape, and should certainly hold over the listener until his next project hits the shelves.

“People, I’m from the bottom just like you/ If you ain’t from the bottom, no offense, but you are not who I write to…”

- Angel Navedo is a frequent contributor to LatinRapper.com
 

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