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Joell Ortiz - The Brick: Bodega Chronicles (Cover Artwork)

Joell Ortiz

Joell Ortiz: The Brick: Bodega ChroniclesThe Brick: Bodega Chronicles (2007)
E1 Music

Reviewer Rating: 5


Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I ain't tryin' bring New York back I'm just a breath of fresh air That good old New York rap. After the proclamation of "Yo do me a favor? Accidentally step on your white sunglasses, we don't wear those out here, this is hip-hop. This is Carhartt jackets, Timberland boots, unlaced, this is Cham.
Amazon


I ain't tryin' bring New York back
I'm just a breath of fresh air
That good old New York rap.

After the proclamation of "Yo do me a favor? Accidentally step on your white sunglasses, we don't wear those out here, this is hip-hop. This is Carhartt jackets, Timberland boots, unlaced, this is Champion hoodies, chicken wings and french fries, R.I.P. pieces on the handball court, this is us still fighting police brutality" that plays at the intro of Joell Ortiz's "Hip Hop," the lines that similarly open my review and the actual verses of the song allow me to say without reservation that Ortiz is the most refreshing voice I've heard from the genre since I first started listening.

Ortiz hails from Brooklyn, as so many of hip-hop's greats before him have, and it's fitting, because even in moments of typical hip-hop bravado, like the line in the autobiographical "125 Part 1," Ortiz knows and respects those who paved the way: "KRS responded with one word -- damn, the cypher's complete once he shake Rakim's hand." The track plays out like a point-to-point account of how Ortiz broke into hip-hop, and at six minutes without need of a hook or a chorus, it allows those listening to delve deep into the layers of intelligence and introspection that will brilliantly fold out over the course of the album.

His smooth-as-silk style has already garnered him fitting comparisons to another lyrically dexterous New York City native, Big Pun, but it's those repeated mentions of hip-hop's past, as in the aforementioned "Hip Hop," that really make me smile, because Ortiz is clearly an emcee who gets it. He doesn't name-drop, he pays homage, and it makes lines like "I don't feel how I used to feel, I'm in the 20's so a new Nas joint used to give me the chills" feel all the more geniune. The simplistic keyboard and snare production provide the perfect platform for Ortiz to profess his love for the genre as well as reinforcing the fact that though the production all over the album is amazing, it's never about that. It's about the lyrics. In fact, the only song of the album's 15 that could even pass for a club single is "Keep on Callin'," a quick but no less impressive song that features a crisp beat and Akon on the chorus. It's one of the better songs on the record, as much because of the production as the stay-strong message:

Easter day everybody got fresh, me I just tried to look my best / Poked out my chest, never let 'em see me sweat / These are the things I used to wanna forget, now I'm glad I remember.

As with any hip-hop, though, it's not all the lyrics, but also how they're delivered. That said, the variety from top to bottom on The Brick looks all the better, from the strikingly fierce wordplay of "125 Part II," a song which chronicles the struggles that come with an aspiring rap career, to the much more slower and deliberate social salvos of the Immortal Technique-accompanied "Modern Day Slavery," he's able to run the gamut. He can deliver metaphor and literal meaning with equal potency, and not for a single moment anywhere on the record does it sound as if he's trying to do too much. He knows what he's capable of, and he knows how far above most emcees it puts him ("don't confuse him with these other cats / he's a full workout, they three jumping jacks").

Even if you're not a fan of hip-hop whatsoever, you'd be doing yourself a favor to give Mr. Ortiz a moment of your time; that's all it will take. All it took was the first minute of "125 Part 1" for me to pause and just say damn. This, this my friends, this is hip-hop. It's what every earnest kid rapping to his friends on a street corner hopes to once attain, and it's what Brooklyn's finest export, the late great Notorious B.I.G. had in mind when he penned the words "sky's the limit."

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
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RaisedAtGunpoint (March 26, 2008)

Anchors: Well since I thought the comments page was about expressing opinions on both the review and the album itself, I don't see why I can't disagree with your rating.
Enter The Wu-Tang is a 10. Illmatic is a 10. Ready To Die is a 10. This is not a 10 (IN MY OPINION). Can you honestly say this is a classic album? Obviously as music is subjective there can be no right or wrong.. unless you're like NotPatriotic and know absolutely fuck all about the genre you're commenting on.

Rastid: I would love you to give examples of recent hip-hop that equals or betters this.

Anchors (March 25, 2008)

anchors - was talking about the music not the lyrics. i actually downloaded his shit, because you gave him a good review. went in with an open mind. thought it was boring drivel. no bite to it at all. no effort put into the meter or the rhymes. just... lifeless. totally typical of recent hip hop.

Personal opinion, subjectivity, and preference aside, if you don't think that his lyrics have any bite, or they don't match the rhythm and meter of the beats, you really don't know anything about hip-hop whatsoever.

And why do people insist on posting shit like "dude, this isn't a 10." No, it is a 10. A review, this review specifically, is my personal opinion. In my personal opinion, on a scale from 1-10, this album is a 10.

I don't care what you think I should have given it, I think this album is a 10. So you know what, this album is a 10.

Not difficult.

Rastid (March 25, 2008)

anchors - was talking about the music not the lyrics. i actually downloaded his shit, because you gave him a good review. went in with an open mind. thought it was boring drivel. no bite to it at all. no effort put into the meter or the rhymes. just... lifeless. totally typical of recent hip hop.

RaisedAtGunpoint (March 24, 2008)

No way is this album a ten.. It is however, the best hip-hop album of 2007.

Give the Blu & Exile album "Below The Heavens" a bump as well.. That follows close behind.

Icapped2pac (March 24, 2008)

You're dead on about Nas, Jordan. I would have said the exact same thing (esp. the weakest album), but didn't feel like typing it out. Anyway, as for the PBC shows, just hit me up on the email if you end up going: sabukweli@hotmail.com.

Anchors (March 22, 2008)

Rastid -- Your comment is probably one of the dumbest things I've ever seen posted here. Joell Ortiz is everything wrong with hip-hop? Not that I think there's anything at all wrong with this, but usually the phrase "everything wrong with hip-hop" is associated with guys that rap exclusively about gang life, girls, and jewelry. That is not Joell Ortiz whatsoever, not even close. You haven't even heard the dude if you're associating him with that.

2Pac -- Not sure yet man. It depends what my schedule here at school shapes up like around that time, because I'm 2 hours away from Cuse at the moment. If I'm going to either I'll post on here and let you know.

NotPatriotic -- First off, "hyphy" is not a movement. It's a stupid fucking word that the West Coast came up with to describe upbeat/dancy hip-hop a la Keak Da Sneak. The whole comment about white sunglasses applies to anybody in hip-hop who's approach is more fashion than music related. Stop being fucking stupid.

You really think Outkast is the greatest hip-hop group of all time? Merriam-Webster doesn't even have a word for that kind of stupidity yet.

Try Public Enemy, try A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, N.W.A., just to name a few. I like Outkast, but all of those groups are miles and miles ahead of Outkast in terms of talent and impact on hip-hop as a whole.

Furthermore, if your list of hip-hop's greatest include any backpack rappers, you're automatically wrong. I like Brother Ali, Blue Scholars, and Hieroglyphics, but none of those are even top-25 material on their best day in terms of talent or importance. Pharoahe Monch, Jedi Mind Tricks, and Common are all underground hip-hop that's miles ahead of what you listed, and that's just off the top of my head.

Rakim is one of the three best MC's of all time, at least you got something right. Too bad you didn't list Kool G. Rap, Slick Rick, KRS-One, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, or any of the other seminal MC's from the 80's and 90's.

Pac and Big are top 5 MC's, Eminem is not. I love the dude, and he put out two amazing albums, but he also put out two painfully mediocre ones, and even the amazing albums have shitty songs sprinkled throughout. He isn't in Biggie or Pac's league on his best day.

Nas isn't washed up whatsoever, in fact, the only shitty album he released came out nine years ago -- Nastradamus, and even that had a couple quality tracks.

Finally, a 10 does not imply I think Joell Ortiz is one of the best MC's ever (who knows, he may end up there in 20 years, but not now), what it does say is Joell Ortiz released the best hip-hop album of 2007.

Seriously, just stop talking about hip-hop on this site.

icapped2pac (March 21, 2008)

The new Del is really shitty. I hate it.

damnitsderek (March 21, 2008)

Let's not start THAT argument again.

NotPatriotic (March 20, 2008)

There is nothing fresh about this guy. The hyphy movement (which I think he is referring to with the white sunglasses statement) is/was way more creative and original than this guy. Anchors you like some good hip-hop but this guy is not even close to one of the greatest MC's of all time (you are implying he is by giving this album a 10). Here are the greatest MC's/Groups of all time in my opinion:

Andre3000/Outkast and Crew (The Greatest by far, no one is even close)
Del/Hieroglyphics
Blue Scholars (2 great albums so far)
Brother Ali (2 great albums as well, 1 shitty)
Rakim
Jurassic 5 (all great albums, but gets sorta repetitive, the bad religion of hip hop)
Living Legends and all their side projects
Gang Starr
Nas (washed up, but his old stuff is classic)
Wordsworth (Flow is insane)
Tupac/B.I.G./Eminem (The three most important rappers in history, not really my style but you can't undervalue their impact on the genre)

24HourPriapism (March 19, 2008)

lolwut

icapped2pac (March 19, 2008)

Also, Anchors, are you going to either of the Polar Bear Club shows in the Syracuse area at the end of April? I'm coming from the D, so if you're going we should meet up and shoot the shit, dude.

icapped2pac (March 19, 2008)

Solid album, I love his autobiographical honesty. No real standout songs to me, though, so I give it a 3.5/5.

Big_Guy (March 19, 2008)

this dude is pretty damn good

fromdabx (March 19, 2008)

This is classic hip hop. This is what hip hop is about, the lyrics, not being able to dance to it. If you are not feeling this album then you just don't understand true hip hop. Maybe you should go listen to that soilder boy garbage!!!!

jamespastepunk (March 18, 2008)

I'm thinking no more than seven responses to this by Friday.

I say eight.

danperrone (March 18, 2008)

not very good

Rastid (March 18, 2008)

i like hip hop, but this is just bad. 10 stars, really? this is, like, everything that's wrong with hip hop nowadays.

damnitsderek (March 18, 2008)

People are going to shit all over this review because of the five-star rating.

I'm still waiting for Ortiz to grow on me, but I have a feeling I'm going to like him after a few more listens.

Adam_K (March 18, 2008)

I'm thinking no more than seven responses to this by Friday.

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