Joell Ortiz Interview
|Next Project:||The Brick: Bodega Chronicles|
|Twitter:||Joell Ortiz on Twitter|
|Website:||Joell Ortiz's Website|
Told by one record label after another that his heritage and size outweighed (no pun-intended) his skills as a rapper, Brooklyn-born Joell Ortiz began to scratch his head. “Yeah, but did you listen to track number 3?” exclaimed Ortiz when questioned by executives. In an ultra-competitive industry when sex sells and everyone’s favorite rapper likes to take off their shirt, Joell Ortiz knows that what truly matters is what happens inside that booth. During an interview with DJBooth.net’s DJ “Z,” Oritz explains the long road he took to finally hook up with Dr. Dre and sign a label deal at Aftermath, what he choose to give up to help his mother get over her drug problems, and why he plans to represent New York a little different than by just exclaiming “This Is Why I’m Hot.”
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Joell Ortiz Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s boy “Z” as always reppin’ DJBooth.net. And on the phone with me, the future of Hip-Hop, straight from Brooklyn, Joell Ortiz. How ya doin’?
Joell Ortiz: I’m alright. Hey, how ya doin’ brotha’?
DJ Booth: I’m great man, but here’s the thing. I don’t have an album droppin’ on April 24. You do—it’s the The Brick: Bodega Chronicles.
Joell Ortiz: [Laughing]… Yeah this is straight Hip-Hop, and some good all around M.C.ing. I got Ras Kass, Big Noyd, Immortal Technique, Big Daddy Kane! I got Akon with me. I’m just tryin’ to bring it back to what it used to be. Anyone’s that’s pressin’ that rewind button and sayin’ ‘Hey!?’ I got production from Alchemist, DJ Premiere. It’s a great album, and I would appreciate if everybody out there goes and cops it, especially if they a fan like me and haven’t heard a real good album in a long time.
DJ Booth: Now the single off this album, there’s one line which goes, “Hip-Hop, and yes I’m a fan first.” It’s a line that resonates for me, because if you don’t appreciate the history that it offers, what are you doing here? Right?
Joell Ortiz: You’re right about that—I see a lot of these new dudes they comin’ out, but they not double backin’ to say ‘Thank you’—to pay back the rappers, who paved the ways to where it is today. There’s a lot more money in Hip-Hop these days, but before they were just getting’ by, pioneering, and at the same time workin’. Any time I get a chance to pay homage and respect, to the pioneers and the veterans, I do. I recorded with KRS-One and Kool “G” Rap, that’s my dude. I got to do [a few] shows with Rakim. I definitely let them know that I don’t forget. I never can forget. I let them know that without them, there is no Joell Ortiz.
DJ Booth: I talked to Pharoahe Monch the other day and he said that all brand new artists should take Hip-Hop 101, so that they know what the history is all about. Do you think you could teach that course?
Joell Ortiz: Could I properly teach that course? I’m going to be honest with you. I would have to sit down and seriously learn about what Hip-Hop really is—the stuff that not even Pharoahe Monch could teach you. For example, Kwame just did a beat for me on my upcoming Dre album, and I didn’t even know he produced. It’s just somethin’ that you learn day-to-day. If I was up in that class, and they was teaching’ me, I’d definitely get an “A”.
DJ Booth: Another line from the song [Hip-Hop] that you spit, i “If you from the East Coast, act like you come from here.” What Rappers have you heard Joell, that have succeeded, and represent the East Coast, and who has not represented it properly—how you feel they should?
Joell Ortiz: Well, I don’t want to go and put somebody out there like that, but as a whole, ‘You know—we gotta bring New York Hip-Hop back… right now’, and the simplest answer is that we’re shyin’ away from where we really from. It’s like a lot of DJ’s keep sayin’, “We gotta save New York. We gotta bring back New York back”. Then they turn around and play number 2 on the countdown, announcing a hit from, Atlanta, Georgia. I’m ain’t knockin’ what they doin’ down there. It’s hot, but we don’t follow. We lead. We have always been the leaders. Whatever someone else does shouldn’t matter. I just focus on what I have to do. So, I don’t have a specific person, because that’s not my style. I’ll tell you I’m not going to do those kinds of records. I’m not gonna do that man.
DJ Booth: Okay, so there’s no “This Is Why I’m Hot?” record on the new album?
Joell Ortiz: Naw, that ain’t my style [laughing]…
DJ Booth: A lot of Hip-Hop fans are looking forward to the new release, coming up on April 24. Although I am sure they’d like to really know when your debut from Aftermath is set to drop. What’s the situation there?
Joell Ortiz: I got my album coming up. Dre took care of it. My albums done. It’s been done for about 3 or 4 weeks now. So, I’m already recording on the new Dre album. I’m about 6 or 7 songs into that. The release on April 24th will determine how fast things will move on the Aftermath project. I pray to God. I got a pretty good following, a lot of people supporting me, and I hope I do decent. At least, where some of the people will raise their eyebrows, and it will catch a lot of attention, in the industry. We gotta move like it’s real. I’m excited. Dre’ s excited. Just did a cut with Smokey Robinson. We movin’ and we tryin’ to make some good records.
DJ Booth: I can’t wait to hear that Smokey Robinson cut. Now, on this album, you explain the trials and tribulations you went through tryin’ to get a record. You state that its full of “pain and rage,” but to me these words mean “passion and enthusiasm.” Can we tell from a Joell Ortiz record that you work bleeds through the vinyl?
Joell Ortiz: You will definitely feel like you in my living room. Like one of the records from here is “Caught Up.” It’s like everyone is talkin’ about the hustlin’ for some reason. Its all about the positive stuff, like ballin’, with chicks and shit, but, it don’t talk about the down time when someone looses a package, or you lose someone or—you just got done sellin’ to a pregnant woman. They just talkin’ about: get all the bricks. What about the runners? Don’t you have to start somewhere to get to the top? In this game, everyone starts out on the top, so I just give them the downside. I just give them the reality. There’s a lot more people that don’t want to do it. You know what I mean? Let me just give you an example of what you might hear on this album. I don’t like to hold anything back. I say exactly what I feel. I go through my own life experiences, my trials, and tribulations. I don’t make the stuff up, so the stories that I tell are not only going to be clever, but they are true. Now of coarse you’re gonna get that pain in time, when you meet me, because I came in with my head high, and came out with my head low. No ones ever questioned my records. They’ll say, “He’s a little chubby though,” “Oh, he’s Spanish. What kind of market are we going to get?” I was shying’ away from these meetings until Dre got one of my records, and flew me out. Then I knew it was for real, so you gonna get some of that emotion on this album, because that’s what I’m showing’, not just puttin’ it down on paper.
DJ Booth: When you were in a meeting and heard comments or questions about your heritage or weight, did you reference Big Pun and what he did in his career?
Joell Ortiz: There response was that, you know, it’s a new day, but that ‘sex sells’. You know like, you gotta take your shirt off, and I’m just sayin’ ‘Hold on—hold on let’s just listen to number three’. Is everything fine? Did you really pay attention? Did you listen to number three? I thought you signed rap dudes, which know how to rap. I didn’t know you signed models. It’s all good, because I wouldn’t have been able to sign with Aftermath in the end. I have this real thing. [Dre] takes it and makes it big, like he did with 50 Cent and Eminem. He gonna do the same thing with me, and it’s gonna be a great marriage.
DJ Booth: Well, I hope so. You spoke a second ago about stories untold. Little do many listeners know, as a youth, you had a bright future academically and athletically (in basketball.) You turned down some scholarships, because you wanted to stay closer to your mom, to help her through some hard times, and at this point in time your mom is doing better. Do you feel like your decision has already been paid off?
Joell Ortiz: When I go to see my mother, and she listens to her boy that turned down basketball just to make sure she was going to be all right, it’s a beautiful feeling. I told her that I’m gonna make it big. I said, “You gotta stop what you doin’. You’re a beautiful person, and no one gets to see that.” Now I can walk in and see my real Mom, and see how proud of me she is, and I wouldn’t change that. Who knows? If everything turns out, the way I think it’s gonna turn out, hey maybe I’ll get to bust Nelly, on one of those celebrity basketball games they be playin’, and then hit Bow Wow up too…
DJ Booth: I would love to see that because those celebrity games lack any true skill.
Joell Ortiz: [Laughing] You are right about that…
DJ Booth: Joell, I heard you on DJ Green Lantern’s show, and you spit a crazy six-minute long freestyle. I’m not asking you to duplicate that performance, but I would sure appreciate a few lines to show everybody your talent…
Joell Ortiz: Okay, I got you man. I’m gonna do somethin’ with a little word play, because not everybody can play on words….
DJ Booth: With that right there? I would have signed you immediately, and you wouldn’t even have had to take off your shirt!
Joell Ortiz: [Laughing]… Thanks man.
DJ Booth: Okay, one last question. I peeped your MySpace page and I’m curious… can you recite for me the names of these young ladies in your Top 8 Friends??
Joell Ortiz: Oh, I’m not doin’ the MySpace thing. I just accept my fan requests. Ha-ha. Um, let’s see. Melyssa Ford, that’s one of them. And a-ha Valeria, she looks really good.
DJ Booth: Let me share with you some of my favorites. Specifically Naughty Nympho and Miss Biz-ness, those are two of my favorites.
Joell Ortiz: Naughty Nympho!!! [Laughing]
DJ Booth: I think we have to share some MySpace friends, if you know what I mean…
Joell Ortiz: Ha-ha-ha-aw—man let’s make it happen. Let’s see if your quality can match mine.
DJ Booth: Beautiful! Joell go ahead and give everybody a website, so they can get information on this upcoming album release, on April 24, The Brick: Bodega Chronicles…
Joell Ortiz: Everybody can come on to www.myspace.com/JoellOrtiz or they can go to www.joellortiz.com I’ll be comin’ to your town, and you can see me rock live. You know what I mean?
DJ Booth: Joell, I appreciate your time and I wish you nothing but the best this coming year, with your album coming out this month, and your Aftermath debut!
Joell Ortiz: Thank you!