Brooklyn, NY native Joell Ortiz knows that being anointed hip-hop's "next big thing comes with unreal pressure and expectations that only a few people can ever realize, but he's not really sweating it. See, according to Joell, the worst is already behind him and the way he sees it, and according to statistics, he wasn't even supposed to make it this far in life, let alone rise to the level of prominence on the underground that he currently holds, that has some of the game's hottest producers and label executives checking for his upcoming project, "Total Package, Vol. 1" "See this rap shit is easy to me, it's like breathing air or drinking water to me, it's what I do. It's the other shit that's associated with the game that are the obstacles; getting out and finding the right situation where I can grow and prosper as an artist and keep feeding the world this fire I got inside of me."
Joell's introduction to hip hop started as a youngster when he was at an elementary school for gifted children. A prodigious writer and athlete (basketball), Joell was sitting in the proverbial catbirds seat, constantly on the receiving end accolades and awards, with one eye looking towards a career as a novelist. I was always drew praise from all my teachers for my writing and the way I was able to articulate. They said I had a gift for words and that I would be a lawyer 'cause I was always able to argue and debate in class at a high level. At the same time that Joell was sowing his scholarly oats, he also began chasing a different muse: rap music. I was probably in the seventh or eighth grade when I wrote my first rhyme. Next day when I was in the hood after school I spit my little verse and niggas went crazy. Even then I started believing I could do it. His basketball court epiphany helped Joell realize that his talent with words could help his life in many more ways than just getting him out of trouble with teachers or macking the neighborhood cutie. After I got my little validation on the block, you couldnt tell me I wasnt as nice as Kool G. Rap and KRS One. It was only a matter of time before I would be at their level.
As Joell reached high school, his life changed dramatically as a serious family problem led him away from his promising future as a scholar/athlete and part-time rapper and instead thrust him into the streets. It was then that a young Joell discovered that his mother had, very quietly and rapidly, developed a serious cocaine addiction, often leaving Joell at home for days at a time. I dont really like talking about those times. I was going through it watching my moms abuse herself like that. It was a lot for a kid to deal with. Soon Joells interest for school was replaced by his survival instinct, as he had to hit the streets and ply the very drug that was tearing apart at the fabric of his family. I felt fucked up cause I had to go out and sell that same shit that had my moms fucked up so me and her could eat and pay rent. That really fucked with me at nights, but I was the Man of the house now and I had to take advantage of that opportunity at that time. The situation lasted for some years, and as time went by, Joell turned gradually focused more energy towards writing rhymes. I started getting at my moms more and more to clean up and at the same time I noticed I was hittin the pen harder. Seeing and hearing my development as a rapper not only was therapy and a distraction for what was going on in my life, but gave me something else to aim at besides helping my mother get drug free.
Through persistence, prayer, and a whole lot of arguing and sleepless nights, Joell was eventually able to help his mother get sober and refocus her life in a positive direction. At that point, unhindered by what had become a great weight in his life, Joell decided that he was going to even harder at his burgeoning rap career and accomplish one of his childhood dreams. Joell spent several years on the streets of Medina, battling and roasting competitors from project to project, and quickly earning a rep as a superior wordsmith with an uncanny eye for detail and a myriad of flows. His street fame brought him to the attention of renowned producer and former Rawkus A&R Mike Heron (Big L, Kool G. Rap, Soundbombing) who quickly indoctrinated him into his camp. According to Mike, hooking up with Joell was a no-brainer. "Joell is one of the hottest mc's to come around in years. The combination of his skills, work ethic and personality jump out at you. Everybodys gonna love him once they hear his music and see him perform. We had to get to work with him before someone else did."
And work they did, in the four short years that they've been working Joell has put in his grind. He has had a single, Brooklyn get significant run on Hot 97 from with notable mixologists like Cipha Sounds, DJ Enuff, and DJ Absolute spinning his record faithfully on their mixshows. He has released a mixt-ape called Who the Fuck is Joell Ortiz hosted by Big Mike that has solidified his status as the next up and coming star. He has been featured on mix-tapes by such renowned DJ's as Tony Touch, Stretch Armstrong, DJ Whoo Kid, Tony Touch, and DJ Kay Slay. He's also been featured on The Tim Westwood show, Future Flavors with DJ Marley Marl and Pete Rock, and the Source Magazine's Unsigned Hype column in March 2004." As well, Joell parlayed his childhood love of basketball into a major career achievement by winning the 2004 EA Sports NBA Live Battle and having his song I Mean Business appear on EA Sports NBA Live 2005 edition currently in stores. However, according to Joell the biggest achievement of his young career has been the opportunity to write and record choruses with rap legends Kool G Rap and KRS One. Not many rappers my age get the respect from the legends and no matter where this ride takes me cant nobody take that away from me. Still, not unlike other BK lions that have come before him, Joell is not easily satisfied and openly relishes the hard work that is still ahead of him. "So far it's been great and I'm glad people are feeling me now but I know I have a long way to go before Im running with the big boys like Jay-Z or 50 Cent. That's where I'm trying to reach, nothing less." If his past work is any indication of his future success, expect "Total Package Vol. 1" to make a big impact and bring Joell Ortiz to the spotlight he so richly deserves.
Once again, The AllHipHops Breeding Ground Showcase at SOBs, an invitation only event, brought out some of the best up-and-coming talent in this game we call Hip-Hop. Once again, another Pre-Breeding Ground artist was called on to represent for the Manhattan crowd. Once again, we know how to pick artist destined to succeed. Joell Ortiz did nothing less then tear it DOWN! With a well organized stage show complete with hype man, DJ, and laptop, the boy set the crowd ablaze. Joell has it all, lyrics, stage performance and charisma. This man can definitely rock a crowd. On that note, get the full story on why this one is a diamond in the rough!
Attacking each beat with the veraciousness of a pit bull, Joell Ortiz is the newest of kin eagerly waiting to make his mark on the game. His lyrics like a montage of carefully placed adjuncts cut through the ear drum. Hes hot and he knows where he is going; he has the signature Brooklyn swagger. His lyrics have the directness of an arrow that never seems to miss the aimed target. Thats why hes an Unsigned Hype and often voted the Chairmans Choice. Brooklyn not only being his home but also the name of his new single, attracted some of the boroughs biggest fans. Linking up with DJs like Kay Slay and Stretch Armstrong only make it right for others like Big Mike to co-sign on the lines of well put together projects. Hes the latest artist to be placed in the Corner Stone of this building empire we call Hip-Hop.
Real Recognize, Joells first single, made a lot of noise given the fact it was released by Rawkus. However, people still couldnt match the voice with the face so he released his new album, Who The F*ck Is Joell Ortiz? He insists that the album will give answers to all the questions. In fact, it will end all speculation.
Yes I play Live...
Jay-z, Biggie, Kool G Rap, KRS-One, Mobb Deep, Nas, Big Pun, LL Cool J., DMX, 2Pac, Wu-Tang Clan, Boot Camp Click,
Mackie 32 X 8 Mixing Console
5 Alesis 3630 Compressors.
5 dbx 266XL Compressors.
1 Behringer XR4400 Multigate
1 - AlesisM-EQ-230 1/3 Octave EQ.
1 Lexicon MPX 500 FXs Processor.
1 Sony DPS-V55 FXs Processor.
1 Alesis Midi Verb 4 FXs Processor.
1 Lexicon MPX 100 FXs Processor.
1 Behringer MDX 1400 Autocom Pro Compressor/Limiter/Gate
1 BBE 482 Sonic Maximizer
1 MOTU 24I/O A/D converter
1 - Midex 8 - 8 X 8 Midi Interface
1 pr Event PS6 studio monitors
1 pr - Event PS8 studio monitors
Tascam 202mkIII cassette recorder
2- Tone Works DTR-1 Tuner.
Rolls RA62 Headphone Amp.
Behringer Headphone Amp
8 Sony 7506 Studio Headphones
***Digital Audio Workstation***
Pentium 4 - 3.2Gb
2 GB RAM
10 - 40G Hard Drives (For storing your music)
Dual 19 NEC Monitors
ASUS 52x CD Burner
ASUS DVD Burner
Cubase SX 2.2
Microboards CD Duplicator (48x Reader & 4 - 8X Writers)
***Microphones and Recording Area***
1 - AKG C414B - ULS
2 Shure KSM32SL
2 Earthworks SR77 (matched set)
1 AKG C1000S
3 AKG D112
4 - AKG C419
4 - Sennheiser E604
1 Shure Beta 52
1 EV RE20
Shure SM57s & SM58s (many)
1 EV N/D168 Snare Drum mic
2 Audix D3 Instrument mic
***Our Latest Addition***
a 8' X 10' Isolation Booth.
The music industry is a dog-eat-dog world but in last year's NBA LIVESTYLE competition, Joell Ortiz proved to be the big dog.
Ortiz, a New Yorker that beat all comers in the 2003 LIVESTYLE MC battle to earn a spot on the soundtrack of NBA LIVE 2005, is busy these days, although as you'll see, he can't divulge too much of what he's doing musically. To Ortiz, the surprise is part of the fun in getting his music out to the masses, but at least in his mind, it wasn't a surprise at all that he won the LIVESTYLE crown.
We caught up with Ortiz in October of 2004 to find out what he's been up to in the year since he proved himself to be the king of LIVESTYLE.
EA SPORTS: In what ways has your life changed since last year's LIVESTYLE event?
Joell Ortiz: In numerous ways I got a lot of exposure because of that battle. I been sat down with a lot of people doing a lot of big things. I can't really get into details I don't want to spoil the surprise or start a rumor or anything, I want it to be a surprise but it's about to get real big right now.
EA SPORTS: How did you get involved in the first place? Are you a big video game player?
Joell Ortiz: I'm not really a big video game player. What happened was my boy Matt [a DJ], he plays video games and he had put me on about what's going on with the battle. So he was like "yo, man, I think you should enter, you've got a good shot at winning." That's what happened. I went up there and did what I did, and won.
EA SPORTS: Can you take us through what the New York contest was like?
Joell Ortiz: It was a lot of us [the contestants] out there there was close to 100 of us. I was sitting there, I was like, "whooo, there's gonna be a lot of people to compete against," but I already knew I was the best in the competition, so I was like "just go in, give it your all, and you'll win." As the battle went on, I was sitting there, like "cool, I got picked again," you know I was kind of nervous, I ain't gonna lie. Every cut I made, I was like "whooo, a breath of fresh air," until it got to the final four. That's when I really tore into it.
I wanna thank EA SPORTS for having me battle, and I want to thank the judges because they were really fair. Usually in those kind of events, a female or a little kid is usually the favorite it's kind of like set-up sometimes. But I got up there, I did what I could, and I couldn't be denied. I put a show on; I not only battled but I went up there and performed. I went up there, I did what I had to do, and I got the win.
EA SPORTS: When you're coming up with rhymes on the spot, how does that enter your mind so quickly?
Joell Ortiz: I don't know it came naturally. Since I was a little kid, I've been writing and just freestyling off the top of my head, and it just falls into place. I can't explain it to this day; it just happens, and when it comes out good, it comes out good. When you're in the heat of the competition, that's when it really sets in, like "oh man, if I don't step it up right here, I won't advance to the next round." That's when it really kicks in. It's instinct, mostly you can't think about your next line because it has to come out already. It's a lot more instinct.
EA SPORTS: What do you mean by "step it up"? When athletes "step it up," it usually means they start exerting more physical effort but how does a rap artist step it up?
Joell Ortiz: With a freestyle flow, you're trying to dig into what your opponent is talking about sometimes. He might play on a certain feature about you, like me, I'm a little bit on the chubby side, so somebody might get up there and play on that. It's my job to look him up and down, while he's doing what he's doing, and dig into what he's talking about.
EA SPORTS: How much MC battle experience did you have going into the LIVESTYLE event?
Joell Ortiz: I was not really doing a lot of battles. I've done battles, but I've won every battle I've done. There wasn't many, but every battle before that I won, so I knew going in I'd have to go in there and go for the kill.
EA SPORTS: Your track is in NBA LIVE 2005. What does that feel like having a cut in an EA SPORTS game?
Joell Ortiz: It feels great especially with the big names that are on there. Young Buck is on there, Lloyd Banks I'm up there with the heavy hitters and it feels real good. I'm playing that game now, so when my song comes on I really kick it into gear. My boys are running up to me: "Yo, man, I heard it, it's crazy, man." There's a lot of listening, a lot of ears hearing that. That's a good look, and I love EA SPORTS for that.
EA SPORTS: What do you think music lends to a title like NBA LIVE?
Joell Ortiz: NBA LIVE is a competitive game. There's a lot of people all over playing it, and that's the same thing with the music. It's a competitive game -- everybody from everywhere is trying to rap. Both of those things coincide; it's the same kind of thing. When you pick up that controller or you pick up a microphone, you're trying to do what you gotta do. They both help each other out, so when you hear a banging joint, and you're sitting there, it's the fourth quarter, ten seconds left and you're trying to score, and a good-energy rap music song it's even better.
EA SPORTS: What can you talk about in terms of what's coming up for you?
Joell Ortiz: I just put a mix tape out called "Who The F Is Joell Ortiz" you can pick that up on mixtapekings.com. It's been going like hotcakes, I ain't even gonna lie. Right after the EA SPORTS battle, after I won it I got off the plane and picked up a Source magazine, and I was in Unsigned Hype. It was really crazy. Right now I got a 12-inch coming out on ABB records, it's gonna be real big. I'm doing a lot of things right now.
EA SPORTS: Are you a big sports fan? What's your sport, what's your team?
Joell Ortiz: Almost every sport. Football New York Jets until I go. I'm definitely a Jet. Baseball, Yankees. Pinstripes all the way. Basketball, I'm sorry to say, I'm a Bull. I came up on Michael Jordan and I can't leave them now. I ain't gonna ride no bandwagon.
Brooklyn native Joell Ortiz touted as the best unsigned rapper alive has so far gone a notable distance in backing the title.
Always a studious and articulate student growing up, it wasnt difficult for Joell to begin delivering some impressive flows by age 13. However, his biography explains As Joell reached high school, his life changed dramatically as a serious family problem led him away from his promising future as a scholar/athlete and part-time rapper and instead thrust him into the streets.
The setback was Joells mothers addiction to cocaine. During this time Joells need to make ends meet ironically had him selling the same substance that was bringing pain into his life.
It wouldnt be long, however, before the fire inside this wordsmith bubbled and reached the surface. His raw talent would throw some chance meetings in his path that would ultimately lead him to be recognized in the Unsigned Hype column of the March 2004 The Source Magazine as well as to be selected as Charimans Choice for XXL Magazine.
During the same time Joell also went on to win the 2004 EA Sports Battle which earned his song Mean Business a spot on the NBA Live 2005 soundtrack as well as winning him an advertised signing to Jermaine Dupris So So Def labelan offer which was voided by Dupri (only for him to soon sign BET Freestyle Friday emcee, Sonny). This eventually lead to a short-lived beef between the two culminating in a Jermaine Dupri diss by Joell Ortiz and Allhiphop.com banning Joell from their site allegedly because of their close ties with Dupri.
Joell Ortiz has been featured on mixtapes from renowned DJs, Cipha Sounds, Kay Slay, Tim Westwood and many others. He has also rocked the mic and done hooks for hip hop greats KRS-ONE and Kool G Rap.
...The State of HipHop Interview...
TheStateofHipHop: So whats up man? Lets retrace a bityouve been about as big as any underground cat in New York has been this past year, youve gotten some good play off your single Brooklyn, worked with some big names like KRS-One and Kook G Rap, won the EA Sports battle which got your song Mean Business on NBA Live 2005, and had a brief incident with Jermaine Dupriwhat have you been up to since?
Joell Ortiz: Whats good homie? Thanks for the love...I just hooked up with Violator through James Cruz. They are going to be dealing with a lot of the industry guys. Besides that same struggle. Writing songs doing freestyles for mixtapes and hiphopgame.com doing interviews and just generally staying active.
TheStateofHipHop: Ok well our focus is on emcee improvement so lets go into that a bit. What artists did you listen to growing up? Who do you listen to now?
Joell Ortiz: I grew up listening to everything. Literally everything. I was a big Redman fan, Canibus, Big Pun, KRS, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Biggie, LL, Jay Z, Mobb Deep, NasIm a fan of the art. I love great records that are on the radio and I love straight spittin as well. Im 24 but Ive always hung around dudes that were close to 10yrs older than me (still do) Back in the days the great emcees made singles, had great shows, won battles, had all the girls and dressed fly. Thats what Im about. I love the total package emcees. There arent a lot of em out right now.
TheStateofHipHop: At what point did you know you were an above average rapper?
Joell Ortiz: I knew I was nice very earlyI used to rap with a crew of dudes from my projects and they would all use my rhymes to go battle other crews. That was the first glimpse that I had a gift! The hard part has been trying to convince people outside my projects (COOPER PROJECTS baby).
TheStateofHipHop: Youve been on mixtapes from Kay Slay to Stretch Armstrong, Tony Touch and Tim Westwood in the UK. Whats the first mixtape you got on and how did that come about?
Joell Ortiz: My first tape was a Stretch Armstrong/Whoo Kid tape. I dont remember the name but Stretch put me on there. Stretch was one of the first people showing me love not only as a dj but just showing me the ropes I was only 17 and he was real patient and cool. People dont give that dude enough credit for breaking artist. Stretch played shit that he thought was hot. Signed or Not! That is rare. The only person doing that today is my man Kay Slay. He gave me love when NO ONE else would. Kay Slay is Hip Hop all day and a stand up dude.
TheStateofHipHop: Masta Ace tends to come up with some very specific concepts for songs, other rappers like 2pac came up with masterpieces essentially from freestyles. How do you usually come up with ideas for your songs?
Joell Ortiz: I do a little of both. Depending on the beat and the mood Im in that day.
TheStateofHipHop: Youve said that ever since you were young youve had the ability to write really well. What were you into when you were younger (reading, writing, poetry, public speaking) that allowed you to manifest these skills?
Joell Ortiz: Mostly reading and writing. I was a pretty good student (I skipped the 8th grade) I spent a lot of time reading and writing rhymes as a kid. Then like most kids I started fucking up in High School but the writing stuck. I thank God something good did stick.
TheStateofHipHop: Back to your career for a second. Whats your current status? Are you still in search of a deal, distribution, etc?
Joell Ortiz: Like I said earlier, Im managed by Violator and I am working on building my fan base. I dont do meetings. I dont chase A&R guys. I write songs, get on mixtapes, get on hiphopgame.com, do interviews. Those are the things I focus on. A record deal dont mean shit without the craft and the fans.
TheStateofHipHop: Honestly, how important, would you say, is having connections to getting put on to magazines, radio, record labels, etc?
Joell Ortiz: Its important but I know a lot of emcees that got on radio and had write ups in magazines but werent ready for it. You gotta have a lot of shit together before you start getting exposure. For instance, If you got a brother at XXL and they get you a write up thats cool but do you have a record for radio? Do you have a mixtape together? Do you have a mixtape dj that will bless you for sure? I really believe in blitzing. You never heard of me until this year for a reason. I AM READY NOW! I been preparing for this for 6 years! Battles, songs, singles, mixtapes, getting cosigns from Legends, calling on djs, going to clubs and handing out flyers and mixtapes, making t-shirts and cups and giving them out at fairs. All that shit helped me get into XXL and get the little spins I got on Hot 97. Sometimes I feel like, I should get on cause of pure skill but its not like that and I gotta deal with the way it is. Im willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. So to answer your question connections help but grinding is key.
TheStateofHipHop: Who are some artists (dead or alive) that you would love to work with?
Joell Ortiz: Pun Biggie and Jay
TheStateofHipHop: We advocate patience, time and personal experience to new emcees. Youve been rhyming for over a decade. Were there any milestones when you thought, Damn, Im on a whole new level now or was it just steady improvement?
Joell Ortiz: I stay writing so its hard to say when that happened. But Ill tell you, when I track the shit I write and niggas around me are going crazy I know I did something special.
TheStateofHipHop: What qualities do you think will help you, an undoubtedly talented emcee, break out of the underground and into the speakers of the masses?
Joell Ortiz: Thanks for the compliment, brother...I think the only thing that is gonna make people believe in Joell Ortiz is WORK, WORK, WORK and more WORK not fancy parties with hip industry guys, not dick riding the flavor of the month rap clique, not knowing the big djs cousins co defendant. Just good olfashion WORK.
TheStateofHipHop: We have visitors from around the worldany additional advice you have for young emcees?
Joell Ortiz: Stay focused, Commit, Be Coach-able, Grow some real thick skin and have fun.
TheStateofHipHop: Anything you want to say to all the Joell Ortiz fans reading this interview?
Joell Ortiz: Id like to let the Joell Ortiz fans know that I sincerely appreciate all the support they have been showing me lately. I use my legal name for a reason, Im not a typical rapper. I dont hide nothing about myself from my people, I am part of you, I am one of you. Im your voice, Never better than you.. We gonna take this to the top.
TheStateofHipHop: Thanks a lot for helping to guide our visitors with your insights. God bless and we wish you plenty of success in what were sure will be a bright future.
Joell Ortiz: Thanks for the site. You are providing a great service to emcees.