Joell Ortiz – Monday [album]
“Iâ€™m back to work. Monday is the start of the week. The grind. Working people normally dread Mondays. Not me though. I embrace them! Feels like another opportunity. Another chance. The beginning of whatâ€™s ahead. On â€œMondayâ€ I talk about life. Old me, new me, and the guy that next Monday may introduce to you all.” – Joell Ortiz
Joell Ortiz isn’t interested in seeming like a superhero. His new album for Mello Music Group, Monday, is an album about keeping your head down and getting back to work; thereâ€™s nothing to do other than to persevere.
With his new record, Ortiz pays tribute to the qualities that have allowed him to not only survive, but thrive in an unforgiving industry and era. â€œMonday refers to the idea that no matter how big you get, the hustle to stay on top is always there,â€ he says. â€œMonday is the first day to get out and grind.â€ That urgency can be felt all over the album, from the swaggering â€œChampionâ€ to the furious opening cut, â€œCaptain.â€ Beyond and beneath that unifying theme, Monday is littered with Ortizâ€™s trademark wordplay and verbal pyrotechnics, once again affirming him as one of the rappers most dedicated to the types of lyricism that marked rapâ€™s golden ages.
Ortiz was born in 1980 and grew up in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. When he was just 23 years old, he was highlighted in The Source magazineâ€™s storied Unsigned Hype column, which had predicted the future success of acts like DMX, Common, Cannibal Ox, Eminem, Capone & Noreaga and, perhaps most famously, The Notorious B.I.G. A proud Puerto Rican and unapologetic New Yorker with verve and a rugged intensity to his rhymes, Ortiz seemed perfectly suited to vie for his hometownâ€™s crown in the mid-2000s. His album from 2007, The Brick: Bodega Chronicles, was hailed immediately as a game-changing work that earmarked him as one of his generations unmissable talents.
His masterful technique reached no less than the ears of Dr. Dre, who gave him the ultimate co-sign by signing him to his Aftermath Entertainment. A full-length never hit stores, but it helped Ortiz grow as both a rapper, artist and man. It set the stage for him to become one-quarter of the rap olympian supergroup Slaughterhouse, which built a massive cult following and eventually secured a deal with Shady Records, which led to massive commercial success (topping the Billboard Rap Album charts) This decade has seen him transition from brash upstart to legendary veteran as heâ€™s fleshed out a catalog that now includes mature albums like Free Agent, House Slippers, and his full-length collaboration with Apollo Brown, Mona Lisa, released via Mello last year.
Even while heâ€™s keeping his nose to the grindstone, Ortiz finds a few moments to exhale and reflect. Monday ends with a pair of such songs: â€œMomma,â€ a heartfelt ode to the parent who raised Ortiz, and â€œGrammy,â€ which rejects the notion that outside validation is needed to qualify a music career as successful. (The juxtaposition of those titles is, of course, just one more bit of wordplay.) But Ortiz is at his warmest and most charming on â€œScreens,â€ a lament about how kids today spend so much time with electronic devices at the expense of time outside. Where other rappers would finish such a song sounding like an old scold, Ortiz uses it as a vehicle to reminisce about getting grass stains on his knees and phone numbers from neighborhood girls scrawled on scraps of paper. Itâ€™s rooted in the present but still able to conjure the sounds and smells of an era thatâ€™s long gone â€“â€“ the kind of sharp perspective that can only be honed by years of dedicated work at the craft. Monday is a testament to sharpening oneâ€™s skills and approach in the face of immeasurable odds.