04 August 2015

REVIEW: Joell Ortiz + !llmind - Human

This month Joell Ortiz dropped his fourth studio album, Human. And while the album was entirely produced by !llmind, it was never the intention for these two artists to link up for that purpose. In an interview, !llmind said that Joell called him one day to see what he was up to. !ll was making beats and invited Joell to hang out in the studio. That day they knocked out some tracks. This process continued for about a month and the two decided to make it a legit project. There is a connection that is tangible when a single emcee and producer work on an entire album together. The dynamic of the album changes and you hear a progression lyrically and musically. Joell starts the intro stating, "We all come from something different, me, Joe, Royce and CROOKED. I miss talking about what I come from. You know what I'm sayin'? Like I'm a quarter of the best rap group, in my opinion, ever assembled, but I'm 100% of Joell, and I wanna tell that story some more." The intro sets the stage for Joell to take us on an introspective journey laced with emotive beats from !llmind.

We know that Joell can crank out the hard hood songs like New Era, Lil' Piggies and Latinos, Pt. 2 found on the album, but the Brooklyn emcee is able to show us a more vulnerable side with a handful of other tracks as well. Who Woulda' Knew presents a Joell who is ready to settle down with a woman who wants to keep partying all day and night. His success allows him access to a life of excess and diversion that attracts certain ladies. But Joell is growing past that and wants more maturity in his relationships, "Layin' our head, I'm seein' 4 years ahead/ She seein' 4 years ago, wishin' she wasn't in this bed/ Instead, she miss the club life, the pop bub' life/ The life she used to love is [messing] up our love life/ It's tough cause I'm lookin' at her knowin' she the one like." While the song Bad Santa dives into Joell's affliction of not seeing his son as much as he would like to. His son's mother moved to Atlanta and Joell gets to see his son for Christmas, "On Christmas vacations, I would lift him up, raise him/ So high in the air, my eyes tearin', this kid is amazin'/ This year is the fourth generation PlayStation I know he's awaitin'/ It's under that tree waitin'/ It's that look on his face when he's happy that makes me proud to be daddy/ When he runs over and grabs me, filled with true joy/ In the same moment I'm bothered, I mean he knows I'm his father/ But am I just that once-a-year homie with new toys?" Joell's nomadic emcee life keeps him away from his family more than he would like, but like any job he has to keep working to take care of his financial duties. But you see Joell question if his son realizes that when his father is away, he is working to make sure he is taken care of. Which brings up the question, how do you find the balance of handling your finances and spending time with your loved ones?

Since the creation of the super group Slaughterhouse, many critics wondered how four individual emcees could come together was one cohesive unit. Another concern was what would happen to their solo careers? Joe Budden has stayed busy with his mixtape game and dropped an LP and EP since the groups debut. Crooked I (or is it KXNG CROOKED?) dropped Sex, Money and Hip-Hop last December. And Royce used the same formula as Joell and teamed up with a single producer (DJ Premier) to drop PRhyme at the end of last year as well. Joell follows the time tested foundation of letting a single producer helm the instrumental duties. From Eric B and Rakim to Talib Kweli and Hi Tek, emcees and producers have created collaborative records with great success. Joell stays strong with his word play, but uses his story telling skills to give us even more insight into the man/emcee. Of course we tend to compare this duo with other emcee/producer tandems, especially since his group mate used the same formula last year. Only time will tell, but I will say that this album is better than most of the music that has come out this year. 

Stream full album below! And peep the video to his single Latinos, Pt. 2.

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