Interview: Joell Ortiz
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Date Stamp: April 28, 2007
Thick: Give us a lil' history 'cause I know you been around for a minute.
Joell Ortiz: Man, listen I appreciate you. I've been around the block and back, baby. (At) nineteen years (I) old dropped my first 12" on Rawkus Records, me and my dude Pretty Ugly. The name of the song was Brooklyn To Philly. EA Sport Rap Battle winner in '04...Source Magazine Unsigned Hype, XXL's Chairman's Choice. Every underground venue from SOB's to Joe's Pub to Lion's Den, Joell Ortiz has been around the block doin' it all. I'm a fan of Hip-Hop first before artist, so I really love what I'm doin'. I'm havin' a ball right now.
T: The first 12" you dropped with Rawkus weren't you going by Joell Quickman?
JO: My name was Quickman and that's the way I came in the game. That was the name I had on my block, so that's what I ran with. But when I really found myself, I did some soul searching and realized Joell Ortiz would be the proper name for me because I'm not a stage guy, I'm not a fake person. So, I don't need a stage name, I'm a real person when the lights go on. When they go off I'm always the same guy. I wanted it to be so when people met me and they liked or disliked me, they liked or disliked ME.
T: Weren't you supposed to get a deal with a major a while back?
JO: That right there, that was the past. Nothing happened accept that I won a battle, and I was supposed to get a demo deal with Arista. Arista was no more, and I kinda got lost in the sauce. But it was no big deal, that was before, this is Aftermath. I'm looking forward to my future.
T: You've had some hot street tracks out there over the past couple...
JO: Yeah, the Brooklyn joint that became everybody's anthem for a hot minute because I rep just about every block...I might have missed a block or two or maybe even three 'cause Brooklyn is so vast. Yeah, it became everybody's anthem and everybody was knockin' it in their cars, and when they heard it on the radio they felt real proud like, yeah, Brooklyn! Even dudes that wasn't even from Brooklyn was like, dang, dude hit a homerun for his borough. That had my name floatin' around a lil' bit. Right now, it's Hip-Hop. But the Brooklyn record, I mean c'mon Big Daddy Kane got on the remix! That should say something. So, that was one of the records that kick started my career. Shouts to A Kid Called Roots who did the beat. That probably put the flame under a lot of peoples' asses to get behind this Joell Ortiz kid, he's serious. And right now I'm runnin' with my record Hip-Hop. My spins are increasing, people are embracing it because it is exactly what it's titled. It's got that feel, that feeling that's missing. You know, that hard beat with tough lyrics and the lines you wanna bring back like, oooh, you hear what he said there? It just says that NY rap is still alive, it was never dead. It was just in a coma for a lil' while because we strayed away from the records that we used to win with. We strayed away from the records that were us. We started makin' records out of the norm. I'm here to bring back that feeling with records that we used to make. Shoot, April 24th The Brick will be in stores, you might wanna take a look.
T: We just heard that joint you did with Immortal Technique, Modern Day Slavery. How did that come about?
JO: Me and him bumped heads so many times at different venues, at different shows and stuff. So, he's seen me perform, I've seen him perform, I know his music, he knows mine. I'm like, yo, what I'm doin' over here with this movement of mine, if I don't include him it just wouldn't be intact. So, I reached out, I told him, I'm working on The Brick, you gotta get on there, brotha. He was like, of course, it's nothin'. I told him the concept of the track, I let him hear the chorus and everything. He was just like, damn, this is like perfect. He came in with his verse, he laid it, he did his version of the chorus, and it turned into the joint. It's Modern Day Slvery right now, brotha. That's a real song, man. There's an invisible wall up right now, and I'm just happy to be one of the guys that has a tool in his hand able to chip it away.
T: Now the big question, how did Aftermath come about?
KO: My managment, KMD got the CD over there to his assistant Curtis. One of managers Karen is real cool with Curtis, so she was like, I just want you to listen to this kid. She calls back and she goes, I like him and Dre likes him too, that's crazy. So, it kinda flew over her head, (Karen was) like, that's what's up, I know what we got here. Curtis was like, no, Dre really, really likes him like he wants to fly him out. And she's like, are you for real? Yes. So, we fly out, I do dinner with the Aftermath staff, we're kickin' it, breaking the ice, feeling eachother out. The next day I meet Dre, and it's like, he comes into the studio and I'm like, oh shit, it's Dr. Dre. Wow! He's like, I like the songs, dude. And I'm like, yo, I like the beats. We kinda just kicked it from there. He basically tells me he just flew me out to make sure I had a good head on my shoulders, and that I wasn't an asshole, a prick or a knucklehead 'cause he took so many losses prior to what he's working on now. He said he didn't want to go through that again. I told him, I'm a good kid, an honest kid. I just want to do music, I just want to have a shot, and who better to do it with than someone like you? And he said, with that said, have your lawyer contact my lawyer. Welcome to Aftermath. And that was pretty much it, dude. I said to myself, ten years of grindin' for a ten minute meeting.
T: You on Detox?
JO: Not yet. That's his thing, that's Dre's great album that's on the way. I would love to be a part of it. And god willing I will be because I think I earned enough to be a part of it, and I think he likes me enough to make me a part of that project.