Joell Ortiz
I Ain’t Hard To Find

joellortiz1.jpgSimply put, Joell Ortiz is a good dude. Large in physique, clad in black jeans, a black hoodie and black Nikes, New York hip-hop’s latest last-best-hope looks fully capable of bone crushing. But as soon as the 6-foot 2-inch, 220-pound Brooklyn-born rapper talks, intimidation gives way to disarming warmness.

Laughs and smiles abound in a midsized office in Koch Records’ Big Apple headquarters the day after the thriving indie label threw an album-release party for his independent debut, The Brick (Bodega Chronicles), at the downtown club S.O.B.’s. Ortiz, walking past those waiting outside, recognized a loyal fan he’d seen at several past shows. “I was like, ‘I’m pulling you in. You aren’t paying,’” says the 26-year-old Ortiz. “But he was like, ‘No, I’m paying!’ He got back on line and waited!”

Loyal support has come easy to Ortiz. Over the past two years, the Puerto Rican spitter has amassed a devoted following through grassroots promotion, intimate audience interaction and lyrically sharp, NYCentric music. Representing a once-dominant city that’s now struggling to anoint a fresh, undeniable rap star, Ortiz is committed to accessibility. He’ll never shrug off a chance for a handshake or ignore shouted props on the street.

Today, in fact, closeness to his ever-growing fan base is something Ortiz literally wears with pride. Hours before an in-store signing at lower Manhattan’s legendary vinyl shop Fat Beats, he explains his aforementioned choice of a black hoodie (“Hustlers and Hardcore” is written in red across the chest). “I was actually in the barbershop, like earlier today,” he says. “And this kid saw our tour bus parked. He opened his trunk and asked my manager if I’d wear this hoodie he designed. And now I’m wearing it to an interview.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn’s Cooper Projects, Ortiz grew up in a predominantly Black neighborhood (“That’s why I don’t speak Spanish well,” he says), with only his mother, Michelle Ortiz, present since his second birthday. A star both in the classroom (SAT score: 1390) and on the basketball court (varsity averages: 19 points/8 assists a game), the Puerto Rock was on a straight path at Manhattan’s Lower Eastside Prep.
However, a sudden shock in his home life sidetracked his college plans: His mother had developed an addiction to drugs. “Once I became aware, I put things on hold and stayed home with her,” says Ortiz, who had received letters expressing interest from Division 1 hoops schools like Louisville, Iona and Georgia Tech. “I’m her only son. I couldn’t let her go down the drain.” Ironically, to make ends meet, Ortiz started hustling the same products that had his mom hooked. “That gave her a little cushion,” he explains. “Like, ‘You can’t condemn me. You’re hustling!’” Fortunately, in August 1999, she kicked the habit. “She came in my room one day and said, ‘I’m done,’” he recalls, noting that she celebrates the date every year with an anniversary cake.

Ortiz cleaned up, too, taking to the streets in a more productive way. A longtime dabbler in battle raps, he got serious in street-corner ciphers and drew the attention of neighborhood hip-hop heads. Local producer Dennis Wynn brought him into Queens’ Hydra studios to hone his skills. The green MC got better, and Wynn took on a management role. But then, early 2000, Wynn caught a five-year prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute. “Just like that,” says Ortiz. “My loyalty was tested again. It’s like some higher power was punking me.”

——- Read the rest of our Joell Ortiz feature in XXL’s July 2007 issue (#93)
  • http://www.myspace.com/libskrib Adlib311

    FIRST BITCHES!!! Hahahahah i allways wanted to say that!

    Anyways Im glad to see my Puertorock niggaz up on the scean doing they thang thang!!! Thats wass up Joell!!

  • beeyo

    Happy birthday Billy.

  • Streethustle

    good to see my dude joell ortiz doin his thang in brooklyn…one of the only cats holdin it down for BK

    and adlib your a bitch to say ”first”

  • http://xxlmag.com lg

    ths is the reales cat in hip hop right now not only because of the rhymes but how hw carry himself as a man respect to you my dude much sucess

  • Bashin

    Dude is on fire when he rhymes.
    go bring ny back homie.

  • meenstreek

    The Brick is that shit!!! Waiting for the re-up from Aftermath.

  • Tha Ace

    i’m feelin this dude (no homo) on the real
    “i’m so far ahead of you cats i could take a million steps back and still win a medal in rap”

  • ILL WILL

    what if they shelve him?

  • ILL WILL

    why aftermath is interested in REAL HIP hop suddenly? and WHY NEW YORK?

  • Fat Joe

    Fuck him!! I’m the best and only Latino rapper out! That’s why when Pun passed I shitted on every other rapper! Fuck Cuban, fuck Cypress Hill and any other latin rapper that thinks they’re going to come into my realm, i’m blackballing them hard! Joell you ain’t shit!! U lucky I ain’t in the City right now!! Terror Era is the Squad!! Geddy, and all the others know they ain’t never coming out, that’s why I run New York!!

  • JC

    yea this dude got lyrics..love the album..esp. the song “brooklyn bullshit”..

  • Gus Rader

    Son is the truth!!! Seen him perform before the record deal and cat is the same dude still. I support him. He’s not doing what everybody else is doin. J.O. stay up!!! NYC 4 Life.

  • john cochran

    MAN I GOTTA HEAR THIS CAT, ERRBODY TALKIN BOUT HIM. HOPE DRE DROPS HIS SHIT AND DONT PULL A REAKWON OR DETOX MOVE.

  • http://XXLMAG.COM THA BLOCK
  • Jhon da Analyst

    J.O. is that cat right now. A beast in the booth. Phenomenally gifted. Peace!

  • Eastside Bread Maker

    Yeah anybody that can get up in front of a New York City crowd of people that dont know you and rock the show, deserves all the props in the world. Dude earned my respect, so I fux with JO.

  • Ziggy

    ***** EVERYONE GO TO THE FREEKY ZEEKY – HATER WHAT YOU LOOKING AT. CHECK THE BLOG TO SEE ZIGGY ETHER GORILLA UNIT, AND DOCTOR69… ZIGGY HAS FLOW CHECK IT OUT *****

  • Freddy(Vega$)

    Joel Ortiz is the truth!!! this nigga can spit and hes real. With the Doctor by his side he should do just fine!! Please support a real rapper please!!!! Curtis…..

  • Freddy(Vega$)

    Dope Beats, Dope Rhymes what more do ya’ll want!!

  • lake

    man im glad to see a hispanic do it big

  • Juicy J = Jazzy Jeff

    being educated always makes u a better MC. Most of these fools on radio dont even know the value of an education. This dude here is a type of person dumbass’s would make fun off

    .. but he can lyrically crush most of the rappers you got on your ringtone.

    big up to JOell man

  • EnglandRepresent

    This dude is hip-hop. Period. If you can’t fuck with Joell get outta hip-hop.

  • $pyda

    this guy iz sooooooooooo SHIT!!!! i DO NOT like him at ALL!!! fat ass nigga thinkin he big..hiz rhymes r weak n i heard ALL his tracks so i CAN talk. anybody that sayz hez the best iz a muthafuckin idiot n CLEARLY dont kno about rap…there r other catz in the game WAY better than this fat ass

  • People people listen closly

    one of the best articals i have read on this site- i yhink dnt know but yall but i liked it

  • Danny

    Juicy J = Jazzy Jeff Says:

    June 7th, 2007 at 10:11 pm
    being educated always makes u a better MC. Most of these fools on radio dont even know the value of an education. This dude here is a type of person dumbass’s would make fun off

    .. but he can lyrically crush most of the rappers you got on your ringtone.

    big up to JOell man

    ^^^^
    Juicy J = Jazzy Jeff = A fuckin nerd…

  • Tha Ace

    since when did juicy j equal jazzy jeff??? since i’ve already thrown in my 2 cents on joel i need to know that

  • Cuban Link

    co-sign to Juicy J=Jazzy Jeff, but negro please how the fuck can u say Juicy J=Jazzy Jeff?J is iight, but Jazzy is a legend, u can knock him for shit.

    If Juicy J=Jazzy Jeff, than Crime Mob=Public Enemy.Rock yo hips nigga!

  • http://XXLMAG.COM Macdatruest

    huh?

  • http://XXLMAG.COM Macdatruest

    khkjh

  • http://mmyspace.com/princeunseen all city unseen

    dre always had his heads on the east coast

  • http://mmyspace.com/princeunseen all city unseen

    dre always had his heads on the east coast

  • http://xxl.com nATE28

    this dude is doin this thng up most joell hes what we call hip-hop real thing hes can do his thing on any beatt off the head u be surprised what he can do he’s one of the dudes for 07′ that goin bring brooklyn back n u got uncle murda but this guy is nasty n both of them will bring new york on the map agagin

  • i’ll shit bag u

    dat sounds like a real nigga right here

  • Ali

    this guy is tha truth 4 real….that joint with Akon “keep on callin” is hella sick

  • damn

    Honestly Im a fan of the dirty south. Mainly TX (Scarface, UGK, Slim Thug). But damn it when I heard this hispanic dude on that track “I am hip hop” he found himslef another fan. Being of hispanic heritage myself I was proud but mostly because when i heard that track it just sounded like the esence of hip hop was shining through him. It gave me the chills straight up.

  • Lee

    I’ve heard some from this artist. I have to hear his independent release to really judge him. I’ve heard some of his old myspace songs, and some others he redone which were in its progressive stages. Looks like he puts in lots of hard work and goes for a classic vibe to his work ethics. Dre had to choose him for a reason. Hopefully him and Rae won’t be on the shelf too long. I think Joell is smart and released his indie record just in time before the album’s release. Hopefully, more good things will come for him.

  • http://www.xxlmag.com/?p=10960 Nyc’s finest

    New York needs niggaz like this. It seems like the black people are letting the black music go into the hands of the non black community. As long as someone reps New York and Hip Hop in general, that’s all I care about!

  • http://myspace.com/SUPAVIP SUPAVIP

    OKAY 1st up FUUK PUN AND FUCK FAT JOE CHUBBROXS DONT RUN SHIT BUT HIS MOFF
    BITCH ASS MOTAHFUCKA NEEDS TO SHUT HIS LIP LAST TIME HE CAME DOWN TO SLASON SWAP MEET TO HOOK UP WITH BENBALLA TO GET HIS CHAIN THAT FOOWAS A SKIRD LIL OVER WEIGHT BIACH PAST THAT I HATE RICANS FROM RAGGCULLEROS TO CUBANS YOU NAME IT AND HIM SAYN FUCK CYPRESS HILL OH MAN ONE WORD FOR YOUR FAT OLD ASS AFTERMATH WHO JUST GOT SIGND THATS RIGHT OMAR CRUZ! http://myspace.com/OMARCRUZ coem to LosAngeles any fuckn putto from da east that come s here get a fresh FADE FROM MY HK5 YEA ME SHAI AKA REAL SHY TEKNKFAMILIA I CLAIM MY BLOCKS AND MY HOOD WHY CUZ IM REAL THATS WHY I DONT BELEV YOU FUCKS WHEN YOU SAY YOU HIPHOP CUZ YOUR A JOKE LIKE ANOTHA MILLLION PACS YOUR NOT FROM HERE LOSANGELES HOME OF WERE BIG GOT DROPD AND GANGCOPS FUCK IT Joel Ortiz MUCH RESPECT BIG HOMIE I KNOW YOU RICAN AND FROM DA EAST COAST BUT YOU DA TRUTH FOO I RESPECT YOU WORKIN WITH OMARCRZU HOPE YOU SHOW ME DA SAME LOVE NEXT TIME YOU OUT HERE HOLA AT ME I AM A BOSS AND NO GANGSTA ETHA IM A GANGAFFILIATED REAL TALK IM PART OF A TEAM! PURA RAZA 88-88-SUPAVIP Hola at me homie stay blessd Joel and FUCK FATFUCKS NAMED HOE! KEEP DREAMIN MOTHAFUCKA ORTIZ IS MUSIC IS BETTA THEN YOUR BULLSHIT AND ITS OUT SO NO MATTA WA YOU DO HES MUSIC LIVES ON AND THATS WHY YOU UPSET FO REAL I KNOW YOU JOE YOUR PUSSY ILL CUT YOUR HEAD OFF AND TAKE ASHIIIIIIT DOWN YOUR THROAT AND CALL IT A DAY WIT REAL HIPHOP BIG GUNS AND BAD BITCHS HOMES! FUCK YOUR TEAM AND FUCK YANKEE IM DA ONE THAT PUNCH THAT BITCH ASS MOTHAFUCKA AT KDAY IN FRONT OF NAJMA