During the course of the interview and listening session several rappers and producers have walked in and out to kick it with Joell and his producers. The atmosphere is lively and the large bottle of Grey Goose is winding it’s way down to the end. Let’s pick up my interview with Joell Ortiz and find out what he wants to do within Hip-Hop culture…
Billy X. Sunday: You are a smart kid. Why did you pick up selling drugs?
Joell Ortiz: There’s a lotta hustlers that were smart kids, and at the same time it’s being stupid to the fact that you are killing your ‘hood.
BXS: You say stupid to the fact. I think drugdealers know they are killing their community but they have placed money as their only value so they could give less than a fuck who dies from that shit.
J.O.: There is still a side to people that is ignorant to the long term effects of their actions. You think in some ways that the only person getting fucked up by the shit is your customer. I should have been smarter because at one time my moms was caught up with that shit and maybe I decided to sell as a way of getting back at her for the time I felt like I lost from her.
BXS: Your moms used to hustle?
J.O.: Nahh man, my moms used to fiend.
J.O.: Word. When I was a shorty she was caught up on that shit. She managed to get her life back but I had lost a lot of years waiting for her to come back. When I went out on the block at first it was fun and exciting, but then it became a drag when I was selling to dudes that remembered me when I was little and remembered my moms. True story is that I awoke one morning and I didn’t want to get out of bed. My son was living with me and I thought about what life I was giving my little man. I saw the cycle of life in the ghetto and at that moment I said “Fuck it.”
BXS: What did you do? Did you flush all your work down the toilet?
J.O.: Hell no. I didn’t keep work in my mom’s crib. I sold hand to hand. I wasn’t keeping work in my crib at that time. I had to go to my man’s and them to get my work for the day and I didn’t go to pick up.
BXS: What happened then because I know that you can’t just quit from the block without some duress. Niggas have to see you get arrested or some shit, otherwise niggas think you hit the lottery.
J.O.: Nahh, I told the dude that I hustled for that I wasn’t working anymore. He asked me why and I told him that my son was more important to me than money. He knew me from way back and he knew my situation at home with my moms so he just said fuck it and that was it.
BXS: What was your next move?
J.O.: That’s when Mike(Heron from Rawkus Records) was trying to fuck with me and get me to come over there. I was like “Fuck it” again, but this time it was for some shit that I wouldn’t get arrested for. Right after I come over there to try to put in work their shit gets all twisted and fucked up.,
BXS: So now your’e back to square one.
J.O.: In a way, but I felt different about my self after that early experience. I felt like I could get into this rap game if I devoted myself 100%. So instead of being lazy I started writing rhymes all of the time. I felt like there was no one who was gonna outwork me. I knew I had talent, but I was determined to outhustle everybody else as well. A lot of cats talk that hustle game but I don’t think anybody wants to stand on the corner for sixteen hour straight.
BXS: So your’e going to use your work ethic to push you through rap music? Your’e going to be the Ron Artest of the rap game.
J.O.: Yeah, Ron Artest is my nigga. That’s what has gotten me to this point. To tell you the truth, rap fans don’t respect anything else. They go to work every single day and they respect you as an artist when they see you working hard. Fuck a vacation in the Caymans, I will be in the studio working on some new shit.
BXS: You told me that Jay-Z was your favorite rapper. Don’t you want to go to some island and walk through the sand in a pair of chancletas?
J.O.: I never told you Jay-Z was my favorite rapper. I have mad respect for Hov and where he has come from and I think people that criticize him for not being street now can’t see the bigger picture.
BXS: Which is?
J.O.: Why should Jay-Z still be street? He did that and he showed and proved when he did that his shit was official, but that ain’t how a nigga lives now. It’s like people don’t want you to grow up, but then if you stay the same way you were when you first came out critics like you will say that niggas never evolve.
BXS: Why you say me?
J.O.: Awright, not you, other critics.
BXS: Nah, you was right, it’s me. Ha!
J.O.: I’m just saying that there has to be some acceptance from Hip-Hop that a rapper can grow up too. It seems to me that no one wants to accept maturity in a rap artist. The only thing niggas like is someone spitting shit from the perspective of an 17 year old, chasing pussy and getting high all the time. That can’t be the only story in rap music because that shit gets played out.
BXS: What’s going to be the story on this album?
J.O.: There’s a lot of stories. It’s a lot of real talk. The everyday struggle of someone just trying to feed their family up to the love for this Hip-Hop shit that won’t never die.
BXS: No records about new dance trends or car wheels?
J.O.: I don’t even own a car yet. I would be a damn fool to buy some rims for that rental I got outside. I’ll spit about sneaker heels before I spit about car wheels. Maybe after I see some paper I’ll copp me a whip and put some D’s on it.
BXS: So you not living ‘hood rich?
J.O.: Nahh mayne, that’s not my lifestyle. I moved my mom and my son into a larger apartment out of the projects, but we are still in our old Brooklyn neighborhood. I still feel like I owe Cooper Houses for teaching me so many life lessons. I bought two computers that are going into the Cooper Houses Community Center sometime in April*. So I am still connected there to that place in body and spirit.
*delivered on April 21, 2007
BXS: What’s next for you after this record drops?
J.O.: I will have to get out there and support the record with all the usual stuff I guess, in-stores, showcases, whatever it takes. And then as soon as I can I will be back in the studio to grind out this Aftermath project.
BXS: Congrats on that deal as well.
J.O.: Thanks, but congratulate me when we have the release date set. The Fall is still a long time away.
BXS: True indeed, but you and your team seem to have your minds right for this enterprise. I hope you get the numbers your work deserves. Nobody else out here is spitting stories and rhymes about the ups and the downs about the daily struggle. I’ma let you get back to work.
J.O.: Peace my nig. Write something good about the album if you can find it in your hatin’ heart.
BXS: No doubt.
Joell Ortiz new album ‘The Brick: Bodega Chronicles’ drops today April 24th on Koch Records. Download it for $13 at BestBuy, Target or wherever it is you support your Hip-Hop.