Album Review- Joell Ortiz- Free Agent

So Joell has been one of my favorite emcees for the past couple of years. He has blessed plenty of beats with his raw skills and even dropped a mixtape I liked where he rapped over classic tracks. However, I have been worried that he wouldn't be able to translate the lyrics into cohesive concepts for an album though I have been hoping the Slaughterhouse cd was a reflection of what he could do on his own.

Joell starts off just how you would expect with a straight up verse on "Intro" letting you know what you should expect. He does this again when he rips the sick beat on "Battle Cry" with line after line of fire. "Call Me" with singer Novel which was the lead single is where Joell shows he can make an actual song chronicling an adolescent relationship and he paints a vivid picture. On "Good man is Gone" Joell reminisces about some of the people no longer in his life.

He also goes with a themed track on "Cocaine" which is solid but nothing too original. That can't be said for "Checkin For You" where Ortiz adopts the persona of an old head dropping knowledge on a young dude in the club. The first listen was a little odd but it quickly grew on me. "Nursery Rhyme" doesn't really work for me, Joell just raps over the track and tries to make it stand out with unique pre-chorus' that use nursery rhymes. It's not a real hook on the song to speak of but the beat is funky. "Oh" is more of the same as is "Sing Like Bilal" though the beat for the latter is boring now, we've been hearing the same sounds for 15 years now let's give them a break. I enjoy "So Hard" even though the song doesn't have a real concept to it.

"Put Some Money on It" features the Lox and sounds like an older mixtape joint. It's a cool throwback but I found myself getting distracted multiple times throughout because the lyrics just didn't grab me though on this song they needed to. Fat Joe is featured on "One Shot (Killed For Less)" and does his normal coke rap thing and Joell has a little less personality and perspective on this song than he normally has. "Finish What You Start" with Royce da 5'9 on the awkward hook doesn't work because I just heard the verses on a freestyle Joell dropped on Toca Tuesdays with Tony Touch so it just sounds like I heard it.

(Something Like this needed to make the album)

My first couple of listens left me wanting more from the album. I have been waiting to hear Joell take some of the concepts he has applied to his freestyles over the past few years to his own project and he didn't completely come through. While he does do some good things liek "Good Man is Gone" and "Checkin For You" which come out of the expected box somewhat, I was more let down by "One Shot", "Oh" and "Sing Like Bilal". He didn't seem to have a unique way of attacking the songs and it kind of showed with a lack of direction and his verses seemed a little generic compared to the slaughterhouse album. If you like lyrics you should definately buy this and give it a couple of listens because there are some bright spots, it just needs a little bit more direction.

Rating: 2/5


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