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  • Writer's pictureMalcolm Williams

Don’t Sleep #5

Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz - Mona Lisa

In the aftermath of the Slaughterhouse breakup we‘ve seen Joe Budden‘s shift to media full time, where his stardom rose to new heights. Royce da 5’9 release one of the best albums of 2018 ’The Book of Ryan’. Crooked I is still cooking. Then there’s Joell Ortiz, who teamed up with producer Apollo Brown to give us ‘Mona Lisa’, an album that makes you miss Slaughterhouse more than ever.

Joell really hit this album out the park. Introspective music is somewhat of a lost art in Hip-Hop. So many artists seem to be afraid to speak about themselves in an honest way in the genre. This is why I say Slaughterhouse stayed on my mind when I listen to this album, they were the Kings of Transparency. But I don’t want to make this about what I would have wanted to be, Joell carried the Spirit of the group with him and boy did he kill it.

I’m gonna go right into the middle of the Tape with ‘Grace of God’. The Brooklyn boy gets off on the silky smooth canvas Apollo Brown laid out for him. I almost wrote a sixteen when I first heard it. Joell talked about growing up in Brooklyn, where dudes would try to rob you walking through the projects and police brutality was a thing even though camera phones weren’t a thing. He spoke about how speaking to the Lord keeps him Spiritually grounded. The Grace of God keeps him moving on. I feel that so much because I literally would not be here if not for my Faith.

He follows that up with ‘That Place’ my favorite song on the album. This song caught me by the Heart immediately because it resonated with me. He goes in about the friend he lost to a shooting right after he spoke with him. Then the grief of almost losing his first born son. I’ve lost friends on both sides of the gun growing up. I’ve been there for my closest friends after they lost their first born and it was process to try to keep them okay while trying not to break myself from watching them try not to break. The hospital really is a place that I don’t like.

‘Come Back Home’ a look back at decisions young Joelle made earlier in his life and career. He talked about his transition from the streets to the music game. How younger him thought he’d always be cash cow as a rapper but found out that being a real rapper is proven to be a potbelly less lucrative than an attention seeker. Some times going home helps you readjust your perspective of the situations you’re in.

Joell & Apollo are a perfect match of producer and rapper. The beats that we’re given to Joell perfectly match the tone of the lyrics on every track of this album. I really hope that more people will speak of Joell after this album because his realness and abilities aren’t appreciated as much as they should be. I can honestly say that everyone transitioned out of Slaughterhouse after any hopes that they’ll ever get back together were shutdown in 2018. Real rap will never die because we have artists like Joell in this game.

I want to say thank you to Joell Ortiz & Apollo Brown for giving us an album that is real and honest. This album really has been an inspiration to me and keeps me hopeful that my favorite genre will never die. I’m glad I was able to write about it on my platform, one that was inspired by Artists like You.

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