Though Sunday is traditionally considered the first day of the week for most it is Monday when we arise to begin our weekly grind. Regardless of our occupation of choice, it has become a day where we are given an opportunity to once again hit the ground running and get a jump on our work week. Whether the previously week was generous to us or not, Monday allows us to hit the reset button, and improve upon our current fortunes once more. As an emcee who has been on a constant grind since his emergence Joel Ortiz understands this to a great degree. Even after all the success he has seen over the years, it is this very mindset that has remained unchanged throughout his career. It is for that reason that his latest offering “Monday” is aptly named.
Following the titular intro, the album is kicked off by “Captain”. Aided by some soulful production by The Heatmakerz, Joell details his frustrations regarding the direction Hip Hop has taken over recent years as well as where he perceives his current place in it. “Sip Slow” has Joell flexing his lyrical dexterity as he spits witty punchlines over an Apollo Brown beat. These two previously collaborated on the Mona Lisa album and here they continue to build on that chemistry with this laid-back cut. From there we move into “Champion”. Produced by the Heatmakerz this is the first instance on the album where the production does not quite hit the mark. Joell does his best to make this work rapping about being a champion at his craft, however the chant sampled throughout the beat eventually gets repetitive to the ear and the simplistic hook does very little to heighten the mood of the track.
Next we move on to one of the highlights on the album. “Anxiety” has Ortiz giving us a glimpse at his more vulnerable side, as he details his struggles with dealing with the insecure thoughts in his head. Backed by an acoustic sounding beat provided by Nottz. Joell reminds us of a feeling that most of at some point in life we have all had to confront and cope with. From there we transition to “Same Time”, a track where Joell spits from the perspective of someone adjusting to doing time, all the while informing his audience that while were with him at the same time listening, that we are not doing the same time that he is while behind bars. “Learn You” feat. Big K.R.I.T. starts with a hook sung by K.R.I.T. leading into the opening verse. Joel maneuvers well over the percussion and string driven track, reflecting on how much time he’s missed with his children but how his thoughts were with them despite being on the away on the road often. Ortiz’s sincere and heartfelt delivery is the songs strength, voicing to his seeds how he desires to make up for lost time with them. The decision however to use autotune on the chorus for this track is questionable. K.R.I.T. puts together a well written hook, however given the nature of this track the emotion could have been projected better with the use of more natural sounding vocals.
Moving on to the later portion of this album we are given “Screens” where Joell once again is taking us down a trip through memory lane. He speaks with fondness of a time where he and others used to find joy in going outside to play while drawing comparisons to the modern day when children would prefer to seek out fun and entertainment behind television and computer screens. “Jamaican Food” finds Ortiz rapping about his desires for attractive women and what he would like to do with them sexually. Although by most accounts this is a solid track, it feels a bit out of place on an album where most of the album’s tracks tackle much deeper and thought-provoking subject matter. “Before Hip Hop” takes us on a journey through Ortiz’s experiences before hip hop become his main source of income. The soulful sample adds a bit flavor to his vivid narration of his experiences during a period of his life before the fame. The reflective tone continues with “Momma” where Joel talks about his admiration and appreciation for his mother. The smooth vocals provided by Blakk Soul elevate the track even further, giving it that very sentimental touch that would spark the listener to take a moment to fondly recognize the sacrifices of our own mothers. The album then closes out with “Grammy” produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, where Ortiz reminds us that regardless of whether he receives worldwide acclaim, he’s managed to make it because his accomplishments in life outweigh the opinion of those in the music industry. Lyrics like “I may not ever win a Grammy/ but I’m taking care of my family/ and that’s a win to me” emphatically drive the point home that awards and accolades do not necessarily define success in an individual’s life insomuch as the ability to overcome the obstacles put in front of them.
With “Monday” Joell Ortiz has put together a collection of tracks that provide the listener with a very memorable listening experience. We are given a glimpse into the mind of an artist who has endured and persevered the trials and tribulation that comes with dedicating his life to the grind. Despite a few minor missteps, the album is a fine addition to Joel’s already strong body of work and proof that he still has a lot more to give for future Monday’s to come.
Contributing Author: Weapon X
Album Highlights: “Captain” “Anxiety” “Screens” “Grammy”
P.S. Touchstone Rating: Masterpiece
- Worthy of Merit
- Work of Art
"Setting the B.A.R. for Society"