Mona Lisa May Be Ortiz’s Best Work
Joell Ortiz may not be a new or up and coming emcee, but he belongs to a distinguished group of underrated artists. Rightly so, he’s collaborated with some of the best and he’s gifted us with some solid music over the years. Yet Mona Lisa may be Ortiz’s best work.
Here’s why Mona Lisa may be Ortiz’s best work:
The Production Is A-1
Apollo Brown produced the entire project. With that being said, this is more of a collaboration than a solo effort. The tracks range in style from classic boom bap, grimy and dirty to jazzy Pete Rockesque grooves. In summary, Brown’s production gives the album a 90’s feel without sounding dated.
Ortiz follows the golden rule with features: less is more. The only other MC lending bars on the project is Royce Da 5’9. Timberland Up features Royce creatively describing how and why you might get stomped the f*** out. He’s all you need.
Content Is King
Ortiz doesn’t pardon his twisted sense of humor on Mona Lisa. Songs like Cocaine Fingertips show just how dark and witty he can be:
ahem, yeah, I hope this right here is the one
Before I say something that offends you
I just wanna say fuck you and every male you look up to
yo daddy, brother, and uncle
your basketball coach, the public school mascot
that used to hug you
the pastor that but- fucked you
holy shit, yeah holy shit
This is how he starts off the song! No warm-up. Nothing. The dude just goes in. Yet somehow he’s able to make me almost laugh about something that is not funny at all.
Yet, on songs like Grace of God you get to hear the grown-up more serious and introspective MC:
The Devil work pretty damn hard to make it ugly
Know everything that glitter ain’t gold but, man
That ice made all that glitter look cold
Thought I was playin’ without that flicker, that glow
Now that I’m wise I realize that all I did was hide
Long as they starin’ at that chain
They gon’ look inside my eyes and see the pain
See the hurt, see the person I disguise
Can’t write about it all if there’s no words that could describe
The images in my head that visit me in my bed
If I don’t talk to the Lord, man, spiritually I be dead
This project is one you can listen to from beginning to end. It doesn’t have a bunch of wack skits or interludes. Mona Lisa gets straight to the point. And while it may never win awards for creativity or ingenuity it’s worth adding to the rotation. Even in 2021.