Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz – “Mona Lisa” (Album Review)

Joell Ortiz is a 38 year old rapper from Brooklyn, New York who rose to prominence after being featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source in 2004. He then signed to Aftermath Entertainment in 2006 & they allowed him to release his debut album The Brick: Bodega Chronicles with E1 Music in the next year. Then in 2008, he left Aftermath & formed Slaughterhouse with Royce da 5’9”, KXNG CROOKED & Joe Budden. They saw a lot of success together with their self-titled debut the next year, landing a contract with Eminem’s Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in 2011 (the same year Joell put out his sophomore album Free Agent. However, the supergroup’s only album on the label welcome to: OUR HOUSE in the following year would unfortunately end up being their last. He’s been focusing on his solo career ever since then & now for his 6th full-length album, he has enlisted Detroit’s very own Apollo Brown to produce it in it’s entirety.

After the “Brushstrokes” intro, we go into the first song “Reflection”. Here, Yaowa putting his 2 cents in on the demise of Slaughterhouse over a mellow beat with some strings. The track “‘My Block” is a vivid tribute to the Cooper Park Houses over a soulful beat while the song “Cocaine Fingertips” is filled with hilarious battle bars over a settle bass-line. The track “Grace of God” is about making it out of the projects with an orchestral boom bap beat while the song “That Place” recalls a friend of his being shot over a somber beat.

The track “Word…” talks about his main squeeze over some bass guitar while the song “Decisions” contemplates whether to keep rapping or selling cocaine over a gloomy instrumental. The track “Timberlan’d Up” sees Joell linking up with Royce to talk about fighting people over a gritty boom bap beat but if you were a huge Slaughterhouse fan like I was, then you’ll definitely like the remix with KXNG CROOKED a lot more. The penultimate track “Come Back Home” reflects on the good times in his block over a soulful boom bap beat & then the titular song is a 3 minute epic that finishes the album.

As expected, this is Joell’s best work yet. His lyricism is sharper over time & the organic Apollo Brown production suits his stories near perfectly. If you wanna hear an underrated vet at his most mature moments, then give this a listen.

Score: 9/10

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