February 5, 2023

Rapper Joell ortiz

‘LL: I get a sense that you still feel like you have something to prove – not necessarily in the mainstream success way – but in some way.
Well you know, even though the biggest misconception is that underground artists aren’t successful, I have been extremely successful. I’ve seen all parts of the world, I take care of my entire family doing what I love to do and that’s only music. But they – and when I say they I mean the masses – they think you can’t make that [hit] record. They say things like “Even if he is making money, he still wants to make a hit. Can he make a hit record?” There are so many other things that go into it besides the music like timing, radio of course, support from a lot of mainstream entities. There is a lot that goes into play.

‘LL: Do you think coming out the gate being such a strong lyricist and setting the bar so high is a gift or a curse?
No, I think it’s all a gift. It’s a curse if you give up. That gift will make what we just talked about two questions ago harder. Because they know you are up here [lyrically], so they are like yeah I know he could make it to radio but that’s not what we want you for. So, it just makes the process much longer. It’s all a gift. Because then there are people that make hits and still want to be known for lyricism – like no I’m not just a hit guy I can rap well, too! At the end of the day when you remove the music, the labels, the business and everything else, it’s just rhymes. Nobody wants to be told, “You don’t really rhyme that well though.”

‘LL: What would be people be surprised to learn about you on social media that they wouldn’t get from your music?
I’m pretty transparent in my music. If you look at my Instagram it’s not gonna be a drop-top Ferrari or anything like that, because I’m not like that. That’s not the person I am. You might see pics of me wrestling with my kids. You gotta just follow me to see, because I am so sporadic. One day might be in the studio then another might be on the top of Kingda Ka [Six Flags] — like what am I doing? I’m just human all day every day. I think sometimes that can be a gift and a curse.

‘LL: Yes, I’ve heard that come up in lots of conversations about you, like he’s so regular, I don’t get what his “thing” is. What’s his brand? What do you say to that?
They gravitate more towards gimmick. I don’t get that and I’m not gonna be that. What do you do when your “gimmick” is that you rap well? That’s mine. What is Joell known for? I rap well. Some people are known for smoking weed and that’s what they do, some drink and so when they perform everyone takes a shot, some are just funny ass dudes. So, they are like well what is Joell known for? That’s ni**a’s nice. That’s all I got.

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About The Author

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Navani Otero is a New York City based multi-media journalist. Her work has been published in The New York Post, Latina, XXL Magazine, In Touch Weekly, msnNOW and MTV News. The self-professed music junkie splits her free time helping out on The Heavy Hitters Radio Show on SiriusXM and mentoring aspiring teen writers. You can read her observations on life at www.navaniknows.com.

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