SO I got hold of this album around the same time I got Kev Brown’s latest project. Both albums are by dope producers who are unforgiving in the dismantling of samples.
But what stood out to me when I began bumping Apollo Brown and Joell Ortiz’s Mona Lisa, is that these producers need to chill behind the mic and hand the scrumptious beats to dope rappers.
I couldn’t even get through Kev Brown’s project, it was dope but too long and listening to him rap makes me cringe. Apollo and Joell coming together is perfect as the black and white on a chess piece. It works.
Cocaine Fingertips epitomises the duo’s chemistry. Not once did I get a sense that Apollo compromised himself for Joell, nor vice versa. But like a perfect relationship, the two brought the best out of each other.
Joell is a fine storyteller I first came across a couple of years ago through Eminem’s passion project, Slaughterhouse-one of the dopest rapping cliques the game has ever witnessed. That he could stand out, standing next to Cooked-I, Joe Budden and Royce da 5’9” says a lot about Joell as an emcee.
I’ve listened to his work and till this day Free Agent remains my personal favourite in his discography, but Mona Lisa sits right next to it.
What makes Joell more pleasurable to listen to on this album, is that he’s on beats you wouldn’t often have him spit on. They are heartfelt thanks to Apollo’s penchant of cutting old school soulful joints. These are the sort of beats usually reserved for kats who would sign for Mellow Music Group- dope kats, but a bit too lethargic and quite frankly, too mellow. Joell rips these babies apart, bar after bar.
Joell does get on his mellow shit though on Come Back Home, being introspective about his career and life -admitting that he’ll never pop in the game like mainstream rappers do. The beat that reminded me of Apollo’s 11th Hour and Know the Time (both from his Clouds project). Despite being all smooth in narrating his story, there’s a part in the second verse of the track where the lion that is Joell cannot be tamed. Saying;
I keep it pushin’, beat cookin’
Rep Brooklyn, give whooping’s,
Through the pen like it’s summertime in the bookings
Kats from Brooklyn rep their hood, with every opportunity they’re presented with and Joell takes you through Brooklyn projects and the goings on there in My Block. WIth so much pride. It’s a Hip Hop head’s joint, with a number of rhyme schemes he has on display.
Add ’em a lil’ water, that Eve, I hit the block
Long as I got that ‘cain, I’m able to flip the rock,
I swear to God, I finger-fuck this fortyorty,
like we in a orgy, and have these bullets shakin’ up
whoever comin’ for me, sexy thot talk from a G that pulls strings
Petty as Timberlan’d Up with Royce is, it’s a funny ass dope joint of grown men going hard on new age rappers. It would’ve been doper though, had the two went back and forth together in the last verse.
If you’re into dope raps on rich beats, then Mona Lisa is for you. It might be a bore to one who isn’t into real raps, but wants hooks and catchy beats. Joell has nice quotable punchlines, which helps make his music stick.