The Score: Joell Ortiz, "Free Agent"

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011 2:55PM

Written by J. Bachelor

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  • Free Agent
  • Joell Ortiz
  • February 22, 2011
DJ Booth 3.5/5
The Couch Session 4/5 7/10
Yet Another Hip Hop Blog 2/5
Def Sounds 7.5/10

Brooklyn rhyme spitter Joell Ortiz looks to get back in the game with Free Agent, the follow-up to his 2007 solo release, The Brick: Bodega Chronicles.

Ortiz experienced several setbacks with Free Agent's distribution, which was originally slated for a 2010 release.
Brooklyn's Pillsbury corner boy (and Slaughterhouse member) pops fresh rhymes about project life's ills with such high-spirited, ingloriously precise detail that he renders voyeurism unseemly -- hence his limited commercial appeal. The title of this re-recorded version of his leaked second album (featuring a half-dozen new tracks) refers to a scrapped deal with Dr. Dre's Aftermath imprint, and Free Agent rolls its shoulders with a froggy local-hero smirk. (Spin Magazine)

Ortiz called on his Slaughterhouse teammates  as well as a few other New York rappers for mic assistance on the album.

Joell Ortiz is back ! The album features appearances by his Slaughterhouse counterparts, Joe Budden, Royce da 5'9, Crooked I and many others. His new single "Call Me" featuring Novel is already being spun at urban stations all over the Northeast, notably at Hot 97 in NYC. Ortiz is winding down touring as 1/4 of the lyrical powerhouse Slaughterhouse, along with Joe Budden, Royce Da 5'9" and Crooked I.(Hip Hop Galaxy)

Although a Free Agent, Joell was able to draft beatsmiths DJ Premier and Frank Dukes run production.

Production is always tricky to rate, as it is subjective. A sound that may be monotone and lifeless to one listener can be a heat rock to another. However, certain tangibles can be counted on: does the beat reflect song's mood? Are sounds clear, and enticing, or, do they tend to overpower song's purpose? Do they ignite an emotion? Can you nod your head to the beat? Free Agent screams success in each of the categories. Producers like DJ Premier, Frank Dukes, and the Audible Doctor worked with Ortiz to give this album an old school funk feel with samples that may take the older Hip Hop generation right back to its childhood, while simultaneously giving the newbies a feel of the real. With that being said, the beat selection could use a bit more versatility. The hardcore Hip Hop beats coated with a funk tang are great; however, there is nothing wrong sporadically changing pace.(Def Sounds)

In December, Joell addressed Free Agent's online leak and the future of his career in the rap industry.

"I'm moving forward," he said in an interview. "I'm in a different phase of career. I'm no longer on E1 as an artist, to be honest with you. I'm doing new music [and] I been handed in that album...I'm just looking for a partner right now, not even a label deal -- someone that believes in my music. Yesterday's thing is yesterday's thing...My fans are genuine fans, they will follow Slaughterhouse wherever we go...So, as far as the album, that will not effect what we do in the future [with it leaking]. I don't stop recording. This is what I do for a living. I could put another album out again tomorrow if I wanted to." (XXL Mag)

While some critics felt that Free Agent was reminiscent of a scrimmage game and failed display Ortiz's true talent, others rank the LP as a winning release from one of rap's most underrated players.

Like Mos Def's True Magic, Free Agent will go down as a transitional album, a project that needed to drop to get from point A to point B, but that everyone but the most loyal fans will eventually forget about. Then again, I could be wrong. Lord knows I've been wrong before.(DJ Booth)
"Free Agent" is a certified dope hip hop album and it might just crack my top 10 albums of the year list. I just pray that in the future Joell would get some REAL promotion so that there will be more ways for cats to hear about him then just neighborhood dudes pollying about if hip hop is dead. (The Couch Sessions)

To purchase Free Agent, just click here.

Preview tracks from the album below:

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