Review: Joell Ortiz, ‘Autograph’

Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz reels fans in for a deeper, introspective look into the life of the New York emcee.

As an emcee, Joell Ortiz has found great success by pushing his pen to tell his story growing up in Brooklyn, New York. Since his debut, Joell has substantially grown, providing listeners an extensive look into his life with each release. With his most recent project, Autograph, we see Joell following the same pattern, digging deeper & exposing factors that made him the man he is today.

Autograph epitomizes the emotional lengths an artist can reach when utilizing honest story telling to express the lessons one gains through maturity.

From beginning to end, Autograph manages to cover many bases sonically, yet ultimately builds up a cohesive nature in its entirety. The album holds an unselfish length, executing 13 tracks in 43 minutes. Through the album’s run time, Joell embraces a “tell-all” approach, not holding anything back and clearly expressing his feelings on certain situations surrounding his career. The project’s introduction, “In My Feelings” serves as the perfect start to the record, conveying all of Joell’s emotions and concerns following his Aftermath & Shady deals. From here, the content maintains an honest tone, covering many topics from his past endeavors to his career growth.

Though he’s gained a massive following over the years with his witty rhymes and edgy style, this project perfectly presents Joell’s evolution as a song writer. Autograph contains some of the best lyricism Joell has penned to date. The album spawns a handful of standout moments, from recounting his experiences growing up in the projects on “Uncle Chris Car” to dedicating a track to his wife on “Lifeline.” While Joell provides a mature perspective within the project, the New York emcee was still able to embrace his street edge.

Through all the stream of emotions, Joell finds balance by throwing the gritty bars to salute his roots. For example, the intro finds Joell pushing a guttered-style while expressing his situation before his deals: (“Big rocks in my socks all tied into small zip locks / Fif Glock on my hip had em dancing before Tik Tok”). Certain tracks find Joell rocking both ends of the spectrum, such as the reflective cut, “OG” which finds Joell describing his transition from the slums to the suburbs.

With the spew of mature content spread throughout the album, Joell manages to assemble the perfect roster of producers to help provide a sound that would further elevate his message. The blend of soulful sounds and triumphant horns excellently compliments the album’s material, highlighting the gems and lessons engraved in the songs. Producers, Apollo Brown & Heatmakerz, both have their fingerprints all over the project, equally contributing a majority of the beats. Joell’s dynamic chemistry with each producer helps add to the intimacy of the record as they help provide the perfect sounds that accustom Joell to get right into his many pockets.

The appeal of the project stems from the mature perspective that Joell provides in the form of rhymes and stories. Every track is laced with a life lesson or message that is rooted from Joell’s experiences. The introspective cut “Uncle Chris Car” greatly displays this blunt honesty Joell has on the mic, expressing how much different life for him could have been based on one decision: (“If God really wanted me to go far / Then why my Uncle Chris car go left, he shoulda made a right”). What Autograph represents is the further discovery of one’s self and the emotional depth an artist can reach when expressing these epiphanies.

Over the past few years, Joell Ortiz has conducted a consistent catalog of projects, with his latest release, Autograph, perfectly fitting in with the selection. That poignant factor that makes Joell Ortiz an appreciated figure in the culture is what his journey of self represents for the genre. Autograph displays the balance of being aware of the trauma in one’s life and acknowledging the process made through those tough times. Joell Ortiz’ Autograph is highly recommended for those looking for mature material & timeless production.

8.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Therapeutic”, “One Day”, “Sincerely Yours”, “OG”, “In My Feelings”, “Uncle Chris Car”