Joell Ortiz & !llmind Do Things One Way on ‘Human’ Album, Honestly [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Joell Ortiz wants his story to be heard. Now that may seem like an easy feat for him considering he's a rapper, but there are few people who can help him tell his tale with the proper soundscape. Luckily for Joell, that's where producer !llmind comes in.
With the help of the New Jersey super producer, the Slaughterhouse member concocted a refreshing and lyrically-lit album that was crafted during a few chill moments in the studio "rocking out with [his] homie." It's purpose is also its title: helping fans and artists remember they're all just Human.
To spread the word about the
new project, Joell and !llmind hosted a private album listening event at New York City's Gibson Showroom Monday (July 13). In a packed space sponsored by Tequila Avión, some of hip-hop's most influential tastemakers packed the two-room venue to hear the sound of the their latest song, "Hallelujah." After a few drinks (and bottles for some), !llmind and Joell give a simple but telling story as to how Human came to fruition. "We just wanted to get in the studio and vibe out," Ortiz states.
The 11-track album, which is currently available on iTunes, was never meant to be. But when two passionate creatives enter a room, something genius is bound to come to life. And for those who want the answer to the sought after question: What's the album mean or what's the theme? Human's intro explains everything fans need to know about the content and its context.
"I miss talking about what I come from. I'm a quarter -- in my opinion -- of the best rap group ever assembled, but I'm a 100 percent of Joell and I wanted to tell that story some more," the MC shares.
Listen to Joell Ortiz & !llmind's "Hallelujah"
The first track, "New Era," addresses the fake artists and crews. As Joell puts it, "I do my rapping nowadays in apology form / Like I'm sorry, that s--- that you rockin', that's not what we on... I'm too f---kin' grown, ya'll too f---in' petty." Three minutes later, "I Just Might" rocks over a suspended 4/4 beat that takes hip-hop back to its storytelling days. Ortiz paints a day-in-the-life picture of things he just might do. He "just might f--- shorty 'cause her and [his] ex look f---in' alike." The song might tell the tale of money, women and cars, but it certainly doesn't sound like the same old rap over the same old radio-friendly beat.
When addressing why the tracks don't sound like every other mainstream record out -- disregarding the fact that Joell's not a "mainstream" artist at all -- the rapper gets straight to the point.
"We just want to do the kind of music that we love doing. If it assists in helping the sound that [hip-hop] once was, so be it," Joell states. "We’re trying to reinvent that feeling without having to reinvent it... [by] having a blast in the studio and just vibing. I only know how to do this one way, honestly, and that’s honestly, and that’s what I wanted to give [people] on Human."
!llmind is all about having fun when it comes to the music, but he also explains that this project is a result of not allowing "label people" to block artistry. "The whole thing is just about having fun again and not over thinking and not allowing for 'label people' [to] dictate what the art should sound like. It was just a couple homies getting in the studio making music," he explains. "We didn’t know it was gonna be an album [but] it ended up being an album because we were just having so much fun."
While Joell was focused on telling 100 percent of his story, !llmind was giving hip-hop heads something to rock to. And if anyone's wondering what it is that sets him apart from today's producers leading the pack, it's the fact that his formula is simple.
"I think at the end of the day the thing that really sets me apart is that I don’t really give a s--- about what’s out there," !llmind says. "It’s more just me creating what I like and me creating music that I’m passionate about; collaborating with people that are also passionate. I think there’s this recycled, regurgitation happening with beats, and honestly it’s really not the producers.
"It’s the artists and the labels and the people that are making those calls hollering at the producer that’s hot right now saying you know, 'We need you to do that same platinum single again but we need you to do that a hundred times.' And they’re gonna say yes because they’re getting paid. It doesn’t mean that they want to, it’s just the position that they’re in at that moment," he continues. "Me, I’m humbled and fortunate enough to be in the position where I can create on the canvas that I want to create on, and I just so happen to choose other painters that are amazing at what they do and that I’m inspired by. Joell is one of them. So it’s just us getting together and creating on this canvas together with zero politics and zero manipulation of the music."
Listen to Joell Ortiz & !llmind's "Latino Pt. 2" Feat. Bodega Bamz, Emilio Rojas & Chris Rivers
But just because Ortiz and !llmind create dope music together doesn't meant their sonic chemistry is the beginning of a new rap duo. In fact, Joell will pause everyone trying to force that idea with a simple, "Don’t try to force Human on ’em!" However, that doesn't mean there isn't more to come from the two.
"The odds of me and Joell making more music are obviously high because we’re about to go on a month-long tour [together]," !llmind reveals. "I’m gonna have my equipment with me. I’m gonna have my beats with me. He’s gonna have s--- to talk about… We’re gonna come back from tour and bug out and the result from that may or may not be music."
That kind of honesty comes from being human.
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