It may seem that Hip Hop fans have been waiting for [twitter=JoellOrtiz]Joell Ortiz[/twitter]’s album almost as long they’ve anticipated Detox. As bad luck may have it – or the draw of the music industry – Ortiz’s much-anticipated record, Free Agent, was leaked. With the set release date three months away, the fans got a preview of what may or may not be the final product of Brooklyn rappers’ hard labor. DefSounds takes a deeper look into Free Agent. Will it be a home run, or was E1 justified with the steady push-backs?
Lyrically, Ortiz continues to be one of the best rappers in the game; so much so that very few artists can keep up with him. His lyricism includes an array of metaphors and word play; perhaps hanging around Eminem and Slaughterhouse has influenced his lyrical approach. Tracks like “Nursery Rhyme” allow Ortiz to showcase his skill in seaming words together, and altering sounds to add a steady flow with vocab that may not have worked if executed differently.
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.
Overall Content: 6.0
Free Agent lacks a consistent theme. Like some of his contemporaries, Ortiz seems to have difficulty differentiating mixtape music from album music. After all, if the album sounds as though it could have been mixtape material, why ask fans to pay for it? Although the songs are lyrically-charged, if they do not weave into a main theme, they become a collection of lyrical tracks, and not pieces of the musician’s puzzle. Songs like “Call Me,” “Good Man Gone,” and “Checking for You” are great on their own and surely make Ortiz a good lyricist; without an overarching theme however, they don’t make him a great artist – not just yet.
Free Agent is enjoyable but forgettable. Ortiz maintains his lyrical competence, and declares it over some great beats. However, while the album is surely above average, like talent left uncultivated, it could have been much more.