“Policy” – Review Of Joell Ortiz’s Free Agent & DJ Premier Presents Year Round Records: Get Used To Us

By: 02.22.11  •  5 Comments

The tug o’ war saga in New York’s standing in Hip-Hop remains a hot button issue for some, while serving as little consequence to others. When they are planted firmly in their element with their historic roots feeding them the proper inspiration matter, they make classics, straight up. On the opposing spectrum, keeping up the more trendy creative processes of making music has the East Coasters lagging in the back of the race, mainly attributed to their more lyrical upholstered raps having to be subdued to churn out a supposed “hit.” Yet, very few acknowledge the gray area in most cases; a nether region of sorts where “above average” reigns supreme and skews the overall concept of any benchmarks put into place over the course of time. The music may do its duty in satisfying the intended audience, but little headway is made in reaching wanderers of the musicology stream.

It’s not just the newbies that are coming up short, as most would immediately assume. Weathered veterans of rap’s fickle waters are still clinging to their rudders without so much as a change in turn style. The legendary DJ Premier has been churning out full-blown albums, exclusively featuring his melodic thumbprints—notable ones at that; 1998’s Moment Of Truth immediately comes to mind—with plenty of gas left in his artistic jet for many more. Yet, every producer, from the most respected thousandaires to the flashy upstarts can get bogged down from trying to do too much, too fast. Premo’s newest main attraction, Get Used To Us, the flagship project to cement the arrival of his label Year Round Records, comes with its share of highlighted rapfare, but also some tedious offerings to create a middling effect. While it is unclear if every artist present on the festival-sized tracklisting is actually a member of The Works Of Mark’s imprint, records like Dynasty’s I’m-more-than-a-female “Epic Dynasty” and the unimaginative rap circles Khaleel and Panchi spin themselves into on “Rappin’ Exercise” do nothing to catapult the appeal to outsiders leery of unfamiliar faces. Premier’s contributions on the aforementioned ditties, as well as tracks like video gamish-“Not A Game,” with its rigid drum beat and repetitive horn blasts don’t necessarily do their part at elevating the charge against nameless opposition, either.

When pitted amongst his more validated colleagues, Premier seems to be enthused with the music, because quite frankly, it gets much better. Rap eternalists KRS-One and Grand Puba build on the block over a crisp kick-n-scratch for “5%” to give the subject matter much needed variance while the “Ya Dayz R #’d (NYGemix)” showcases the (undeniable) talents of Royce Da 5’9″, The Lady Of Rage and Freddie The Foxx to deliver a sweltering performance in the art of boom-bap. Likewise, Joell Ortiz fires off an unlimited barrage of wit and humor for “Sing Like Bilal,” which coincidentally also serves as a marquee track for his own album Free Agent.

Proficient in the world where skills + talent = success, Joell Ortiz has taken the road oft traveled to get his name rolling from the tongues of industry execs and general fanboys alike: the long one. The former Aftermath employee and XXL Freshman seems to utilize the full array of his depository, allowing detailed 48 bars to implode at will, for better or worse.

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