Joell Ortiz Examines How Growing Up Fast Shaped Him Over A Lush Apollo Brown Beat

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Hi. We recently created AFH TV, Ambrosia For Heads’ streaming video service, because we believe real Hip-Hop deserves its own dedicated TV home, but we need your help to make it great. Please subscribe to AFH TV. It is only $1.99/month or $12/year, and already features some amazing content, but the best is yet to come. Thank you for all of your support.

Last month, Joell Ortiz and Apollo Brown partnered to release the Mona Lisa album. The Mello Music Group LP is a platform for Joell to look back at his upbringing, react to the dissolving of Slaughterhouse, and call for more MCs with heart, all while celebrating the beauty in the imperfection. He does so on some of the best production he has had in his extensive career, courtesy of the Detroit, Michigan-based Apollo, who also has albums alongside O.C., Ras Kass, Planet Asia, and others under his belt.

“Grace Of God” is a thoughtful highlight within the 11 tracks. While both creators recently told Ambrosia For Heads that there was some collaborative resistance to the track at first, Apollo lays out a captivating string arrangement, intersected by pounding drums. It is the perfect canvas for reflection as Joell looks back at his path from a place where nothing is promised. Today, the MC’s path led him to a Rap career, complete with a loyal fan-base.

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In the second verse he raps, “I’m just a product of where the young’ens move product / We all believe in God, but we look up to the shottas / Iron in my Goose, test my pride, I let it loose / There’s boys in the hood that watch Menace II Society and Juice / I never wanted to go that route I felt like Cuba in the car without the heart / To tell Dough’ to let me out / Hope God don’t judge me when he judge me / The Devil work pretty damn hard to make it ugly / Know every thing that glitter ain’t gold but, man / That ice made all that glitter look cold / Thought I was playin’ without that flicker, that glow / Now that I’m wise I realize that all I did was hide / Long as they starin’ at that chain / They gon’ look inside my eyes and see the pain / See the hurt, see the person I disguise / Can’t write about it all if there’s no words that could describe / The images in my head that visit me in my bed / If I don’t talk to the Lord, man, spiritually I be dead.” Using John Singleton’s landmark film to illustrate his point, Joell describes the circumstances that delivered him here.

In the video, the album partners perform the song to the cameras, as footage of police patrolling cities from the same era that Ortiz grew up is projected. “Rotten Apple”-era Times Square, Ronald Reagan, and crack cocaine are just some of the images that accentuate this story. The song also includes scratches by DJ Los.

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Mona Lisa is available for full, open stream and purchase.

The interview with Joell Ortiz and Apollo Brown is one of the videos available at AFH TV.