So, while Tool-mania consumed every pretentious music nerd on the planet this past weekend (the Prog Metal darlings finally emerged from hibernation after over 13 years with a new hour-and-a-half of dorkiness), my attention was focused elsewhere, to the chagrin of many a Tool fan on my YouTube channel.
Turns out I had bigger priorities. Joell Ortiz – a.k.a. “The Yaowa” – dropped album number five! And no, I had no idea it was coming out. And yes, it’s fire.
As the intro track explains, “Monday is for the hustlers; for those who work the hardest. Shit gets done on a Monday”. And several Mondays have passed – just shy of 10 months’ worth, actually – since Ortiz’s exceptional Mona Lisa project, a collaboration with Apollo Brown.
The Brooklyn-bred spitter and former Slaughterhouse member dazzles once again with a healthy mix of the autobiographical (“Momma”), the introspective (“Anxiety”), and loads of clever bars (one of my favorites is on the track “Champion”, when he raps, “my wife pops Rose like Jack did in Titanic”).
I also find myself engrossed in the nostalgia of “Screens”, which finds Ortiz bemoaning the decline of childhood in the modern day and I SWEAR uses the same sample as Nas’ “Black Girl Lost”. Doesn’t it? Somebody look that up for me!
“Learn You” is another highlight – a vulnerable, touching ode to Joell’s children and confession of his shortcomings as a father. Ortiz has never failed to let us into his life in a major way, and that’s what always keeps me coming back to every single one of his releases, as opposed to the lyrical miracles of his former group-mate Kxng Crooked, whom I know I can “check in” with every couple years and not miss a whole lot. If you skip an Ortiz project, you’re gonna miss a whole part of his life.
Please don’t sleep on this one, guys! For every last one of you who constantly bemoan the cultural dominance of “mumble rap” and the decreasing emphasis on lyrical skill in Hip-Hop, well, here’s your chance to vote with your ears.
Monday is available now on all major streaming services, via Mello Music Group. Check out the complete project below: