Being called “adorable” in a Pitchfork review of Slaughterhouse’s 2009 debut may have been a slight, but the inclination at least becomes understandable when meeting rapper (and one-fourth of Slaughterhouse) Joell Ortiz in person. He drops the word “comfy” to describe his mind-set during the recording of new album House Slippers, talks about his recent weight loss in the same excited tone as a motivational speaker, and has a deep, infectious laugh that engulfs the room (or a media office in Downtown Brooklyn, as the case may be).
But House Slippers — his solo return from the Eminem-fanboyed supergroup and the big-budget media attention that it’s brought — is far from adorable, boiling down years spent in East Williamsburg projects and rap-battle hustling into truth-distilled lyrics: “If it wasn’t for hip-hop, I wouldn’t be breathing” (“Music Saved My Life”), “Freedom is overrated until they take it,” (“House Slippers”), “There’s so many things I gotta fix before your joy really fulfills me” (touching on faith in “Say Yes”). The bluntness and agility that’s delivered while catching us up on the last few years of his life, and his eventual acceptance of it, is of the Clinton-era hip-hop schooling — straight, direct and unpadded.
He talks with the same transparency when he stopped by our office earlier this month to perform a few tracks, and to discuss the complexities involved with Brooklyn’s evolution from being a place people once wanted to escape from, to the place it is now. Take a look.
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.