Joell Ortiz vs. Gentrification

Of Brooklyn, yes, but also of the NYC hip-hop on which he still aims to make his name

Looking back on his gamble with Dre, Ortiz reasons, "How could anyone not take that chance? I wanted to be alongside Eminem and 50 Cent, and get pointers on how to do records and get better as a rapper." The experience only fortified his belief in standing firm with his core hometown values—the very traits that attracted others to hip-hop in the first place. He predicts that Free Agent will be better received than his debut, but guarantees that it won't come with any gimmicks. He won't, as he jokes, bend to his label's marketing department and come out "50 pounds lighter with a six-pack." After all, he was here first, and he's confident in his heritage: "The thing is, I want to get a condo just like everyone else, but I'm not gonna change who I am to get there," he says. "And when I do get there, my apartment will still feel like the projects inside. I won't be going out and ordering a gourmet salad—I'll still be getting chicken wings and french fries."

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