Memphis Bleek: The Misunderstanding Part One

At a time when rappers are bragging about tropical islands, penthouse boardrooms, and Connecticut gated communities, Memphis Bleek is making a b-line for Brooklyn. “This new album is going to be so crack because I’m so involved in the streets right now man, I might as well get me a brick and ride around in […]

At a time when rappers are bragging about tropical islands, penthouse boardrooms, and Connecticut gated communities, Memphis Bleek is making a b-line for Brooklyn. “This new album is going to be so crack because I’m so involved in the streets right now man, I might as well get me a brick and ride around in the car and get chased by the cops,” says the 28-year-old. Typically, the drug exploits have come from Bleek’s mentor Jay-Z. However, the duo’s connection didn’t begin over bars and hooks, and Bleek breaks it down for without leaving a mess.

In this two-part feature, Memphis Bleek gets an opportunity to step out from whatever wings critics commonly place him under, and Marcy’s second son speaks so freely. Get to know the reaction a young Bleek had when Beans adorned the Roc chain. Learn about Bleek’s catalyst role in the ’01 Nas situation, as well as the death of the dynasty. Moreover, because he says he rarely raps about it, see if Bleek could possibly be still spending money from ’89. With his street-inspired fifth solo album coming in late summer 2007, perhaps you got Bleek wrong, and this feature will help clear up The Misunderstanding. You have always talked about hustling in your music, how knee deep in the streets were you really though?

Memphis Bleek: Basically it became a time where moms couldn’t buy no gear for first day of school. So I then basically got in the street. Back in the day they used to sell nickels and tre’s [three dollar sales] in my hood. All I had to do was go up a couple of blocks to Metropolitan [Avenue]. A hundred dollars would get you an eight ball then you go into the hood and set up shop. At one time, I had an eight ball which is only about four grams and I turned into 260 grams. That’s interesting because people always trying to question your G file in the streets.

Memphis Bleek: It’s cool, I love that. You know what, n***as like jail. I was a criminal but never got caught. My brother got caught with it so I learned from his mistakes. So it’s like if you never been to jail, you wasn’t no hustler. So when you were on the streets you were like 14 to 15 years old?

Memphis Bleek: Exactly, I started hustling in ‘89 when I got my first pack. Marcy was live. One set of hustlers runs one side. You had your Flushing n***as, your Nostrand n***as, your Myrtle n***as. Everyone had their color tops, it be black top, blue top, gray top, yellow top. If someone tried to sell one of those colors in that part that was down got dealt with. So it was like a big money flow coming through. You could make five grand standing on the block for about two hours. It was real, carrying guns. I did this to get money, I ain’t do it to make it look hot or to make a fashion statement. That’s why I don’t glorify it like that. That was something I did back in the day to get by. Another thing that is often speculated about is was Jay-Z really getting it in the ‘80s?

Memphis Bleek: [Laughs] Hell yeah Jay was getting it, my n***a. I could tell you this. Rest in peace to Big L man, I love Big L. I remember back in the day Jay set up a battle with Big L and Jay put 65,000 in a book bag and put the book bag on my back. Me, him and Sauce Money drove to Harlem right to Big L’s projects with 65,000 cash in the bag to battle. And [Big L] didn’t want to do it. They didn’t have that guap?

Memphis Bleek: [Laughs] N***as didn’t have that cake! My boy H.O. was doing it big. I’m telling you, he was the only n***a that you go into his crib in the hood, his bedroom was the muthaf**king Four Seasons penthouse. Waterbeds, big screen, like it was crazy, my nig. Son had all the new cars you could think about; the 4×4 when it first came out, the Thunderbirds, the Ac[ura] coupes, and the Lexus. Anything you thought about that was hot; my son had it so I don’t know why people could say he wasn’t getting it. Jay never hung in the hood. He just lived in the hood. That’s why n***as in the hood would tell you he wasn’t getting it because he was doing it so big that n***as in the hood wouldn’t see what he was doing. So Jay starts rapping with Jaz-O and then runs with Big Daddy Kane after that. He starts working on his own album Reasonable Doubt. Can you get into how you got on? Did he know you were rapping when he was finishing up that album?

Memphis Bleek: Nah, he ain’t know I was rapping. Actually, you know what’s weird, everyone know Jay wrote the song “Coming of Age” for him and Shyhiem. Then I seen Jay, Clark Kent, and the dude T-Strong from Original Flavor one day, they were coming through the hood and I’m on the bench doing my one two pitch. I’m chilling with my man, he used to rhyme too. I’m telling Jay that I rhyme and he s**ting on me like, “You don’t rhyme, let me hear something.” So I’m like I can battle this n***a right here. So when we battled, we spit, and then Jay was like “Damn son, you got some s**t, come with me to the crib.” I come over to the crib and he gives me a piece of paper and he’s like “As fast as you can remember this piece of paper, that’s as fast you’ll be on.” That same night we were in Clark Kent’s crib laying it down, and it came out “Coming of Age.” It happened weird, he didn’t know I rhymed but as soon as he found out I rhymed, it was like on because I was his man. The family ties were crazy. I was his sister’s best friend’s son. I used to babysit his nephews for his sister, like if I come home from school I would come to his crib and wait until my moms come home. Like Jay is older, so I only know him as being the big homey, like sending me to the store with a hundred dollars to get something that cost 20 and telling me to keep 80. So Roc-A-Fella moves to Def Jam, when did they express to you that they wanted to sign you?

Memphis Bleek: This is after I did “Thugged Out S**t” on [DJ] Clue’s first album. That was my first time doing a song without Jay. I was there by myself constructing the whole thing. And then when he heard it he was like, “Damn son, let’s see what you can do with making an album.” I did the whole album in six months and brought it to [Jay-Z] and he was like, “Let’s go.” Basically the deal wasn’t a question, it was basically let’s see if you can spit that s**t that can be accepted to the masses. It’s not hard to rhyme, if you see there are more rappers than fans now. It’s can you make that s**t that you make that will make everyone listen. What was your approach going into your first album? Did you go into it like you had to please the big bosses?

Memphis Bleek: I ain’t going to lie, man, not to speed things up, but that’s the reason why Memphis Bleek has been so stagnated and not dropping music for this long time now. Like because you want to make music to see what they going to think. When I made my first album, I didn’t care what nobody thought. I was just making music that was making me happy and my n***as. When it became n***as critiquing your music that’s what took away the fun. Now it’s a job, you have to make someone happy before the world even hears it. So you drop your first album Coming of Age, what was Jay’s, Dame’s and Biggs’ interaction with you in regards to your project and career?

Memphis Bleek: Nothing, they didn’t come to one session at all. They came into play where they were like, “Yo, you got to f**k with the b***hes [on your songs].” [Laughs] Once Jay saw the response that I got from that one, he was in my ear and wanted to make sure he had input on the second album. That’s why the second album took off like it did. He was in the studio helping me pick beats. I didn’t even like the beat to “Do My.” Jay cursed me out like, “Look you stupid n***a, I’m going to give you the illest hook to that s**t and you better murder it,” and that’s how it came out. So you were the first artist outside of Jay to sign with the Roc. Beanie Sigel signed right after you. Did that put you in an awkward situation with everyone talking about Beans is the —

Memphis Bleek: — Truth. Hell yeah, man. Yo, to this day, I credit Beans; if it wasn’t for him I don’t think I’d be spitting how I spit now. Because when he came, you know jealousy is in everybody. Jealousy is a good thing when you know how to control it. Like when Beans first came everybody, I mean everybody and their grandmother was saying “the boy is nice.” It wasn’t no more Bleek being talked about when he was killing it. I was jealous like yo I got to get in those conversations. Like when they put us in the studio to do “Crew Love” and “A Thousand Bars”, he murdered me on those records. You hear me? He literally, literally murdered me. And I vowed from that day that I would never get on a record with a guy again and let him murder me again. After that we did “Who Want What?” that’s when I felt I stepped up to the plate. Like now I’m ready for hardball. Did you and Beans click when you first met him?

Memphis Bleek: Me and Sig clicked right away. We went to L.A. to shoot this little movie intro for the Hard Knock Life tour and that was the only time we were every going to fight man. It was in L.A., in the middle of the desert, you feel me. That’s when Mac first got down and he was the “Broad Street Bully;” he was beating everybody up. So my thing was the first attempt he gave me to let him know its real here I went off. Me and Jay were in the trailer playing around with our names like “yo Malik, yo Sean.” So Jay called me my little name like “Yo Deshaun.” Then Beans is like “Yo your name Deshaun?” So I took that personally and told him yo you don’t know me don’t ever say that, like word to mother you know my name as Bleek. And he was like “What the f**k you talking about.” So were going to tear up the bus and scrap, and it didn’t go any further than that. I think he figured “Damn, Bleek ain’t no chump,” and I know the same thing about him, Mac ain’t no chump. He ain’t going to let me chump him and he going to ride until the wheels fall off. Once we understood that about each other, we were straight.