Artist: Memphis BleekTitle: M.A.D.E.Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jayson Rodriguez

On what was then supposed to be Jay-Z’s final album, Vol 2…Hard Knock Life, Memphis Bleek was billed as Hov’s heir apparent: a new, improved Jay-Z. Two albums later, he was still trying to live up to the hype. But after three years away from the game, Bleek is creeping out of the shadows of S.Carter. On M.A.D.E, it’s the life and times of Malik Cox that reveal glimpses of a new, improved Memphis Bleek.

“Understand Me Still,” finds M.Easy delving into his personal life as he speaks on his career, his newborn son, and his absence from rap. The somber solo track, accompanied by Rell’s soulful wailing on the chorus, features Bleek recounting his older brother’s life-threatening motorcycle accident: “I took Dre down to South Beach/ just to show him what a few ones can do when you amongst ya crew/ we livin/ I never pictured I could ever lose him/ but I found myself with the thoughts I could lose him.” However, Bleek is best when paired with his Roc-a-fella cohorts rather than alone. The incendiary “Just Blaze, Bleek & Free,” along with previously released mixtape gem “Murda Murda,” elicit Bleek’s domineering flow, which has more command than a drill sergeant.

It’s when the Memph Man flies solo that he most often falters. “I Wanna Love U,” and “Need Me In Your Life,” find Bleek outside his realm as the aggressiveness in his delivery doesn’t abate and his words come off as insincere as opposed to flattering or funny. Not to mention, the latter is just plain misogynistic.

When not flanked by Jay-Z or Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek doesn’t define himself enough. He tells us he’s a hustler (“Round Here,” “Hell No”) but not much else. Though he’s no Jay-Z, Bleek’s a good rapper. And in this game-abundant with albums by mediocre emcees-there’s nothing wrong with that.

Related Stories