Memphis Bleek strolls into a small café in a quiet suburb of Central Jersey. He walks through the front door with an air of confidence that screams “Brooklyn.” His demeanor says it all (even though his shirt says it too). He’s noticed by a a few folks that talk to him about their aspirations, not realizing that Bleek himself still has some unfinished business in this music game. While confident, the veteran is changing…evolving before our collective eyes.
Its been almost five years since the public has truly heard from the Memphis Bleek of old and nearly a year since he formally left The Roc. His last Roc-A-Fella album, 534 (2005), did not fare as well as expected even though it was well received. Shortly after, Bleek took a hiatus from recording. He’s continued to support long-time friend and mentor, Jay-Z, through his various incarnations.
But, where does that leave Bleek, the young gun that was always supposed to take the torch long ago? It leaves Memph man with new lease on life and a renewed faith in himself. Strategically, he’s prepping a new album while navigating through different waters and, every so often, recollects a time long gone. AllHipHop.com:
What have you been doing since your last album?Memphis Bleek:
Just working. We got a detailing shop in Edison, NJ. Its called Custom Car Details. I’ve been over here working on custom cars. A new album. You know, doing music, trying get outta the Def Jam situation once Jay left. You know, get my own situation.AllHipHop.com:
Are you currently released from Roc-a-Fella? Whose decision was it?
It was a mutual decision between me and Jay because he was leaving Def Jam to start Roc Nation. So the whole thing was like “Yo, how long am I gonna be the little man?” I been an Indian all my life. I gotta be the Chief one day. I gotta bunch of people behind me that wanna shine. Me being under him they never gonna get a chance. So, he agreed. He said it was the best thing and that people are gonna respect me for making my own decision and for being a man and stepping out of that shadow, which is an unbelievable show to even try to get out of. So, it was a mutual decision. We both came to the agreement that going independent might be the best way to do my thing right now. AllHipHop.com:
Youre currently signed with Mass Appeal Entertainment, right? Memphis Bleek:
What has that experience been like? Memphis Bleek:
Aww man, a learning process. The guy who owns it, Marcus Siskind, me and him met through my lawyer. We built a cool relationship. Hes teaching me things that I’ve never known. Before, (at a major label) I would just put the beat on, I rap, I smoke, we drink, and put it on the radio. Now, its like Im finding out the politics behind the scenes.
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How do you deal with the politics of the industry? Memphis Bleek:
I try not to let it affect me. Rules are rules but there also meant to be broken. You know what Im saying? So everybody follows a certain trend and the politics. Me, I like to go around the corner and double back on people, like come back. So if you spending 80 grand on it, Ima find somebody whos gon work just as hard for 20. Hell probably work triple times harder. The politics to me, I just like to reverse it and find the edge that works best for me. AllHipHop.com:
Weve seen the negatives and positives of going independent. Now that youre not with Roc-a-Fella, are you concerned at all with records sales, promotion, or public perception of your future projects?
Nah, Im a well respected dude. Im always gonna be connected to the Roc thing regardless of how far I move away from it or say I aint down with it. When people see Memphis Bleek, its gon say Roc, regardless. The promotion for this album is gonna be done by me. If you ask me somebody drop the ball of 5.3.4. But I dont blame nobody. I just take it like a man and say hey, Ima blame myself this time. You feel me? Its a new ball game now.
Lets talk about your last album, 534. A lot of people felt like it didnt do as well as it should. What are your thoughts on that? Memphis Bleek:
I definitely feel like the ball was dropped. I had big records on there. I had the first record with Rihanna before people even knew who she was. The One. And I had another follow up record produced by Irv Gotti. Infatuated. With the lead of Like That Produced by Swizz, which was ringing in every club and to this day, crazy! That right there let me know somebody dropped the ball on that single. That album was just crazy, I had a lot of good records on there and I just feel like it was a waste of effort. I did my part and the label didnt do they part. Not necessarily saying it was Roc-a-Fella that didnt do they part. It was Def Jam that didnt do they part. And I couldnt blame Jay because Jay had just become the President. So its like you got a whole new staff. How can I, its your fault dog!? It aint never his fault. I aint blame no body, I just took it as a loss and kept it moving. And here we go with The Process. Trust me, we gon pick up from where that one left off at. Memphis Bleek Talks Jay-Z Illuminati Rumors, Ja Rule And Beanie Sigel
Do you feel you’re in a different space musically?
Definitely, because now Im doing the music from the heart and not as a business. Its like when I first started. When you first start making music, youre doing what you love. Youre just writing rhymes that you honest felt, you saying what you felt and what you thought of on the spot, picking the right beats. And then something happens and people say oh, thats a hit, its a radio record, its a club banger. And then it becomes a business to an artist cause now its like youre tryna recapture what you did. When in all reality you cant recapture that, you just have to go back to having fun. So thats what Im back to. Now that I put the fun aspect back into it, were back to making good records. AllHipHop.com:
Whats your ultimate goal in this industry? How do you plan to get there? Memphis Bleek:
One day at a time. My ultimate goal is to prove something to myself. Like, nobody gives me credit. Ive never been given any credit. Everything in my life, its always been and because of Jay. Hes here because of Jay. He did this because of Jay. I can name a lot of people who was signed to the Jay umbrella just like me. But if I never did Memph Bleek is, Mind Right, What Chu Think of That, or Do My, there would be no Memphis Bleek, for real. Now that Im on my own, I wanna show my behind the scenes talent. I can prove myself as an artist and maybe people will give me my respect.
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Do you blog? Do you read blogs? Memphis Bleek:
Im not a blogger but I definitely do read the blogs. I read the comments. Its fuel for a guy like me because I love to hear what people gotta say. If you look at it, on a percentage scale, 20% of the shit is real, and 80% of the shit is bullshit but that 20% is what matters. Somebody is gonna comment something real that you can take wit you and put into your craft or your daily routine. Somebody gon care about you.
What is your relationship with your former label mates (Beanie, Amil, etc.)?
I havent seen Amil every since we did Hey Papi. I havent seen Beans every since we did Powerhouse. I speak to Freeway here and there. I just spoke to Young Chris and Young Neef not too long ago. I aint seen Petey Crack ever since he went on his little thing against Jay. I spoke to Oschino not too long ago. And Sparks just e-mailed me like a week ago. If you ask me, everybody still cool. I aint got no problems with nobody. AllHipHop.com:
Beanie was saying some things about you and Jay being fake. What is your response to that?Memphis Bleek:
(says in a sarcastic tone) Yea, Im mad fake. (laughs) Ima keep it all the way real, Beans is my brother. I been knowing Beans since I was 16 years old. I grew up with Beans. We been through ups, downs, flossin to not flossin to now. I cant down that man. Theres nothing I can say bad about him to discredit him. He may feel like he need to do that to get to where he needs to be but where I need to be, it dont involve him and it dont involve me discrediting him. Thats always gon be my dude. AllHipHop.com:
Beanie has also expressed his feelings about Jay saying that he would pass the baton to Lil Wayne back when was said he would retire. How did you feel about that? Memphis Bleek:
I mean its cool. Those some big shoes to fill and if you ask me Lil Wayne doing his thing. He is like the next dude running the industry right now if you wanna be realistic. Now am I gonna say that theres someone better than me, Im never gonna say that. Jay can say he wants to pass the baton to who ever he feel. Thats his decision. Its on me to take the baton from who he give it to. (laughs)
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Do you think the whole situation with Jay and Dame affected your career in any way?Memphis Bleek:
It affected everybody. Ima be honest. Look at everybody. Im over here tryna run a label and learn the industry. Beans over there doing what he do. Freeway dropped an album with Jake One, which is a good album by the way. Everybodys running off scrambling now. When at one time there was one table, with however many chairs with one plan and we accomplished it. Now, its crazy, so it affected everybody. Dame helped me in my career. And thats between me and him. He knows what he did for me and I cant discredit him neither. Whatever he went through with Jay, thats between them. I was young. They aint never sat down, showed me no contacts and talk business with me so I dont know what happened. I just know we aint down no more. AllHipHop.com:
You recently saw Dame in London, right?Memphis Bleek:
You see, thats the thing with about the internet. That footage youre talking about is so old. That was like 2 years ago. The footage was taken during the Water for Life tour. I saw Dame there. He was with that group, The Cool Kids. I tried to bring him [Jay] to see him [Dame]. I had left for a minute. I went looking for our dressing room and when I came back they was gone. After The Cool Kids performance, I guess thats when they left. But yea, I tried to get them to bump heads. I wanted to see what was gon go on. (laughs)Do Jay and Dame talk at all? I think they spoke or bumped heads a few times. Theres no beef. Thats what I be tryna tell people man, it aint no beef. Its like if me and you made 100 million and I took 50 and you took 50, how we got beef? If you mess your 50 up thats on you. That aint my fault. Not sayin thats what happened but aint no beef man. People just make things up. A problem aint a problem until somebody in the hospital. AllHipHop.com:
So lets get back to your album. Are the songs that are on the internet going to be on the album? Nah. Still Ill will be on the album, just to let people know we working. Nothing else that was leaked on the internet will be on the album. I just released a bunch of free music. Hoping that when I do drop my album people are gonna feel it and support me. I done showed you love, show me love. I dont really have no features on this album. This album is so personal to me, its like Im tryna showcase so much that I dont even have time to call nobody, wait for nobody, Im tryna go in. Im 9 songs deep right now. I got all new producers. I got 2 produced by Just Blaze and Im, man (lets out a sigh of relief) I think its gonna be album I ever recorded. Thats my opinion personally. At first it would be Made, but this includes the same energy from Coming of Age and Made. Its like taking those them two albums and combining them.
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AllHipHop.com: When is the album scheduled for release?Memphis Bleek:
Theres no scheduled date right now. Im hoping for July.AllHipHop.com:
Who do you think is your competition? Memphis Bleek:
Theres no one person?
Jay. Because he my biggest critic. Jay is the type of person, its never right. I dont care how much I can sit in my house, record 20 thousand records and I can say this one is the record! Aint nothing no body can tell me thats gonna change my mind. And soon as I get to the office, he be like thats bullshit. You for real thinking thats crazy? And I be looking at him like Am I bugging? Or is it you? Hes my biggest critic. Im tryna always get his approval and make the boss happy. And its never gonna happen I see (laughs)I definitely gotta come from the street first.
What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about Bleek? What is it that you think people dont know about Memphis Bleek?
That Im a stand up guy, like Im straight up real. I think the biggest misconception I think people have about me is that Im like a follower. They dont understand that, I roll by myself everyday. No matter where I go. Like, I dont see Jay unless its a studio session, a show, or a big event. Or if we going to his house for Sunday dinner. Other than that hanging in the street, Im with my Get Low team. Thats the biggest misconception that we (him and Jay) are in the studio everyday together, picking beats, eating brunch together, flying on the G5 to France and coming back, no! (laughs) People think my life is a Malibu Bay Breeze but in reality its Hennessy straight. I just want people to understand, its just me. And this album is gon debut that.