Memphis Bleek: Strength & Loyalty
In this season of giving, DX presents the gift of a can“Nah, it’s beef fuck that,” Memphis Bleek jokingly replied when asked by HipHopDX earlier this month if his lifelong friend and mentor Jay-Z will be appearing on his forthcoming independent debut, The Process (now due March 23rd). “[Laughs] Nope, fuck that, it starts today, it’s on! Niggas wanna hear that? [Laughs].”
Comically brushing off any suggestion by some of the need for an all out assault on Hov to trail recent verbal attacks on Jigga by former Roc-A-Fella comrade Beanie Sigel, the man who Jay once noted is “in my will somewhere” further displayed his unshakable loyalty to his fellow former Marcy Projects resident during his discussion with DX but also refused to do what he’s done in attacks aimed at Jay in the past and pounce on one of his homie’s detractors immediately, instead sharing his genuine disbelief at the sordid saga with Beans and declaring that the Philly rhymer remains “my brother."
But while the bond between Bleek and his “big brother” clearly won’t be broken by anyone, even former labelmates, when and where that reunion of Hov and Bleek on wax will happen remains up-in-the-air, as he explained, “We ain’t do nothing yet [for my new album]… One thing about me and Jay, we don’t do forced music… If that’s the case I’da been all over these last [Jay-Z] albums. Jay whole thing to him was if we ain’t doing ‘Coming of Age Pt. III’ to end ‘Da Sequel’ [from Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life], we ain’t doing nothing right now. Which you can’t be mad at, I told him that’s real talk, we do gotta end that sequel off… [But] I got this joint called ‘Forever Roc Boy,’ [and] he might, he might wanna get on that because where I’m going on that, man, niggas gonna be mad at me, baby.”
Whether or not Jay makes his way on to The Process doesn’t seem to be an urgent issue for Bleek, as he is firmly focused on finally stepping out of Hov’s shadow in 2010 with the launch of his independent career via a recently inked deal with the Boston-based Mass Appeal Entertainment for Bleek’s long-simmering Get Low label.
The rejuvenated rhymer will be reintroducing his aggressive flow to the masses on his Mass Appeal debut courtesy of some familiar sonic suppliers (Just Blaze, DJ Khalil), and some not so familiar trackmasters (Just Blaze protégé Cani, Bay Area beatmaker Shampeli, and Milwaukee’s own Big Sound Music, who Bleek revealed to DX are supplying him with a new, live-music based sound).
With nothing (save for the album’s bonus cut, The Neptunes-produced “Don’t Get Ya Head Bust”) that Bleek has let loose in recent months via mixtape or otherwise making it to the final tracklist of The Process, he has plenty of new material to make a new impression on anyone who forgot what Memphis Bleek brings to the table as an artist in his own right.
He may display those skills most clearly on the Cani-laced uptempo lyrical exercise – with a classic scratched-in hook - “Still Ill,” but it’s on the album’s Coptic-crafted title-track that Bleek best addresses in further detail the topics discussed in the Q&A below, as he noted, “You know people argue over it’s The Understanding or M.A.D.E. is my best album, [but] this [new album] is killing all of that because it’s the truth, it’s everything. Like, when you hear the story ‘The Process,’ everything that started like the first day when I got that sheet of paper from Jay and ended up in Clark Kent’s house, to the breakup, to now, when people hear that and how I explain everything, that one song it’s gon’ make people day. It’s gon’ make people be like, oh I finally have the answers to everything I been fuckin’ worried about, like what happened, who did this, who did that. I got it!”
HipHopDX: I wanna do this thing a little differently and base my questions off of lines you’ve recently spit. And the first one is from your newest joint that leaked out, “I’mma Grind” with Rick Ross. On that track you said you’re “next in line for New York.” Now, you know you been next in line for a minute [Laughs]…
Memphis Bleek: [Laughs] Of course, that’s right. It takes a while; you can’t just take over a empire overnight.
DX: So what makes you feel like a decade after your debut LP that you’re once again next?
Memphis Bleek: ‘Cause, I know what it takes, man. I know the formula – Put it like this, what you wanna hear, I know the blueprint. [Laughs] I know all the information. And if you look at this Rap game as each emcee wears a piece of armor, my armor don’t have no dents. Like, if you look at these people’s personality and the realism of they life, everybody that come out [there’s] always some type of dent or some past skeleton that makes them not who they say they are. Well, when it comes down to my team, anybody, I don’t care if they even got a problem with us, you can’t deny the fact that they was authentic with what they said and what they did. Nobody ain’t never come out the woodwork and discredit nobody that was ever under Roc-A-Fella. And that’s why I feel like we all in line to takeover… People believe leaders, they don’t believe people who got skeletons in they closet.
DX: And do you feel like a new artist again? Is this a revival for you personally?
Memphis Bleek: Of course, ‘cause I got my own now, so it’s like I’m doing it for a different purpose. When I first signed to Roc-A-Fella my reason to rhyme was to move out the hood, move my moms out the hood, get a better life for my family, get some paper. I achieved all that. So now my main focus is just letting people know that I do this, ‘cause I don’t get no credit, man. Everybody give Jay my credit. Which is cool, that’s my man, I ain’t mad. But he don’t pick my beats, he don’t write my rhymes, and he damn sure ain’t in the studio with me every session telling me to go with that record. So these is my ideas and what worked for me. If it wasn’t for “Memph Bleek Is,” “What You Think Of That,” “Mind Right,” “Round Here,” “Is That Yo Chick?,” “Do My…,” “Like That,” we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
DX: You said he’s not in the studio like picking beats and overseeing things, but I thought Jay-Z was executive producing the new album?
Memphis Bleek: Yeah, he is executive producing, but he ain’t holding my hand producing. [Laughs] What people expect is called holding your hand producing. What Jay is… I do what I do, all you gotta do is approve what I do. If you don’t like what I do, then you comment and say nah, I think you need to go in this direction, or nah, I feel like you can go to this – It’s the same way as having my homie in the studio saying the same thing. Like, one of my homies from the block could be in the studio with me [and] I’ll say something and he’ll be like, “Yo nah, that rhyme is weak, I ain’t feelin’ that one Bleek.” It makes him no different.
DX: Now on your “Run This Town” freestyle you said, “Independent’s splendid when it’s your own imprint / You really gettin’ it, from just spittin’ it.” Was the situation for you at Def Jam not as financially splendid? Is that why you went independent?
Memphis Bleek: If you want me to be [Laughs] 100% honest, hell no, that contract ain’t look nothing like the contract from Mass Appeal. You gotta think about it from a artist standpoint, all artists get is what they [call] advance. Advance is basically a loan from the bank. So you pay the advance back in double, when they really behind the tables bustin’ down everything your album is doing out there. So now, take the advance away and you just get a whole 50% of the whole overall pie. That’s a whole bigger look than any check or any advance. I don’t care if somebody hit the radio station and tell you right now, "Yo, I just signed for three million." That has no equal value to what I could possibly do. [Laughs] Put it like this, I have the same deal Roc-A-Fella had with Def Jam. Like, who wouldn’t want that?
Being that Jay’s my brother, and we represent it and we really got that love for each other, he blessed me with the right to [be able] to own [the] rights to everything of Memphis Bleek right now and do my own thing, and where I would own my own masters and all that. Ain’t that what we worked for? So, that’s the best thing. If he achieved it, why not show me the same light. That’s my brother, right?
DX: Right before those bars in that same freestyle you said, “Heard that I got a movement / Thought I wadn’t gon’ do it / You was just out yappin’ / I went out and pursued it.” Who was you addressing with those lines; who was just out yappin’?
Memphis Bleek: That’s a lot of personal stuff, as far as like – It’s not really industry people I don’t rock with, rappers like that that really have a industry problem with another rapper where he says something. It’s basically people from around, all my life, that was doubting me. “You never gonna do it, you just Jay’s man. You gon’ live” – It was for them people who felt like, “You just gon’ live in Jay’s shadow forever. You never gonna do your own thing.” ‘Cause look, I been screaming Get Low since The Understanding album. We could name how many rappers say they got labels, and you know they ain’t got nothing… So, that’s my thing, for the nonbelievers, man. You thought I wasn’t gonna do it, they was just out yappin’, I went out and pursued it. Because after the Roc-A-Fella thing – If you really pay attention, man, everybody running around like as if Jay owed us something. That man did all he could do for us. So it’s like, once everybody got they contracts terminated and went to make they own decisions and wanted to go they own way, you had to pick up where you left off and do your thing. Like, Jay don’t know Marcus from Mass Appeal. He don’t know Rochelle. Like, he didn’t hold my hand to make the phone call to get the deal for me. I had to get out there and grind. It’s weird how I met Marcus and Rochelle and them and even got involved with Mass Appeal. It’s all off who you know, word of mouth, and being the type of person you are that gets you in the positions you wanna be, and that’s just it.
DX: And you’re saying that there were others that were just talking about it but weren’t really being about it?
Memphis Bleek: Yeah, exactly. The results speak for itself. Like, I could sit in the crib and blame a bunch of people for all the mistakes that happened in my career, but c’mon man, that ain’t gonna do nothing. It’s like if I lose one of my homies and I’m just sitting around moping about, “Damn, he gone.” That ain’t gon’ bring him back. We gotta move on. Life goes on, right? That’s how it go. My mama always told me don’t cry about spilled milk, just clean it up and buy a new gallon. [Laughs]
DX: I’m just trying to be careful, ‘cause your publicu already told me to [Laughs] not ask…not say that specific name…
Memphis Bleek: You ain’t got to. People know what it is. Even if I don’t say nothing, people gon’ put it to that. You know how the world be. We ain’t gotta front and beat around the bush. Right or wrong, you know I could say something about something else and people gon’ be like, “Oh he talking about him!” They want it to be there, they gonna make it go there. So, it don’t matter what we talking about. We could talk about butterflies right now [Laughs].
DX: [Laughs] Well let me just clarify [that] this next verse, this came out back in August, so this is a couple months before the whole rampage from Beanie Sigel started, on “Trust Me” you said, “Got me to the point, beef is nothin’ to me/’Cause if it’s somethin’ you would see me/You just stuntin’ to me.” Was that just aimed at anonymous or was…?
Memphis Bleek: That was aimed at everybody that mentioned my name. Everybody that say Bleek this, Bleek that, sees me. I just did two tours in the last year. The Blueprint 3 Rour, we did the Heart Of The City Tour, we did the promo tour, I just did about 80 different after parties in every city, from here to the U.K., in everybody town. Now if it really was a problem you would just see me. If you don’t, you just stuntin’ to me. [Laughs] Right? So the line is – What I write I really feel. And I really be speaking my mind. Like, these dudes just be talking. It’s all about promotion. It’s all about to get a check. And that’s what I’m saying, that right there is what ruined Hip Hop, because it used to be about talent. Don’t get me wrong, KRS-One and them, and Kool Moe Dee, LL [Cool J], everybody yes, it was about battling [back then]. But at the end of the day if they did not make a hot record to generate the people to buy the album, nobody cared they was talking about such-and-such from across the way. Like everybody now just feel like I’d rather make a diss record, I get on the radio, say I’m tougher than you [and] I’m on. If you really pay attention, nobody never got beat up. Not saying I want these things to happen, I’m not a dude who sit around in the crib and be like, yo I want somebody to get killed, I want somebody to get shot, why don’t somebody get beat up. But c’mon fam, everybody saying they the most toughest killers. I ain’t seen nobody holding they eye with a piece of steak yet! [Laughs] Like, who got beat up? If you take all the toughest shit you done seen on all the websites, heard in all the interviews from 2008 and incorporate it to now, nigga everybody should have a felony. And that’s why I address it. That’s why I just did the new record, and it’s called “Still Ill.” And I say that in the record, the new joint, I say that like, “I’m back militant, ain’t nobody real as this / Everybody killers, but nobody out killin’ shit / Ain’t nobody dead yet, who bucked off the lead yet? / They just talkin’ bullshit, ain’t nobody gonna pull shit!” And that’s just it.
DX: I think we kinda already discussed this a little bit, but I wanna expound on…on “It Goes Down” you said, “Loyalty is somethin’ lost / Hov, yeah he opened doors / Gave me the green for me and my niggas to walk across.” In that verse were you speaking on your loyalty to Jay specifically, or were you addressing anybody else…?
Memphis Bleek: Loyalty period. Like, my loyalty to Jay, definitely that’s something lost in the game. If you really just pay attention to my career, I been down with Jay from before Jay was Jay, when he was known as Shawn in the projects, I been rollin’ with him, ‘til now. We went from borrowing sugar from each other house to this dude - “Yo, let me hold a G5.” And nothing changed. That’s my dude. Whether he said no on anything, or yes to anything, you have to follow orders. It’s protocol. It’s rules to a team. It’s certain things you have to do in life. And it’s just saying I made a lot of sacrifices to keep my loyalty to my team. A lot of ‘em.
DX: Speaking of, on “Notice I’m For My Fam” from that Signed & Sealed mixtape you said, “Hov hands me a G, I handed it back / Told him I ride wit’ real, real respect that.” Was this a recent situation you were referring to, or something in the past?
Memphis Bleek: It’s all over. Like, let me tell you something that just happened recently, right, you know they just did the tenth anniversary photo shoot for Roc-A-Wear? So they called me to come down there and do the picture or whatever. The Roc-A-Wear people tried to pay me, like they had a check for me at the photo shoot. And I’m like, “Nah, I can’t take that check.” I think the check was like for between I think like $7,000 to $10,000. And I’m like, “I can’t take that check.” And the dude he like, “Yo, why not?” I’m like, “Nah ‘cause this my homie's company. Why my man gotta pay me just to take some pictures? Like, this my nigga! We from the [same] projects. You don’t have to pay me. [Doing] this is nothing.” So then Jay called me the next day like, “Yo Bleek, why you ain’t take the money?” I’m like, “Yo Hov, that’s like me stealing from you, just taking money from you, c’mon. What I did for you yesterday took 15 minutes out my day, you don’t have to pay me for that. I’ma get the money some other way.” And that nigga said to me, “Yo that’s why I love you, you one of the realest niggas ever, you would never meet nobody else in the world who would do that.” And I sat back and thought about it, [and] he’s right. Who turning down money today? It’s just like, that’s my homie. That’s like if my brother, he like, yo I’m throwing a party, come to my party, and I gotta charge him for a walk-thru. Is you crazy?! C’mon. Karma is everything. You don’t have to pay me for no picture, I’m cool.
And that’s just the loyalty I have to my team. And anybody that ever been close to me, you never gon’ meet nobody that tell you yo Bleek is foul, Bleek is this… I’m always for my team first.
DX: “No Drout,” with Casino, on that you said, “And yes I still get money off books / Off the cook, that’s a good look.” Now, [Laughs] I don’t know how I can ask this question without sounding like the police, but [Laughs] are you…?
Memphis Bleek: Nah, that was just some rhyming shit. [Laughs] Yeah that was some rhyming shit. C’mon, I can’t of course – You think I’m in the kitchen cookin’ up? You lost your mind. Yo man, I just came from Bratislava on vacation. People don’t even know where that’s at! [Laughs] You think I’m selling crack? That’s what I’m talking about, I’m doing the extreme in life, I ain’t going back for nuttin’, you crazy?
DX: Well I noticed your content, at least on the mixtapes, is still like on the street level like you’re still in Marcy.
Memphis Bleek: Yeah, yeah, that’s right, ‘cause I do it for my – I’m around it, like I know a bunch of people who still in the street, like don’t get me wrong. But, I can’t sit up here and lie to you and tell you I done did four albums and I’m still cookin’ crack. [Laughs] Somebody gon’ listen to this interview and be like, oh he’s lying crazy! C’mon, like be for real, I can’t do that!
DX: Now…I gotta go back to the whole label situation a litle bit. “Say So” with Uncle Murda is probably my favorite new joint of yours that I’ve heard so far, and on that track you said this is the new edition of the Roc. Now, we gotta clarify this ‘cause I was under the impression that was J. Cole and the other new artists Jay had signed to Roc Nation.
Memphis Bleek: Yeah, see that song came out late. We had did that song awhile ago, when Uncle Murda, Tru Life, me, everybody was still on the Roc La Familia/Roc-A-Fella thing. We had a couple of people up there. So I was saying this the new edition, like speaking of what went down. That song was made actually before everything went down, which was crazy. But Uncle Murda and Tru Life, them are my brothers. So they always gon’ be a part of whatever we doing, it don’t matter.
DX: But you know we gotta clarify, why didn’t Bleek and everybody [remaining at Roc-A-Fella as of 2008] make their way over to Roc Nation?
Memphis Bleek: I coulda went to Roc Nation, but then what am I getting out of that? Another $150,000 check advance, then I come out [and] sell 300,000 probably, somebody makes two or three million, and I gotta mess with the fact that they gon’ say yo you bricked out? Like that’s the industry. And that’s [with a label run by] my homie. Now if [it’s] somebody else, [they] might not even get a 150 [thousand dollar] advance, they probably go get 30. And plus I’d rather be on my own, fam. I been in the game, like you said a decade now, I know what to do; I know what not to do. It’s time for me to have my own record [label]. I got a lot of niggas behind me that’s ready to get they shot. And me being behind Jay, they ain’t gonna never get they shot. [Laughs]
DX: Just out of curiosity, how long you been in this particular mind frame? This just happened in the past couple years, it happened after the last album, like when did it…?
Memphis Bleek: Yeah after the last album. After 534 I been about I gotta do my thing. Because I felt like 534 was a people’s album. It was very opinionated, put it that way. Everything was like, “Yo how this sound? How you like this? What kind of beats should I use?” Everything was opinionated, like I was second-guessing everything. So I wanted people opinion to see what they was listening to now so I could get in that zone. So I feel like that was a people’s album and I let a good opportunity slip by. So that’s why I’m like – And on this [new] album, this is about me, this is about what I do, it’s The Process about what I went through all that to get to this point to have my own, and have my team and do…man, all that blood, sweat and tears, it finally paid off. So now it’s like you said, another shot in the arm, rejuvenated.
DX: On another dope joint that leaked out, “Why They Hate Me,” you said, “I think now I know why, ‘cause I run with Jay and I’m from Bed Stuy,” and then you go on to say, “Is it ‘cause of my ties you won’t show me no respect / Or the fact my big homie he hand me down jets” – like you mentioned earlier…
Memphis Bleek: I wanna know why. I’m not a hater, you don’t see me on niggas' interviews just talking about somebody who has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m doing, and I’m just hatin’ on his movement. I ain’t never been that guy. I never been the guy who made a mistake, took a L, then be in the public eye whining about it, blaming, pointing fingers. I never been that guy neither. From all you ever seen me is, whether my homie’s right or wrong, he always been right in my eyes, and I’ma stand 100% by him. Why wouldn’t you wanna root for that nigga? Like, that’s all I’m saying. I still be baffled like, damn, why niggas hate me? Like would it make everybody happier if I just come out and just say yo, I’ma get at Jay, I’ma make a diss record, [Laughs] it’s beef now, me and Hov. Like, would everybody be better? Would everybody day run smoother? I be wanting to know this.
Purchase The Process by Memphis Bleek