Tuesday, January 23, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 80



Rapper Jay-Z's protégé, Memphis Bleek still coming of age on 'The Understanding'

By Jake McKim
Daily Cougar Staff

Jay-Z, whom many consider the greatest living emcee, has made a name for himself as a ghetto poet -- someone willing to tell true-to-life street narratives without holding back.

Along the way, Jay has made many friends, some that have impressive credentials as rappers themselves.

One of the lucky few who have been snatched up by the Jigga Man and given a chance to shine is Memphis Bleek, the 21-year-old lyrical gun slinger who grew up with Jay-Z in the rough Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Memph Man signed on with Jayis Roc-A-Fella Records back in 95, and has made cameos on hit after hit for the company. Unfortunately, that same success hasnit been associated with his own recordings as of yet. 

Bleekis debut album, Coming of Age, went gold (500,000 copies sold), but in todayis sales-driven music industry, gold equals disappointment. 

Now Bleek has returned with The Understanding, a record that looks like it could outsell his debut, thanks in part to the Timbaland-produced "Is That Your Chick," a track that would make George Dubya bob his head.

The Understanding features the usual array of Roc-A-Fella emcees including Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel and Amil, and a few big names like R&B crooner Carl Thomas, the rugged yet enjoyable Missy Elliot and the fast-tongued rapper Twista of the Do or Die Crew.

Itis going to be a difficult road to travel for Bleek or any other Jay-Z protégé to break from the long shadow of Jay. Itis doubly important that he prove heis his own man, that he can spit lyrics better than most and that heis not just a Jay hanger-on.

From the sounds of things on The Understanding, Bleek may be on the way to accomplishing this feat with the key words being "on the way." He clearly is struggling to escape the moniker "Jay-Zis protégé," and The Understanding wonit help his cause.

Bleekis biggest problem? Weak production for the most part. Despite impressive lyrical delivery, Bleek has yet to be blessed with the bounce-inducing production of some of todayis best hip-hop producers (save for Timbaland). 

"Do My ..." featuring Jay-Z, "We Get Low" and "Hustlers" featuring Beanie Sigel do their best to try and equal the production work of Jay-Zis past albums, but end up sounding like cheap imitations. "Change Up" and "PYT" will get the party started, but besides "Is That Your Chick," nothing stands out as groundbreaking.

Anyone who has heard the bling-blinging, ice-flossini Memphis Bleek knows the best is yet to come from this youngster, but in the meantime, heill have to settle for being "that guy that hangs out with Jay-Z."

Memphis Bleek

The Understanding
Roc-A-Fella Records

*** (of five)

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