Memphis Bleek Interview
|Label:||Get Low/Mass Appeal/E1|
|Next Project:||The Process|
|Twitter:||Memphis Bleek on Twitter|
|Website:||Memphis Bleek's Website|
Behind the scenes, a lot of work goes into making a hit record. Contrary to popular belief, however, it isn’t as easy as snatching a beat machine and creating a YouTube account. Through four full-length LPs, rapper Memphis Bleek has struggled to get the attention he has desired. Thus, he has decided to title his upcoming fifth album, “The Process,” in an attempt to shine some light on what really goes on behind closed doors.
As a fifteen year old from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, New York, Bleek joined childhood friend Jay-Z for the rise of the famed, Roc-A-Fella Records. Since its conception, though, the label has had its moments in and out of the limelight and Bleek has yet to achieve full blown stardom. In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJ “Z,” Bleek steps into the booth to talk about the gift and curse of riding shotgun to Jay, why the label will no longer be apart of his single selection and the reason why a “Dynasty Pt. 2” would never materialize.
Listen to the Interview
Memphis Bleek Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a original member of the ROC. Later this year he will release his fifth studio album of the past ten years, entitled “The Process.” Please welcome my man Memphis Bleek – how you doin’?
Memphis Bleek: I’m chillin’, man, what it is? You know what it is, man: workin’, grindin’ – if you ain’t grindin’, you in the crib high.
DJ Booth: Exactly. “Let It Off,” is the street single you’re rollin’ out with. Before I ask you any official questions, go ahead and let it all off your chest. Tell our audience what Bleek has been up to…
Memphis Bleek: Ah, man – you know, I had a baby boy, you know, I’ve been bein’ a dad-
DJ Booth: Congratulations.
Memphis Bleek: Thank you, man; I feel like that’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve been workin’, hangin’ with my son every single day. I’ve been doin’ a couple of side things, workin’ to get artists on my label, workin’ on clothing line, workin’ in a rim company – bunch of stuff. I just been movin’; tourin’ with Jay around the country, around the world.
DJ Booth: I saw you in Chicago when you made your stop for the American Gangster tour.
Memphis Bleek: Okay, yeah! Chi-town, that’s my next spot – that’s my second favorite place in the world next to New York.
DJ Booth: That’s what I like to hear; you’re not just saying that because you’re on the phone with me, right?
Memphis Bleek: Definitely not. I got so many peoples out there – my man Big Rob out there, holdin’ it down heavy.
DJ Booth: You dropped a joint back in November entitled “Breakfast,” and in it you spit the line, “Media, they make sh*t up about the break up/ who stayed and who took what.” Lucky for you, I’m not the media that you’re talkin’ about in that song. So, clear some stuff up here: what was the most absurd and completely untrue rumor that you heard about yourself or the ROC?
Memphis Bleek: I heard plenty of rumors about myself. I heard I was married to the girl, Courtney Cox, from the TV show “Friends.” A lot of things, man – the most wildest thing I heard about the breakup is that people say Jay “stole” Roc-A-Fella. I felt like that’s such a slap in the face – he created it; he made it. Without him, there is no Roc-A-Fella.
DJ Booth: What if it had been you, not just Jay, let’s say, who was first signed to Def Jam, and released “Reasonable Doubt” to critical acclaim. Prophesize for me how things might be today as we speak.
Memphis Bleek: It’d probably be the same way! We both Marcy dudes. What happens in life is inevitable to happen – it’s bound to happen. You know you want things to be a certain way, but we all know it’s not that way, you know what I’m sayin’? So the way things are, is how they’re supposed to be, and that’s the only way it’s ever gonna be.
DJ Booth: So let me ask you: has riding shotgun with Jay your whole career been more of a blessing or a curse?
Memphis Bleek: Both. It’s a blessing for the fact that I get a chance to show my talent and do a bunch of music and go see the world, explore different things, show my family a different side of life – that’s the blessing. But the curse is that I’m stuck in the shadow that the sun never comes to shine on – no matter what I do, no matter how much I stand on my own, hang by myself, do my own videos, don’t do records with Jay, I’m always gonna be there. That’s why I named my album “The Process,” ‘cauce it’s a process at what I do – me bein’ who I am. I don’t say nothin’; I don’t whine, I don’t show off. I’m just me.
DJ Booth: Bleek, what or who then do you think has prevented you up to this point from achieving full blown commercial success?
Memphis Bleek: I could blame myself. That’s the only person I blame, is myself.
DJ Booth: What do you think you could have done more of?
Memphis Bleek: I could’ve done more records. I could’ve exposed myself more to the people. I felt like, in a way it’s good, ‘cause I can still come out and a lot of people haven’t ever heard of me – I ain’t burned myself out as most would. I feel I could’ve done more with the opportunities I had.
DJ Booth: Okay, so, compare and contrast Memphis Bleek the artist, from the day you jumped on with Jay for “Coming of Age,” off of “Reasonable Doubt,” to right now.
Memphis Bleek: Oh, I’m a different dude. Back then it was nothin – like, back then, with everything that’s goin’ on right now, I’d probably be goin’ off crazy, f-this, f-that. But now I’ve got things to live for and I’ve got things to think about, and I’ve got responsibilities, just to sum it all up. Back then I had no responsibilities; I was just an ignorant young teen, runnin’ around, ready to get into anything that what in front of me.
DJ Booth: Who do you owe the most credit to for that growth, maturity and responsibility?
Memphis Bleek: Jay, definitely. I never had a father figure. My brother, he was the OG to me in the household, he raised me. Once I started goin’ around the world, Jay taught me how to be a man. I left home at fifteen; I was livin’ on my own man at age 15. I didn’t know how to go grocery shopping; I didn’t know how to do nothing. My mom did everything for me. But once I got up with Jay, and we started tourin’ and goin’ on the road, he taught me how to be a man on my own. I grew up a lot quicker than a lot of these dudes out here.
DJ Booth: Certainly. As we’ve been talking about, the new album’s going to be called “The Process.” What has to happen this time around so that the end result of this process is an ultimate success?
Memphis Bleek: I just have to get everybody on the same page. I feel like “534” was such a great album, but when it came down to promoting it and gettin’ the people, the fans, and everybody, they didn’t even know the album was comin’ out. They didn’t even have nothing to hate on! They didn’t know it was coming. Once the dots connect and everybody knows what’s goin’ on, then it’ll be right.
DJ Booth: Your label mates, Freeway and Beans, both recently dropped albums, but neither received a healthy amount of promotion, as you alluded to, and both have expressed their frustration and disappointment. So, knowing that that was their situation not too long ago, does that worry you going forward?
Memphis Bleek: No, it doesn’t worry me, ‘cause a hit record promotes itself. If I drop something that’s out of this world, phenomenally crazy, I don’t need nobody to promote me – it promotes itself. All the label can do is put my record out. [If] you make a record in your house, you feel it in your heart that this is the record. Now you give it to your label like, “This is my record. Put it out.” If it don’t work, is it their fault it didn’t work, or is it your fault? And if it does work, is it their fault that it worked, or is it your fault? Because all they did was just put the music in the person’s hand – they just the middleman, if you think about it. I go to an office with a record; they go to Funkmaster Flex with the record. Now, I don’t need to go to the office with the record; I can go straight to Funkmaster Flex with my own record, you see what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: Definitely.
Memphis Bleek: It’s a fifty-fifty chance, just like buyin’ a lottery ticket. If I buy this ticket and I won, was it my lucky day, or I just happened to win? You never know. It’s just the same thing. Every record, you never know what happens; the people decide what’s a hit and what ain’t a hit. I could sit here and say all my records is dope, the craziest records. And if I put it out, somebody’s like, “You know what? That’s trash!” What can I do about it? I could blame Jay. [laughter]
DJ Booth: Well, let’s play devil’s advocate. You’re right – you go straight to Flex, he plays it, everyone loves it, you’re gonna get a good response. But let’s say you do get that good response, the label knows about it, you push this song to the label, but they don’t market it correctly. Then it’s their fault, right?
Memphis Bleek: Definitely! But once again, as I said, if it’s a hit record, it markets itself. Everybody talkin’ ‘bout, “Down South music ain’t this, Down South music is that,” “Ring tone music ain’t this, ring tone music is that.” Me, I basically have no problem with all genres of music. I listen to everything. Take Flo Rida’s new record. I’m from New York, I don’t know what he look like, but I’ll bet you every time I turn on my TV, I turn on my radio, I go to the club, or I speak to my son, I’ll hear something about that record.
DJ Booth: Agreed.
Memphis Bleek: But who marketing it? I still don’t know what he look like, but his record is so big it markets itself. It don’t need nobody to be out there sayin’, “Yo, this is the new joint; this is hot.” He’s so hot already, and it does it for itself. Would you say the label did that for him, or would you say he did that?
DJ Booth: Well, the label knew which way to take the record. Some artists, they don’t want to be known as ring tone rappers, or digital sale rappers.
Memphis Bleek: See, that’s where the people get it wrong. Just like every other MC – the Hurricane Chris’, the Soulja Boy’s, everybody, they put their records out by themselves and then got a record deal. Nobody sees that part. Everybody just sees the record, and then be like, “Who he signed to?” and think, “Hey, the label did it.” No! It’s all on them! That goes to show you, ya don’t need no label.
DJ Booth: So with all the experience you’ve gained and the knowledge and insight that you’ve been able to garner through the years, do you feel that you’re now in the best possible place to put out a record and not have to worry about the insider BS that plagued you earlier in your career?
Memphis Bleek: Definitely. I don’t have to worry about seven people tellin’ me “This is not the record.” Because, once I feel it’s the record, like I said, I cut the middleman out. I go straight to the DJ with it; I don’t have to go to my company with it.
DJ Booth: You’re your own boss.
Memphis Bleek: Exactly. So I don’t need nobody’s approval to say, “Put this record out.” “534,” man, that was a great album – the timing was wrong. Could I say that was the label’s fault? No, because I was all for droppin’ the album myself. They was like, “Drop it,” and so was I. We both were wrong!
DJ Booth: From what you learned, you’re definitely using that experience it in the right way.
Memphis Bleek: Definitely. It’s all on you as the MC to get your music out there and heard. The record label can’t even keep up with the time right now. No company in this industry knows how to promote on the Internet yet.
DJ Booth: Yet. Very true – maybe within the next two to three years. Once they figure out how digital works the best way, and I think they will, that’s when the money will start goin’ up again.
Memphis Bleek: Exactly! Like, new artists – I wanna just put this out there – if you’re a new artist and you’re workin’ on a song, you should just make your record, get it as hot as you can – put it out; get it hot – then you make the record deal, instead of someone handin’ you a deal. People was gettin’ their ring tone money snatched from them, part of their show money – kinda crazy, isn’t that?
DJ Booth: Definitely, considering that it’s the biggest means of income right now.
Memphis Bleek: And you gotta give the record company half of that. See, when I signed a contract, there was no such thing as a ring tone. Cell phones just got made! [laughter]
DJ Booth: You just made yourself sound real old, Bleek.
Memphis Bleek: I don’t care! I’m about 27 right now, man, so I’ve been in this game since I was fifteen years old. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, and I thank God that I’m still here to have the chance to even say, “I’m workin’ on my fifth album.”
DJ Booth: Definitely. It certainly speaks to your longevity. I spoke to both Beans and Freeway last year and they both said that a “Dynasty: Part 2” album has been discussed amongst you all. Wanna elaborate on that at all?
Memphis Bleek: That’s not happening.
DJ Booth: Not happening?
Memphis Bleek: Naw. I ain’t even heard nothing about it. And I don’t wanna make it sound like I’m callin’ them no liars or nothing, but, the way things are now with egos… I’m always listen to one thing, man, when it comes to family. Jay said it the best, “You know who your friends are when all of y’all have money.” Because when we was all broke, sittin’ in the studio, there was no “the label marketing my records wrong.” There was nobody to blame, there was no company. We were all new; we were all going to come up. That’s why I’m sayin’, why do the rules change now?
DJ Booth: Well, they shouldn’t.
Memphis Bleek: Exactly. The grind remains the same, it’s just the effort you put into the grind.
DJ Booth: Okay. So, for the sake of good music, can’t you check the egos at the door, hold the money to the side, and say, “Let’s all get together and make some good music?”
Memphis Bleek: Exactly. That’s what I wanna see. I don’t wanna see no food budget in the studio. I got my own money; I can go eat at any restaurant they ever made in this world. I wanna see it go back to the D and D studios, man. Let’s go back to when it wasn’t nothing, nobody had nothing to live for, nothing to care about. You just was writin’ your hear out. Let’s do that again! And that’s why the magic happened, because it was all natural. When you force music, it don’t happen.
DJ Booth: And you know what you can’t do? You can’t fool the consumer.
Memphis Bleek: No you can’t, yo. And that’s one thing I never tried to do.
DJ Booth: The whole entire process has been a great ordeal for your career, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck moving forward, of course, with this year’s project, hopefully droppin’ sooner rather than later. Give everybody a website or a Myspace page so they can find out more.
Memphis Bleek: Good lookin’ out and same to you, man. Yeah, they could definitely go to my Myspace; it’s myspace.com/memphisbleek. I got the website comin’, it’s being worked on now, memphisbleek.com. Just be checkin’ for me, man. And I’d like to thank everybody for supportin’ Roc-A-Fella, and we ain’t gonna never go nowhere – we here forever.
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