July 18, 2008

Memphis Bleek - Coming Of Age (August 3, 1999)


Shawn Carter once had that Pain In Da Ass guy describe his seat filler Malik Cox, known to his mother as Memphis Bleek, as the "new and improved Jay-Z". He was fucking kidding, right? At that point, Jay had only released two or three albums, and he felt that he had enough clout to name somebody the second coming of himself?

Well, yeah. That was always the point. When Jay-Z first pulled a young Memphis Bleek out of a puddle of piss in the rusted stairwells of the Marcy Projects, he was grooming him as a possible replacement (older hip hop fans will recall that Shawn Carter had never actually intended to continue rhyming as long as he has). Bleek first appeared on Jay's "Coming Of Age", off of Reasonable Doubt, spitting some shit that Shawn clearly wrote for him to spit, and the song was well-received enough to assume that people actually wanted to hear more of Bleek's high-pitched Jigga impersonation.

Bleek borrowed the title of his breakthrough song for his solo debut, Coming Of Age, which was released on Roc-A-Fella Records in 1999. Bleek aimed for the fans of Shawn Carter who appreciated the street tales, but had always wanted to hear them performed with less talent. Shawn, alongside his business partners Dame Dash and Kareem Burke, got to practice playing the president of his own label, and even spotted Bleek a cameo (as if anybody would have bought this album without a Jay-Z appearance). Shawn also top-loaded Coming Of Age with other Roc-A-Fella artists, as if this was an ad-hoc label sampler: the most notable of these coworkers (and the only one still working today) was the newly-signed Beanie Sigel, the Philadelphia phenom. (The rapper Noreaga, from Capone-N-Noreaga, also makes an appearance, and, curiously enough, he would later actually become part of the Roc-A-Fella family, right before the vanity label imploded under the weight of the egos of Shawn and Dame.)

Coming Of Age went on to sell over five hundred thousand records, but the statistic that is unknown is how many of those copies were returned to the store the very next day after the listener realized that he was just ripped off by Def Jam. Oh, I kid, I kid. Dude was co-signed by Shawn Carter, one of the best rappers in the game today: how bad could he possibly be?

1. PAIN IN DA ASS INTRO (FEAT PAIN IN DA ASS)
Sure, start off your debut solo album almost exactly like Shawn Carter started one of his discs. That won't cause critics to make comparisons at all.

2. WHO'S SLEEPING (FEAT REB OF DIAMONDS IN DA ROUGH)
Memphis Bleek somehow scored a DJ Premier-produced solo introductory track on one of his boss's solo albums. Unsurprisingly, name-brand producers of that particular caliber are nowhere to be found on Coming Of Age. Still, the beat isn't bad, and Bleek doesn't sound completely out of his league, but that hook is awful.

3. MEMPHIS BLEEK IS...
This was the first single, I think, and it was produced by the even-at-this-point-in-time overexposed Swizz Beats, but to his credit, the song isn't entirely awful. Not that either party wasn't actively shooting for crap, but somehow their efforts cancelled each other out, in spite of themselves.

4. WHAT YOU THINK OF THAT (FEAT JAY-Z)
Buckwild's beat didn't really impress me until the horns kicked in. Sadly, though, the lyricism on this track is all-around sucktastic. Bleek inadvertently calls out for the wrath of Nasir Jones with his opening lines (a beef that I still can't determine a cause for), and Jigga sounds as drowsy as a post-9/11 Raekwon The Chef. When even the Hova feature isn't good enough for Max, you know the album will have some issues.

5. MURDA 4 LIFE (FEAT JA RULE)
I can't believe I'm about to write this sentence: Ja Rule does a better job on this track than his host. And now, a qualifier: I can't fucking stand Jeffrey Atkins. I hate his music more than I hate the efforts of Curtis Jackson (and possibly Lil Wayne, depending on how much more exposure he receives for his latest album). I'm sure he's lovely in person, but I can't listen to his music. Still, this track was produced by Irv Gotti, Ja's right hand man (and Viagra carrier), so Ja kind of would have to sound good over this beat, right? (If I understand correctly, this track also appeared on one of Ja Rule's solo albums, but that factoid doesn't make this song automatically sound better or anything.)

6. YOU'RE ALL WELCOME (PAIN INTERLUDE)
...

7. STAY ALIVE IN NYC
This isn't bad at all. Memph's stab at an observant role a la Jay-Z actually succeeds, although the beat sometimes sounds a bit too dramatic for its own good. This isn't 20/20 or Dateline NBC, J-Runnah, it's just a rap song.

8. YOU A THUG N---A
No, I'm not, but I can understand how you would get me confused with one. Thank you, though. But I'm just the guy that's writing that this song isn't very good.

9. N.O.W. (FEAT DA RANJAHZ)
I actually cannot recall a fucking thing about this song.

10. EVERYBODY
Meh.

11. I WON'T STOP (FEAT DARK HALF OF DA RANJAHZ)
"I won't stop for bitch n----z"? That's the chorus? Seriously? You don't have that many fans, Bleek: you better stop for every fucking person that wants you to stop. Those autographs don't sign themselves, just like that weed won't carry itself.

12. MY HOOD TO YOUR HOOD (FEAT BEANIE SIGEL)
At one point, Bleek and Sigel were poised to take over the Roc-A-Fella empire, right before Dame Dash fucked up and signed Cam'Ron. Personally, I never understood the appeal of either one of these guys, but I always preferred Sigel to Bleek because Beanie performed on "Adrenaline", a track by his hometown heroes, The Roots , an album which I promise I will review at some point before heaven freezes over. The beat is simple as hell, but overall, the back-and-forth is pretty damn entertaining.

13. WHY YOU WANNA HATE FOR? (FEAT N.O.R.E. B/K/A NOREAGA)
Because it's so much fun, dunn! This song was released during the short time period in which Noreaga could seemingly do no wrong: every cameo appearance he made was acclaimed, and his solo album N.O.R.E. was still moving units. Well, kids, I'm here to tell you: the beat overpowers both artists, although it sounded like neither one of them rhymed to impress anyway (it was hard to tell, considering how much of a monster the instrumental is).

14. REGULAR CAT
Malik decides to end his solo debut not unlike his boss, who used to have a penchant for ending his discs with slower-paced songs that reflected on his past or his family. Here, Bleek touches on his time in the drug game. At this point, it won't surprise anyone to find out that Max wasn't impressed.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Coming Of Age plays like a four-year-old who is as conceited as young men five times his age, but without the life experience to back up his words. This was purely a Z-grade Roc-A-Fella experience: if Shawn Carter represents Paramount or Dreamworks, Memphis Bleek is easily Troma: overall, incredibly stupid, but there are elements of the album that are somewhat appealing and entertaining. Alas, this album sold well enough to warrant a solo career for young Malik Cox, but that doesn't surprise me, considering what albums hip hop fans are actually buying in 2008.

BUY OR BURN? There is no real need to do either one of those options. Your world won't stop if you never hear this album. Conversely, if you do go out of your way to find this disc, then you have way too much time on your hands, and should go perform charity work to make the world a better place.

BEST TRACKS: "My Hood To Your Hood"; "Memphis Bleek Is..."

-Max

7 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    I actually know some one who has not bought a cd after he heard this trash. Memphis Bleek turned him away from buying music for life. How this didn't get put into the ranks of drink coaster I have no idea.

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  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 18, 2008

    Memphis Bleek sucks. I remember someone once asked him what qualities he had to be a good rapper. He answered that he was really arrogant and cocky. That proved to be his only skill which left all his boasts and threats sounding hollow.

    Also, I don't believe that Jay-Z ever planned to retire early. He just pulled a Barbara Streisand every year to heighten anticipation for his fifth consecutive final album.

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  3. AnonymousJuly 19, 2008

    Word. I agree that this album would be best served as a "Drink Coaster" or "Plate to break trees on" depending on your vice...

    I also agree that Ja sucks ASS!! But will have to admit before his career took off after that awful Veni,Vetti, whateva bullshit album. He sounded aight on the track mentioned above and even on the Belly soundtrack....

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  4. "Those autographs don't sign themselves, just like that weed won't carry itself."

    Haha. Priceless.

    EyeSee.

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  5. bleek sucks dick

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  6. boring rapper with a boring content with boring beats, protoman hates weak rappers!!

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  7. Regular Cat sounds just like I Love My Life off of NORE. I always hated that but Bleek is not as bad as u make him out to be and Bean's 1st album is almost classic

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