If there was ever a poster boy for having friends in high places and reaping the benefits look no further than Memphis Bleek. Diddy’s legendary refrain “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks” doesn’t apply to Bleek because thus far all he’s really done is recite rhymes, Jay-Z’s to be exact, and despite the occasional desperate and disastrously awkward shampoo commercial, Hov still seems to be writing the checks for his Marcy Projects protégé.
Memphis Bleek on his own would have released one, maybe two LPs tops, but his career was never really a significant enough factor to ever really suffer from falling off. At a still spry 33 years young, Memphis Bleek, perhaps frustrated with the in-limbo status of his 2011-slated LP, The Process, said ‘f*ck it’ and has truly gone for delf with his first ever mixtape The Movement.
Bleek is faced with a difficult challenge, as most of the cats with careers that started in the 90’s are nowhere to be found. That ones that have managed to stay relevant have done so by managing to update their formulas, word to Guru, and maintain the type of artistic aesthetic that made them a name in the first place. The 2000s are littered with the carcasses of rappers’ careers that went a little bit too far in conforming to what was hot at the moment. They lost long-time fans while not gaining any new ones; a one-two punch that KO’d a lot of cats with fanbases born before 1985. Then again, there aren’t too many Memphis Bleek fanboys running around and the lack of real expectations in regards to his new material allows Bleek to spread his wings without creative constraint. The Movement’s production is helmed by relative unknowns T-Nyce, Knoxx, Phrayze & Rell, and TT, all of which furnish productions that are firmly in the classic Roc-A-Fella lane along with sounds that cater more to what the kiddies are listening to these days.
To his credit, Bleek does the majority of the heavy lifting lyrically but his efforts on The Movement only amount to an exercise in the glaring reality that there’s not much to see here without the cosign he used to benefit from via the Big Homie. “Forever Ball” uses the same sample Common Sense did on “Thisisme” from Resurrection and makes essentially the same song, sans the genuine introspection. On the chorus, he dutifully promises to “twist sumthin’ up for the homies that ain’t here” in between verses talking about cars he’s driven and “big houses on both coasts.” “Boom Bye Bye,” featuring Dynasty, sounds like a demo for MMG complete with warbly autotune, heavy synth presence, and escalating vroom lasers at the beginning.
“ROC Boys” is a surefire banger in which producer Knoxx uses a Weezy snippet in much the same way Swizz Beatz did Hov for “Bring Em Out.” While it bears more than a passing resemblance to “Put You On Game” by Game structurally, it bangs a little bit harder. Prepare for the eventuality of a neck brace after listening to it. It’s the type of song that could blow if it received any type of push from on high but it doesn’t look like Jay-Z is coming to lend a hand anytime soon.
Has Bleek finally made a name for himself? Nope, but he has laid the groundwork for riding out on his own without training wheels. Hip-Hop has a short memory and Memphis Bleek never warranted much of one anyway, in spite of his newfound independent spirit The Movement may be too little too late if he hoped to capitalize on his famous association. Spliff Starr managed to eat for years off of Busta Rhymes, with the touring, the features, and Flipmode Squad. Bleek should have followed suit and got more while the getting was good.
Out of 5
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