On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN were joined by Memphis Bleek to discuss the downfall of Roc-A-Fella Records, standout moments with JAY-Z, seeing Michael Jackson, and much more.
Born Malik Deshawn Cox in New York City, Bleek released his impressive debut, Coming of Age, in 1999. The album was praised for tracks like “Memphis Bleek Is…” and “What You Think of That.” His sophomore effort, The Understanding, was released in 2000 and was later RIAA-certified gold. The 14-record project housed tracks such as “Do My…” featuring JAY-Z and offered a mature, nuanced perspective of life through incisive lyrics.
A few years later, Bleek returned with another solid project, M.A.D.E., which further illustrated his lyrical prowess through songs like “Round Here.” While music had always been at the forefront, Bleek also ventured into acting and was featured in the 2002 movie Paper Soldiers.
After his “Drink Champs” appearance, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from Memphis Bleek’s interview. Check them out below and watch the full episode here if you missed it.
1. On JAY-Z bringing Michael Jackson out during Summer Jam
During HOT 97’s Summer Jam in 2001, JAY-Z brought out Michael Jackson for arguably one of the most legendary moments in hip hop that year. It took place after Hov performed “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” which was produced by Kanye West and sampled The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” Afterward, The Blueprint rapper gave an interview where he was quite literally left speechless.
Bleek explained, “Hov just felt like it was nothing to say. Ralph [McDaniels] wanted to interview him, and it’s like, what do you say right after you get offstage of bringing Mike up there? He was like, ‘You know what? Y’all go ‘head, y’all do y’all thing.’ That was the green light to be like, ‘Oh s**t, okay.’”
2. On Dame Dash’s role in JAY-Z’s success
Dame Dash is widely known for co-founding Roc-A-Fella Records with JAY-Z as well as managing the iconic artist before things went south personally and professionally. Bleek spoke about how despite their sour relationship, the entrepreneur still played a significant role in JAY-Z’s success.
“Dame wasn’t around for the ride, neither was Biggs — everybody played a major role. When I came around, it was Clark Kent and Hov running around in the studio,” Bleek said. “Dame had the industry, the knowledge of being a manager. Hov was straight from the block. He didn’t know nothing about the industry.”
3. On Emory Jones pleading guilty in a drug trafficking case
JAY-Z’s close friend, Emory Jones, pleaded guilty to drug distribution in 1997. He was reportedly sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2000 and referenced by the rapper on tracks like “Do U Wanna Ride.” Although the Paper Planes co-founder missed out on much of Hov’s journey from rags to riches, Bleek provided insights into his decision.
“Emory bet it all on Hov,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Damn, what Emory do? What happened?’ I start doing my research, and they just like, ‘N**gas ain’t do nothing. N**gas was telling, trying to bring the whole regime down or whatever, and Emory said, ‘F**k it, I’ll take the weight for it. It’s me.’’ It’s like wait, what? That’s triple OG.”
4. On securing tickets for Beyoncé’s “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR”
Later in the interview, Bleek shared his difficulties securing tickets for Beyoncé’s “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR.” According to the emcee, the arena run was stopping in Philadelphia during his wife’s birthday, and after having trouble getting the hookup from Roc Nation’s staff, he had to ask Hov.
According to Bleek, “I was like, ‘F**k it, it’s wifey. I got to hold it down.’ So, I hit all the top dogs. I ain’t even gonna say no names, but all the bosses… All of them said, ‘Yo, you Bleek, you buggin’? You know you gotta hit JAY.’ So I’m like, ‘Aight, I tried not to, but now I got to hit you.’”
5. On the first day he met DMX
Similar to “Drink Champs” alumni Ja Rule, Bleek has some incredibly fond memories of DMX from before he passed. Bleek and X worked together on JAY-Z’s “Money, Cash, H**s.” In his conversation with N.O.R.E. and EFN, the lyricist detailed the first day he met the Ruff Ryders rapper.
Bleek recalled, “[The] first day I met X, he got us… I think Ja was on here and told the same story. X got the car towed by the police [on the highway]. Then, we went to some girl’s crib. He told her, ‘Yeah, what y’all got to eat? Gotta feed the dogs. The dogs is hungry.’ Word, they made them fry some fish and some chicken for dogs.”
6. On JAY-Z writing Memphis Bleek’s “Coming Of Age” verse
“Coming Of Age” served as a standout cut on JAY-Z’s album Reasonable Doubt. As revealed by DJ Clark Kent in an interview with Complex, Hov ghost-wrote for then-teenage Bleek, who contributed to the second verse and chorus. It was initially intended for Shyheim, but the Staten Island native passed on it.
“[JAY-Z] opens the notebook, he rips a piece of paper out the notebook and just hands me the piece of paper. He said, ‘As fast as you remember this piece of paper is as fast as you’ll be on.’ No beat, no nothing. I take the piece of paper… First of all, Hov used to write in the smallest handwriting, so you could barely understand it,” Bleek explained. “Probably like an hour tops, on God, I go back upstairs. They’re still there. I’m like, ‘Yo, I got it.’”
7. On wanting to do a Verzuz with Juelz Santana
During his visit to “Drink Champs,” Juelz Santana downplayed the thought of doing a Verzuz battle against Memphis Bleek, which led the latter to challenge his contemporary. On Twitter, the Marcy Projects artist wrote, “That’s been my G, but he can get this [fire emoji].” Though the pair teased a possible match in the months that followed, it ultimately never came to fruition.
“Swizz, holla at me. He don’t want that smoke. He said I ain’t want that smoke. We was promoting my artist s**t. I went on Twitter and said something, and they hyped it up. He went back and forth, and there was smoke, and I went up [to Roc Nation] and made it official. You want that smoke, holla at me,” Bleek explained.
8. On the downfall of Roc-A-Fella
A few years after Roc-A-Fella was founded by JAY-Z, Biggs, and Dame, Def Jam purchased 50 percent of the company, and it subsequently went defunct in 2013 due to the issues behind the scenes. Bleek chimed in on the situation, sharing that artists like Foxy Brown, Peedi Crakk, Young Gunz, and several others ultimately ended up getting the shorter end of the stick.
“I ain’t want it to be over. We still had a lot to accomplish. There was still a lot of talent there… Peedi [Crakk] never got off. It’s a lot of n**gas who didn’t get a chance, caught up in grown men’s bulls**t,” Bleek stated. “I built my whole life since 14 years old [on] Roc-A-Fella to the time I was 28.”
9. On Dame Dash saying that JAY-Z was jealous of him dating Aaliyah
During a sit-down with the “That’s F**ked Up” podcast, Dame alleged that Hov was “bitter” over him pursuing Aaliyah. The former was reportedly dating the late singer when she died. Like many people, Bleek was taken aback by the claims given that it’s been over two decades since the “Rock The Boat” artist passed away.
As Bleek told it, “That was always Dame’s lady, God bless. I don’t know where that angle come from. I don’t know where any angle come from with Dame still speaking on the situation. That s**t almost 30 years ago, bro… Hov done created six, seven businesses since the fall of Roc-A-Fella.”
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