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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
4/18/2005 3:08:58 PM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Memphis Bleek.

For rapper Memphis Bleek, the first artist ever signed to the legendary Roc-A-Fella Records, everything has come full circle. With the May 17th release of his new album 534, named for the Marcy Projects apartment building he and close friend Jay-Z called home, Bleek once again finds himself as the team's lead-off hitter.

 

And once again, like on his '99 debut single "Memphis Bleek Is," M.EZ finds himself riding with master-producer Swizz Beats on the blazing club track "Like That," 534's first single.

 

"I feel like in some ways, this is like the first album of a new career," says Bleek. "Back in the day, I was the first artist besides Jay to come out of the Roc-A-Fella camp, and I had a hot beat from Swizz. Fast-forward: Jay's the president of Def Jam, Roc-A-Fella's back in order, and I'm the first to come out again, with a Swizz-produced joint. It's crazy."

 

Featuring production by Swizz, longtime Roc-A-Fella hitmaker Just Blaze and underground hip-hop sensation, 9th Wonder, and appearances by Jay-Z, the Young Gunz and M.O.P., this album is the most crystal-clear representation of Bleek to date.

 

The recording of the 534 began at the home of Roc-A-Fella A&R Gimmel "Young Guru" Keaton. According to Bleek, the bare-bones studio setup was key to defining the tone of the album, "I just wanted to get back to the place where I started. Go back to what I'm all about. It's like when I first started rhyming. I had a friend who was a DJ and we'd make records at his place. We'd use the headphones as a microphone. We just wanted to be making music; we had to be doing it. We were that hungry."

 

Bleek's hunger, and redefined vision, hits like a sledgehammer throughout 534. On tracks like the street banger "First, Last & Only" featuring M.O.P., the 'dro anthem "Gimme A Light" and the infectious, summertime bounce of "Infatuated," Bleek displays a refined and tightened flow, and a new lyrical dexterity.

 

The real core of 534, however, is the emotional depth that Bleek finds on songs like, "Straight Path," a chilling picture of loss and the tug of war between the trife life and the straight path. It's a stark portrait of a life where, "when the gun burn, everything thing you were taught, you must unlearn," as Bleek breaks it down with desolate wisdom.

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