Memphis Bleek

M.A.D.E. (Roc-A-Fella Records)

The spoken introduction on Memphis Bleek's latest effort -- "With Jay stepping down," a GoodFellas-type voice utters, "it was Bleek's turn to be made" -- sets the record up for failure. With such a bold statement, you're expecting an MC who's about to step out of the shadows and deliver his own story with honest lucidity. Instead, it's the same old Bleek, whose tired adherence to mafioso themes is evidence of his lack of innovation and creativity -- even Jay let go of the mob lingo in favor of his own, more earnest reality. With a yawn-worthy delivery and inflections that feel forced, Bleek just hasn't developed his own lyrical personality or his own story, for that matter, despite affirming that "y'all know my story." Maybe he just doesn't have a story other than being blessed with well-connected friends -- particularly one Mr. Shawn Carter. Fortunately, Coptic's production on cuts like "Roc-A-Fella Get Low Respect It" is on point, and throughout the rest of the disc, Just Blaze and Scott Storch take it to another level, bringing nothing but heat. Bleek's lyrics, however, render each track lukewarm and leave you longing for the guest spots. Word is, Bleek is already at work on his next album, with 9th Wonder. Hopefully he'll realize that a great MC is one willing to be himself and simply tell his story, even if that story is as mundane as just having the right associates.

 
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