Music News

Memphis Bleek

Talk about the triumph of the team concept. 534 is an intermittently entertaining listen, yet the limited success it achieves is owed not to Memphis Bleek, whose name is in front of the title, but to the formidable support staff assembled around him.

Bleek isn't a bad rapper, but he's got a rather generic delivery, and his bang-and-bling imagery feels as played out as Jerry Rice. As a result, those who share tracks with him, including Rihanna ("The One"), plus members of M.O.P. ("First, Last and Only") and Young Gunz ("Oh Baby"), make more of an impression than does the main man. This theme reaches its logical conclusion on "Dear Summer," a cut that Bleek doesn't even appear on. Instead, the spotlight shines on Jay-Z, who effortlessly reels off the disc's best line: "I've got a brand-new bitch -- corporate America."

Elsewhere, Swiss Beatz, Just Blaze and additional high-rent production talents give the funky, brassy "Like That," the bouncin' title cut and several other offerings such an appealing sheen that many fans won't notice the emptiness underneath. Without these pros, Memphis would have a lot more trouble scoring. Go, team.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts