You just released the song “Breakfast,” where you’re addressing a lot of issues from your relationship with Beanie Sigel to the Jay-Z and Nas beef and much more. What made you want to address these issues now?
That was something I was working while I was working on my album. People want to hear this from me and it’s time to talk about it now. People want to know what’s real and what’s really happening. I do a lot of stuff and people want to know what’s happened up to now. I feel a reason fans look over me is because I don’t talk directly to them. I wanted to let them know what was happening. The reason I put it out now is because I said “’07” and I know it’s about to be ’08 in two more minutes!
In “Breakfast” you talk about how loyal Jay has been to you. What does loyalty mean to you today after everything you’ve been through?
It means everything. That defines what type of person you are. You live for your respect and people respect you for the type of man that you are when you are alive. When you die, you want people to say that you never turned cold or changed faces or let something come between you and your friends. That’s what loyalty means to me. As soon as you’re gone, your name lives on forever and that’s what this rap game is missing. It’s like the NBA right now. I don’t know what teams these dudes play for.
With Jay dropping a great album with American Gangster, Beanie Sigel and Freeway dropping albums and your album coming soon, a lot of fans are saying the Roc is coming back. Has the Roc ever left or is it just that things are coming together now?
I feel like we did go somewhere. Before everyone was the captain of their own boat. Now everybody has their boat at the same pier. Jay-Z, Kanye, Beans and Free are all doing well and the Young Gunz are getting ready to come back out. You didn’t have that camaraderie back then. Now me and Beans are together everyday like we were back in the day. Now we also got Uncle Murder and Tru Life. They’re in the studio working crazy-hard every day. Uncle Murder just bought his own studio. Come on, that’s real.
Did everyone have to go through that before coming back with a team mindstate?
Definitely. You have to see what the world holds for you. My whole career, I’ve been a soldier. Even now, I feel like I’ve been a soldier for so long, I feel like when I step out by myself, I’m the boss. When I’m with Jay, I’m a soldier. When I step out by myself, I’m a boss. Beans has a right to feel like me. Look at his movement. But I feel like for everybody else, it happened too early. Success came too quick. Me and Beans worked to get to where we was. The Young Gunners came when the Roc was popping so they’ve never been on the chitlin circuit before. They came in as bosses, so of course when the Rocafella breakup split happens and everything goes sour, of course you have to go through the grind stage and become better businessmen. I feel like they came back to the table stronger and me and Beans are stronger now too. We have families now and responsibilities and young kids running around. It’s not like we don’t care about nothing.
A lot of fans thought the Roc would fall off when Jay and Dame split up and Jay became the president of Def Jam. Were fans right to think that?
Yeah. Anything that changes, the result is going to be different. That’s with anything. If you’re doing something one way and you take an element away, it’s going to bring something different. We still have the same thing. The only thing we were missing was togetherness. It was every man for himself.
You came in with Jay on Reasonable Doubt, but it took a long time for you to establish yourself as a solo artist. Because of the grind you had to have to get to where you are today, do you feel like you have a much more solid foundation for your career?
Definitely. I was just talking to somebody about this. I feel like the career I have, I was in the shadows. Just being that I’m in the position that I’m in, I feel like anything can happen. The fanbase that I have, they grew up with me. The people that are from 21-28, we were all raised together, listening to the same music and going to the same parties. I feel like they’re always going to be there for me. It’s about getting the 17 and 18 year-olds now. Now I have to catch up with the new youth, the new kids that are running the street now.
How loyal are your fans?
Very. I take the good with the bad. Everybody says you get your five minutes of fame and then it’s over. I had a long 20 minutes and I enjoyed every minute of it from the ups to the downs. I feel the fans never changed on me because I never changed on them. I can sell one record and I’m going to be the same guy as if I sold 200,000 records. I make music because I love to rhyme. When I first picked up a pen and paper to rhyme, it wasn’t because I wanted a new chain. It was because I wanted to rhyme and be the people who the guys and girls said, “He’s nice” and have all the girls like me. As long as the fans know that, it’s all good.
Does it ever bother you when fans say the only reason you’re on is because you’re friends with Jay-Z?
I definitely get mad at that. People say I’m only who I am because I’m with Jay-Z. All right. I can name a lot of successful producers who put artists on but I don’t want to do that because everybody will say that I’m dissing them. Think of all the people who came in on Rocafella that were next to Jay-Z. Jay-Z put a chain around Tierra Marie’s neck in a video. That don’t mean nothing. At the end of the day, I had to write “Memph Bleek Is,” “Coming of Age,” “Round Here,” “Mind Right” and “Is That Your Chick?” Those are my records. If Jay writes a record for me and I go and win a Grammy, then fans can say I am because of Jay. Other than that, they have to give me my respect.
You mentioned working with Tru Life and Uncle Murder as new members of the Roc. After what happened with artists like the Diplomats, who were brought into Rocafella and it didn’t go well, are you more careful with who you work with today?
I would say I’m a little more cautious. With the Dipset thing, it was never really a family thing. We never really clicked like that. We never hung out or went to the parties or nothing. If I didn’t see you in the studio, then I didn’t see you. The only time I would see them was in the studio. When I left, I didn’t see them and I didn’t think about them. With Tru Life and Uncle Murder, we hang. We’re on the phone every day and in the studio. We’re talking about mixtape ideas and I’m going to their crib to see what they’re working on and they’re coming to my crib to check me. That’s real. If we don’t click off the record, then we’re just business partners.
Are you done sending diss records to the Diplomats?
Yeah, because it don’t make no sense no more. You’ve said everything you wanted to say. If you’re as tough as you say you are, do something. That’s the point where we’re at. Think about it, my man. If you really, really sit back and think, yo, why do they got beef? Nobody can answer that question because the answer is that they are dickriders. Nobody’s money got messed up, nobody got punched in the face and nobody got robbed. They look at you like a girl does and they look at your picture on TV and say, “I don’t like them no more. They’re ugly.” They started it, we crushed it and it’s over. At the end of the day, we can make a thousand records focusing on them, but we are talented enough to not focus on them and make hit records. The only reason they get any interviews is because they talk about us. If you want to go on their track record, they don’t have nothing to talk about.
Have you ever sat with Nas and talked about the line from “Nastradamus” where he said, “I’ll let a slug melt in ya cap,” which you took great offense to at the time and started the Jay-Z and Nas beef?
Nah. Even with that situation, we keep it regular. I can’t honestly say that’s my friend. We say, “What’s up?” backstage at shows and we’re cool and there’s no beef, but I can’t say that’s my homie or that’s my dog. Will we ever sit down and do that? I don’t think so. And that’s another thing I want people to understand. It’s a whole different lane up here at Rocafella. People look at me and see how close I am with Jay and how cool I am with Jay. I love him to death. I would take one for him and give one for him. Nas is his homie. I don’t hang with Jay like that. I might see Jay, like, twice out of a month. Other than that I don’t know what he’s doing and he doesn’t know what I’m doing. I’ll see him at a video shoot or a show or a release date, but other than that, he’s doing what he needs to do and I’m doing what I need to do.
Looking back on the Jay and Nas beef, do you feel like you played a big role in starting that beef?
I feel like I definitely had a big part because I was basically caught in the hype where you think everything you hear is about you. Now, if it’s about me, you have to say “Bleek” or “Memphis.” He said, “I will let a slug melt in ya hat.” I took that personally like he was talking about me, but in all reality, he could have been talking about anybody. I have to take responsibility for that because Jay was looking at me, feeling like, ‘Yo, you’re my little man. I can’t have anybody that’s an OG getting at my little man. I got you.’ And there the beef was. I feel like if I would have never listened to the street and the little rumors in the projects, I would have never responded to that and Jay never would have had to respond.
That beef brought so much attention to both Jay and Nas that you could say that situation helped take their careers to a higher level.
Yeah. You could say that. That’s what I mean. Why does there always have to be a negative to see a positive? Biggie said, “You’re nobody until somebody kills you.” That’s crazy. It takes them to diss each other to become more successful? That’s crazy when you think of it that way.
In “Breakfast,” you also talk about how the media makes rumors up. How much trouble do you have with the hip-hop media?
I don’t, but I see other people have that kind of problem, like Jay. I could pick up a magazine and it will have a quote from Jay and I know that writer didn’t get Jay on the phone because Jay is so hard to get in contact with. The fans are media now, if you look at it. The fans put shit up on YouTube. They got their cameraphone in the clubs and they’re posting blogs. They’re the media. It’s coming from all angles. I feel like the industry is so accessible right now that if a rumor is not corrected, anybody is likely to believe it. If there’s a rumor and five people confirm it, people think it’s true. You used to need hard evidence to prove somebody was wrong in a situation. Now it’s like, ‘Hey, he said it, he meant it.’
What’s the craziest rumor you’ve heard about yourself?
Somebody just told me that Juelz Santana pulled out a gun on me in D.C. (laughs) That’s crazy. I hear all kind of rumors. I hear I’m married to a white girl. I ain’t married and I don’t discriminate. The whole false thing leaking there is that I’m married. I am not married!
How’s your new album The Process coming?
Oh, it’s coming along good, man. I would like to thank my man Green Lantern for everything right now because he got me focused. When we did the world tour, he told me, “Yo, Bleek, you have to feed the streets and get them hyped for your project. You can’t think you’re Jay-Z and just drop your album. You have to build up for your album.” After having that conversation with him, I’ve been dropping more freestyles and mixtapes. I know more about what the people want now.
I can drop certain records on HipHopGame and the reviews might be bad and then I can drop another record and they will like it. I know what records to drop for my people in different areas. You have to know what the people want in order to be successful.
How much attention do you pay to what the fans say on HipHopGame?
I pay a little bit too much attention! (laughs) I read the comments. I read all the comments. Some people say, “Don’t read it. They’re little kids who don’t know anything,” but still, they’re fans and they have opinions and they feel a way about your record. I’m waiting for the day when I can see somebody’s record with all good reviews. It’s like no matter what you do, somebody has a negative comment.
Somebody always wants to be the guy to leave 1 star.
I know! You know what it is too? A lot of times it’s people doing it themselves! (laughs) They’ll be up there themselves leaving comments on their own songs.
The Process is your fifth solo album. Where do you want to take fans on this album?
I can take them deeper into the process of what it takes to be loyal. There’s no loyalty in this game. There’s nobody that can stand up and say, “Hey, I’m cool with being second in line because when the first guy in line steps down, I’m next.” There’s nobody to say that. I don’t care if Jay is No. 1. If you look over here, I’m super-doing it too. That’s what I want people to take from it. It’s about what it means to be a soldier for your squad. People don’t say that. I would never turn my back on my team. People know that. If it wasn’t for Jay, I never would have tried to get a record deal. I wouldn’t have went shopping for a deal. I’m from the projects. I didn’t know you could do that.
A lot of fans love hearing you over hard beats and some say they miss that Coming of Age hunger. Are you bringing that on The Process?
Yeah. I’m back to the Coming of Age hunger. My man got me focused when he came to my crib with Coming of Age and The Understanding and was like, ‘Jay and them got you focused on making pop radio records. Girls like you for what you do. This is you.’ And that’s the real deal! If I go in the building, I could bring the hardest “Mind Right” record to them and they would say that’s not me. If I brought something smooth like “Excuse Me Miss,” they would say, “Let’s go!” I can’t be mad at them. They want to sell records.
What’s your favorite type of record to make?
My favorite type of track to make…I love to make “Mind Right,” “Round Here,” “Like Dat,” “Do My” and “Who Want What?” Those are my records, like “Understand Me” and “Smoke Away the Pain” and “Straight Path.” A lot of people don’t even speak that real. “Understand Me” is a record about me never enjoying my success because I’m taking care of my friend and family so much that I can’t even go out. What artist that you know is going to tell you that, like ‘I don’t enjoy myself’? If you listen to these rappers, they’re not saying that. They’re over-enjoying themselves and they haven’t done half of what I’ve done.
In “Breakfast,” you talk about how a lot of people are high off success and you’re stuck on the concrete.
Yeah. That’s what I mean. Like Jay said, “This entertainment is like a drug.” It’s like Hollywood. I’ve seen so many people get high and never come down. Once you get it in your mind that you’re a star, you’re gone. You’re never going to be the same. Me, I never look at myself like I’m famous and I’m a star. I’m going to make records as Memphis Bleek and nothing’s changed. I’m regular. I can walk the street. I can go to the bodega and buy me a Snapple and some backwoods. I keep it regular and I want people to know that.
Is being who you are and not changing the most important thing to you today?
Yeah, because you want to be the same. Your personality, you want it to stay the same. Of course you’re going to change your surroundings and your living conditions. I’m not going to take the train no more. Hell no. I’m going to buy me a car. But as far as changing, you can never change your personality. When you change who you are, then who are you going to become? You’re not real no more. I can change how I look, but I’m going to still be who I am.
Where do you want to take your career in the next few years?
I want to take it to the next level, man, for Rocafella. My goal right now is that I want to show Jay that he’s so successful and over the top with it that he needs to pass this Rocafella thing to me. Me and Beans can take it to the next level that he doesn’t even see right now. That’s my goal. My goal is to show the building that the streets have more of an impact on records than the building. Do you know how many artists will go to Def Jam and they’ll tell them, “That’s not the record” and you will never hear it? You will never know if that’s the record or not because you’ll never have heard it. I want to change that outlook on music in the business world right now. Nobody knows what the record is right now. Look at Soulja Boy. Do you think everybody said, “This is a hit” or “This ain’t it”? He said it was a good joint and he put it out and the people said it was a good joint. There’s too much critiquing and too much politics in this business right now and I want to just take it back to being about music.
When will The Process come out?
Next year. Freeway is coming out on November 20 and Beans is coming in December and I think Rick Ross and Jeezy are coming in early January. I want to come out in the early summer when it’s hot. I’m about to get up with my man Swizz Beats and make a monster.
You were on Jay-Z’s American Gangster tour. How was that?
That was good. We had a lot of fun. That was crazy. We did seven cities. It was fun. We had the live band and Jay did all of his new records. Then we got the whole Roc crew together with me, Beans, Free, the Young Gunz and Jadakiss. It was good to show that the team is still there and there’s still loyalty.
Jay-Z’s American Gangster album has gotten a lot of positive feedback and some hate. What do you think of the album?
I think Jay is on the next level of Reasonable Doubt right now. This is Reasonable Doubt to the tenth power. Reasonable Doubt was the grit of hustling and this is the success of hustling. That’s how I feel. I told him that the other day. I feel like that’s why the new Roc is coming back so strong because this is just how we started.
Will there be a new Dynasty-type of album?
We’re putting out a Roc Boys mixtape with everybody from Rocafella. It’s with Green Lantern and my man Lenny S. They got Jay in the studio doing a freestyle. The tape should be out next week. It’s called The Roc Boys and it’s got everybody from Rocafella. You’re going to hear joints from everybody and there are a lot of new joints. We’re letting people know the Roc Boys are back. We’re trying to do a Roc Boys album. I did four joints with Uncle Murder and Tru Life. I got two joints with Beans. We got about six joints ready for the album. This is something that we’re doing. Jay don’t have a part in this. Jay heard about the mixtape and came to the studio after his show last night and said, “Hey, I need to be a part of this.” This is all us doing it. We’re doing this ourselves.
How badly do fans need to hear the Roc together again?
They need to hear real music, man, and real hip-hop. They need to hear music with substance. I don’t want to sound like a hater, and say that what people are doing is ringtone music. It’s whatever. But sometimes I need something with substance. You can eat McDonald’s all day, but it’s not going to fill you up and it’s not going to have any substance. You had your fast food out there, now come get a home-cooked dinner. We’re here. It’s time to eat.
What’s the next move for Memphis Bleek?
I’m going to drop more joints. I’m about to shoot a video for “Breakfast.” I have a song called “What You Want From Me?” That’s for the haters. Tell me what more you want from me. After “Breakfast” gets a little more legs, I’ll drop the next joint and the mixtape The Roc Boys should be out soon. It’ll be on the mixtape shelves and the mixtape sites. And then we’re just running with it and moving forward.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I just want to thank them for being loyal. I want to thank the haters because without them, we wouldn’t know what we’re doing wrong and what we’re doing so good. And I want to thank the loyal fans that have been supporting Rocafella since day one. And if you’re ever in New York, you need to come party with me. We just opened up a club, Catch 22, on 22nd and 5th. If you’re in the city, you can come party with your boy. Catch 22 is me and my people’s club.