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1 January, 1999@12:00 am

“Memph Bleek Is….Murder! Memph Bleek Is…Money!…Memph Bleek Is….Drugs!” Unfortunately, Memphis Bleek is also stuck in Jay-Z’s shadow. Not a bad place to be, but Coming Of Age still leaves the Brooklyn representative under the shade of Jayhova. Jay-Z has brought up Bleek carefully under his iced-out wing for a few years now. Remember when Jay-Z was talking about retiring from the rap game a year or two ago? Bleek was the one destined to take the Roc-A-Fella empire to & through the year 2G & beyond. It is a good thing that Jay-Z has not yet abandoned his rapping roots, because Coming… is not the kind of album that can solely take Roc-A-Fella into the next millenium. The LP is a solid debut, but lacks the captive quality that is necessary to grab attention in today’s over-saturated rap market.

Coming of Age is heavy in cameos (a novel idea), which can be good. N.O.R.E., Diamonds In Da Ruff (D.I.D.R.), Ranjahz, and Ja Rule are on par with Bleek. The album’s tighest cut, “Memphis Bleek Is” features future-star Beanie Sigel and Bleek flip-flopping hoods (Philly & Marcy, respectively) and bouncing off each other with ease. However, on the album’s other heavy-hitter, “What You Think Of That” f. Jay-Z, Memphis is left in the shade. Jigga’s cameo is easily the LP’s highlight: “Like, I aint the n*gga who mastered all flows / And the reason they can’t sell them 4.0′s./ Like, I ain’t 5 mil & what’d your joint go? / Excuse me? / You confuse me”

The M.E.M.P.H. man has the voice & delivery along with some tight rhymes, but he’s not coming with material on this level. It is unfair to compare him to Jay, but when someone shines on your album as bright as Jay does in just one verse, it’s just natural.

The Swizz Beatz-driven “Memphis Bleek Is”, the Tunnel-banger-type-rugged joint, is definitely on some thug-bounce isht to keep NYC hardrocks happy. Ja-Rule is featured on “Murda 4 Life”, which is more laid-back than the title suggests, but is still worthy of rotation. The solid 1st single “I Won’t Stop” is more of the same good material, but no A+ stuff. Aside from “What You Think Of That” & the Beanie banger, the rest of the album is a good listen but doesn’t leave you reaching for the rewind button. “Who’s Sleeping” rehashes a loop used by Rahsheed & Ill Advised (although you NEVER know who uses these things first). “You a Thug” has that annoying whistle (a la Big Pun’s “You Ain’t A Killer”) that they probably threw in, thinking the West Coast peoples would be feeling. Both songs are still worth playing, but would kill brain cells after extended listening.

Being a Bleek fan, this was one of the few albums I have been checking for this year. The review may be overly critical because I was hoping for more. Diehard Memph Bleek fans & BK headz will happily have Coming…. in heavy rotation, and will probably be mad at me for not calling this album a banger. Unfortunately, most others may find it to be another rap album worth a few listens and a spot in that dusty corner under your bed with that old RedHead Kingpin tape. Memphis Bleek is definitely someone to check for in the future, but this album leaves room for him to improve. Coming of Age is more like Going Through Puberty.

  Mixtape D.L.
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