Name: Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek
Mixtape: The S. Carter Collection and The Best of Memphis Bleek
Hometown: "Cough up a lung for Marcy, son"
Joints to check for: "Young, Gifted & Black," "If Hov Can't," "Pump It Up" freestyles for Jay-Z; "The Truth," "9 MM" and "Remember the Roc" freestyles for Memphis Bleek
Previous mixtapes: Over the years there has been an incessant flow of "Best of Jay-Z" bootlegs put together by various DJs, however this is Bleek's first
The 411: Anybody who thinks "the Jordan of the rap game" has lost footing like the NBA's Jordan will probably be pleasantly surprised when they pop in The S. Carter Collection mixtape. Originally intended as a freebie for customers who buy his Reebok sneaker when it goes on sale April 18, the CD has already made its way onto the streets. While Jay brings old gems such as "You're Only a Customer" and "This Life Forever" out of the vault, the real jewels are Jay's new freestyles. Which brings us to the next question posed to the owner of the rap game's number 23 jersey: Is Jay really going to retire soon like his b-balling namesake?
Jay-Z is once again leaving "reasonable doubt" about his possible retirement. Ever since Hov released his 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt, he's been threatening to quit the rap game, renewing his claim with every other album's release. But in recent months he's told everyone who would listen that his next LP, The Black Album, would definitely be his swan song.
Whether or not he lives by this declaration is still up in the air, but his boastful talk on the opening of "If Hov Can't" on his S. Carter Collection mixtape will give fans hope that Jay's planning to stick around.
"I could make four more albums off of memory," he says over the pounding, piano-driven beat of 50 Cent's "If I Can't." "I'mma do this till I'm 80." Jay goes on to lament his frustrations with the press who want to know "What's up with the daughter of Mathew [Knowles]" and people who complain about what he rhymes about. "I tried to be modest on Blueprint 2/ But y'all don't respect modest, y'all respect my dollars/ You gotta believe I think like a artist/ But my bills through the roof/ Can't do numbers like the Roots."
Later, Jay playfully raps over the same melody as B2K's "Bump, Bump Bump," saying, "N---a your sh-- is trash/ When I see you, I'mma beat your ass/ You better stop playing with me," before once again hinting that his days on the mic won't be over anytime soon.
" 'Just retire,' they screaming from the peanut gallery," he later raps, addressing his detractors. "Not till my salary is like the real Mike Lowery's/ I kill sh-- till I catch Will Smith, then I'm running Spielberg down ... / You don't even know me and you mad/ How it feel to be a hater?/ Now I know exactly how it feels to be a Laker."
A few years ago, Jay's talks of retirement couldn't be taken seriously because he didn't have a roster that could sustain his layoff. But with the addition of the Diplomats, M.O.P., Freeway and the rest of State Property over the past couple of years, Jay doesn't have to represent as the label's franchise player anymore.
But one of Jay's oldest artists, Memphis Bleek, doesn't want anyone to forget that he's been holding things down for the Roc from the very beginning. For that reason, he just put out his Best of Memphis Bleek CD to help generate buzz for his June release, M.A.D.E. Included in the mix are snippets of such lyrical highlights as "Coming of Age," "Celebration" and "Who Want What."
New on the platter is "Remember the Roc," on which Bleek reflects on his life and talks about other rappers who come at his team, using Just Blaze's soulful soundscaping as a harmonic backdrop. And while Bleek unwaveringly waves the Roc-A-Fella banner, he also attempts to spread the word about his new clique, Get Low, which includes Geda K, Calico and Living Proof.
The Roc-A-Fella crew freestyle features a bevy of well-known instrumentals from songs like "The Watcher (Part 2)," "Lose Yourself" and "Hail Mary."
Team Roc aren't the only hip-hop heavyweights putting out mixtapes this week. Mobb Deep just dropped their long-talked-about Free Agents CD on Landspeed Records. (The title might be a little misleading — the duo of Havoc and Prodigy signed to Jive Records not too long ago and have an album due this summer.) And Cutmaster C worked in conjunction with the LOX to put together Welcome to D-Block, which mostly consists of the trio's musical endeavors with crew member Jae-Hood.
For a full-length feature on mixtape culture and the role of mixtapes in making a rapper's career, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."
For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.