Maybe Jay-Z should have left The Gift & the Curse album title to his younger friend Memphis Bleek. The past three years for Bleek have been both calming and nerve-racking.
Toward the end of 2000, his older brother almost lost his life in Miami while Bleek was down there recording a duet album with Beanie Sigel. The LP would never be completed.
"I couldn't record, so that couldn't get done," Bleek said. "It was a [motorcycle] accident with my brother. Reality really hit. Before then, I was traveling and partying hard. Everyday problems would pop up and I would look past them. 'Whatever, I'm doing this' or 'I'm doing this.' What happened with my brother, it was like, 'Damn, he could die. I could lose him. He ain't gonna be involved in none of what I'm doing no more.' I just had to slow it down. I couldn't focus. I couldn't think about making a record until I knew the status on him."
The accident didn't take his brother's life, but Bleek would spend a year and half by his sibling's side. During that time, the MC became a father.
"I was a real family dude," M-Easy said, looking back. "It was like I'm losing somebody close to me but I'm bringing somebody new into the world that could experience the pain I felt, where I really didn't want to have a child. Then at the same time I was like, 'Damn, this is the first time I ever had somebody pregnant. I ain't gonna kill him before he had a chance to experience life.' He's here and that's my little soldier. That's my brother all over again. I tell you no lie, he acts just like him."
With his brother on the mend and his son growing up, Bleek is back to his old self in the vocal booth. His new LP, M.A.D.E., is just about done and scheduled to drop on June 24, one day after his 25th birthday.
"I didn't want people to get [the album title] twisted, I'm not mob affiliated, not mafia nothing," Bleek said. "I'm a hustler out of [Brooklyn], that's it. M.A.D.E. to me means 'Money, Attitude, Direction and Education.' I make money, my attitude is where I need it to be, I got direction and I'm educated to all the bullsh-- going on. Plus I made mistakes, made moves, made a son, made friends, made enemies — it means a lot."
When he made the album, Bleek once again had to live that whole gift and curse scenario. Some producers acted shady toward him simply because he's signed to Jay-Z's label.
"Just Blaze is all over this album," he said. "I basically was messing with producers I had a relationship with, who I was cool with. Being under Jay, when I want a beat from a [producer I don't have a relationship with] he's like, 'Nah, Jay ain't do the remix with my artist, I can't hook you up.' Or 'I just did six beats for Jay, I can't give you a beat.' I get that all day."
Besides Blaze, Bleek was able to get his hands on tracks from buds like Scott Storch and his labelmate Kanye West.
Bleek said "Everything's a Go" featuring Jay-Z will likely be his first single, possibly followed by "We Ballin."
"When people hear 'Everything's a Go,' we're flashy and we talking about living it. Whatever you want to do, it's a go. The title 'We Ballin,' they're gonna think I'm talking about the same thing, but it's just about the 'hood ballin'. Before cars, Cristal or anything was introduced to me, all I had was Hennessy and a couple of chicks to holla at. I can't be mad at them days. It's real."
Bleek said that on M.A.D.E. he gives fans his most personal material. While the posse cut "Hypnotic" showcases new rhyme flows from Bleek, Jay and Beanie Sigel over a Middle Eastern-sounding beat, he spills his life on "Understand Me Still" and "Do It All Again."
M.A.D.E. also features appearances from Trick Daddy on "Round Here" and Donnell Jones on "P.Y.T." The crooner sings the same hook that had girls screaming for Michael Jackson in the early '80s.
Bleek is still sifting through video treatments for his single and gearing up to hit the road on the Jay-Z and 50 Cent tour at the end of June (see "50 Cent And Jay-Z Announce Roc The Mic Tour Dates").