If your friend declared in front of the world that he was going to make sure you’d be a millionaire for the rest of your life, you, like most people, might be content to just fall back and sit on all that money. Memphis Bleek, however, wants to step out on his own. It’s time for Bleek to be like his benefactor, Jay-Z, and think beyond rap.
“Who would have thought? I ain’t see this vision last year,” M Extra Money said recently in New York while sitting at a desk in his office. Yes, his office — as part owner of the clothing line I.M.I., Bleek finally has a nine-to-five (well, he usually gets in at 11 a.m., but you get the point) that he goes to every day.
Bleek, who signed to Roc-A-Fella over a decade ago at the age of 16, stumbled into doing a clothing line. Through a mutual friend, he came across the original I.M.I. owners, who also worked with Jay-Z and Dame Dash to help get Rocawear off the ground several years ago. Since the relationship was already there, Bleek worked out a deal to come aboard as a shot-caller for the line.
“I said, ‘If you really want to set it off and put it where it needs to be, put me as a partner,’ ” Bleek explained.
Jay-Z did check into the situation and made sure everything was on the up-and-up before Bleek signed on. But Jay has no dealings with the company — Bleek is doing it on his own.
“Jay basically tells me, ‘Make sure you go over the paperwork, the invoice sheets, the sheets going to the store,’ ” Bleek said of the advice he gets from S. Carter. “[He tells me] to have meetings with the buyers. I used to go to Dr. Jay’s [clothing store] just to get sneakers, now I talk to the manager like, ‘I need my line to get in front of the store.’
“My whole life, everything I did was dedicated to Jay,” Bleek said. “Jay do Roc-A-Fella, I was there. Jay does S. Carters, I wear them all the time. If I don’t have that on my feet, the only thing you gonna see is Air Force Ones or Timbs. I feel maybe if I would have took a little bit of time to care a little bit about something on my own, I could have been bigger than this. But hey, everything happens for a reason. But I’m gonna still be 100 percent behind all Jay’s companies.”
So far Bleek has signed boxer Zab Judah, basketball players Jameer Nelson and Jamal Crawford, and NFL star Larry Fitzgerald to do endorsement deals.
Bleek is still focused on music, though. He says that when he leaves the I.M.I. offices each day he then goes over to Def Jam. Bleek wants to put his next album out this year and is getting ready to begin recording soon. He admits that he’s been performing below expectations.
“I want to do an album that’s through the roof,” he said about his next project, which he’s thinking about naming The Inauguration. “I want to do a classic album. I feel that if this album I’m not recording is a classic, I’m not even gonna put it out. I have to do it bigger than anybody has ever done it. I have to make a good record this time, not just talking-junk records. It has to be deep. I want people to pick my album up and learn something.”
Diddy and singer Gerald Levert both have told Bleek that they have hits waiting for him. Memphis also wants to work with Swizz Beatz, Kanye West and Just Blaze.