Jay-Z Protege Memphis Bleek Recalls First Meeting, Talks ‘Decoded’

Bleek tells MTV News how the Marcy Projects alums teamed up and how an outsize lunch order nearly kept Memph off Reasonable Doubt.

[artist id=”1269″]Jay-Z’s[/artist] career has grown and evolved in a number of ways over the years, but one constant has been the man at his side — whether onstage or off — [artist id=”509000″]Memphis Bleek[/artist]. In Jay’s soon-to-be-published memoir, “Decoded,” he devotes much of the chapter titled “Honor Among Predators” to Bleek, who recently spoke to MTV News about their early introductions.

In the chapter, Hov recounts getting the opportunity to tour with Big Daddy Kane in the late 1980s and how much he learned from the veteran Brooklyn MC. When it came time to record his first album, Reasonable Doubt, Jay said he wanted to do a song that loosely paralleled that experience: a young pupil gaining tutelage in the street game and the music business.

“In the game there’s always a younger guy who has an old soul and an understanding of things beyond his years,” Jay writes. “An older guy will see a kid and think, ’Man, that kid moves differently from the rest. He’s ready for this life.’ They know that if they find the right kid, they can put him under their tutelage and he’ll get it fast, step right into the rhythm of the life.”

Jay-Z originally wanted rapper Shyheim (the Rugged Child) on the song, but when things didn’t work out, he stumbled upon Bleek, then known just as Malik, walking across Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects. Jay goes on to tell the story of how the track “Coming of Age” came together, remembering how “hungry” Bleek was.

Bleek told us last week that he was actually surprised that Jay remembered that initial meeting.

“The first time I told him I rhymed, he didn’t believe me, so he gave me a paper which he had written on already, but it was so little I couldn’t see [what was written on] … so I had to re-write it myself,” Bleek said. “And he was like, ’You have to memorize this in 24 hours. If you don’t, then you can’t make the album.’ I’m like, ’Hey, this is my only chance of getting out the ’hood?’ ”

The young MC said he studied what Jay had written like it was homework, shocking both Jay and DJ Clark Kent when he came back the next day with the verse memorized. Before they went to record it, he shocked them again — with his lunch order.

“We ordered food and Jay thought I was trying to take advantage of him,” Bleek explained. “He put a menu in my face and said, ’You could order anything you want.’ So I asked him again, ’Anything I want, I can order?’ He was like, ’Yeah.’

“I’m from the projects: When’s the next time I’m going to eat again? I ordered six burgers, and he was like, ’You’re going to eat them?’ And I’m like, ’Watch me.’ And he was like, ’No, you’re going to eat them.’ [I said], ’That’s no problem.’ Finished the burgers, went right in the booth, spit the rhyme and there it is, ’Coming of Age.’ ”

Jay’s “Decoded” hits bookshelves on Tuesday.

What do you think of how Jay and Memph Bleek first met? Tell us in the comments!