“Money, drugs and hot slugs – you know Bleek.”

Rating: 8 out of 14 – 57%

By Midas

But what do we really know?  The Understanding is a mystery rapped inside a cloud of bounce beats and weak guest spots.  There are more tracks where Memphis drops one verse (3) then 3 verses (2).  Is that a solo album in the new millennium?  Back when Jay-Z dropped “Reasonable Doubt”, an artist’s presence on a solo album was necessary.  And it was then that the world first heard Memphis Bleek.  I think I’m still waiting.

There is no denying talent and Bleek is a skilled writer with a surprisingly adaptable flow, which he shows off throughout the album.  Whether it’s a bounce beat like “Change Up” or a writing concept (“All Types of S***”), Bleek is clearly comfortable.  The same can not be said for fellow Rockafella member Beanie Sigel.  Every time I hear him come young, the rumor that Big L was supposed to be there gains validity.  I keep wondering, have we already heard his best?  It wouldn’t be the first time a rapper blew his load early (see Canibus or Noreaga).

Was Beanie sick the day they recorded “My Mind Right (remix)”?  He sounds horrible and H. Money Bags isn’t much better.  Jay-Z’s verse isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than most rappers.  Personally, I would have preferred the original.  But DJ Twinz gets props for putting down a beat people can’t get tired of.

Speaking of which, I must have been in South Dakota when everyone fell in love with “Is that your chick?”.  The Lost Verses on the album has 3 Jay verses, 2 by Memphis and 1 by Twista, in which Timbo throws background noise over the last half of Twista’s verse.  It’s hard enough to decipher Twista’s lyrics; there’s no need to complicate the matter.  

I think Michael Jackson should get royalties anytime someone uses “PYT” in a song.  In fact, I think Apache should get something as well.  He was the first rapper I can remember that wanted a “Gangster B****”.  Memphis (which stands for Making Easy Money Pimping Hoes In Style) wants two, at least, he’s got two songs dedicated to it.  “PYT” features Amil and I wish it didn’t.  Haven’t her 15 seconds run out yet?  “Bounce B****” has a catchy bounce loop and little else.  “You’re dealing with a thug who loves to go shopping,” & “You act right, I might buy you something,” is not cutting it for me.

The lone bright spot is producer Just Blaze.  The “Intro” and “We Get Low” are a good mix of bounce and classic rap bass, but the gem is “They’ll Never Play Me”.  With a guitar loop by Ken Lewis, Blaze turns yet another bounce beat into something else.  He should catch more work, and the same goes for T.T. with “I Get High”.  The smooth lounge room feel fits right in with Bleek’s tribute to all hotboxers and bluntheads.

I like the gothic wailing sample on “Hustlers”, but the lyrics lead to more questions:

“Alotta fronting I’ve seen.  I done analyzed this game.  It’s nothing but schemes - new ways to sell records.  I ain’t for it.  Put it out if it’s hot.  Not, just ignore it.”

Is this the understanding that Bleek has come to realize?  That he can push this style and sell?  That he doesn’t have to show any growth as an artist, say anything meaningful, just preach a gangster’s lifestyle and reap the profits?  In the Intro, Bleek says even white college boys who “know how to hold metal” can listen to his music.  The booklet reads like a dictionary, with an emphasis on knowledge, intelligence and education.  I’m scared to think of whom he’s teaching.

 Bleek speaks about living and dying in the street.  He speaks about not being able to live forever, just having fun and trying to survive the next day.  Here’s the problem; the music will live on.  FOREVER.  Is this the legacy he wants to leave?  Maybe I’m getting too old, asking for my music to have substance and meaning.  Or maybe I’m being too hard, asking too much from Bleek on his 2nd effort.  I can’t really tell…

 

“The sun don’t go down, we go round.”

-Beanie Sigel on “Hustlers”

 

They used to say that about another dynasty: The English Empire. From a very small foundation, they controlled the world for generations.  Yet a lack of creative and innovative minds destroyed that empire.  Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

Buy The Understanding NOW!

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