Memphis Bleek Recalls A Wild Story About JAY-Z’s Early Stash Of Cash (Video)
Under the watchful eye of JAY-Z, Dame Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Roc-A-Fella Records first opened its doors in the mid-1990s. At the onset, Jay was the star of his own label. However, as the label expanded, Memphis Bleek—a Marcy Projects neighbor would be among the early additions to the label’s roster. The history between JAY and Bleek is long and tenured, having first hit airwaves together on “Coming Of Age” for Carter’s debut, Reasonable Doubt. The song reflected their big brother/little brother dynamic, in the streets and in Hip-Hop. the In a recent interview with DJ EFN and N.O.R.E. for Drink Champs, Bleek discusses a bar from Jay’s single, “Imaginary Player.” The line, which falls off his ’97 release, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, is telling of Jay-Z’s wealth even before he had achieved superstar status.
Deep into the interview (2:03:00) N.O.R.E. (who eventually signed with Roc-A-Fella in the 2000s), loosely recalls the lyric. “There’s a line on a HOV record that he got manicures.” Memphis Bleek responds, “Oh yeah: ‘if you’re plane ain’t got manicures, switch your plane.‘ I’m still trying to figure out what airline he was on. I don’t know what airline he was on, cause my airline don’t have no manicures! And I done flew American, United, Delta first class. Hov got that bread man. I told you, he got that bread.”
Bleek continues, “Now listen, Hov is different. Like, no bullsh*t. You know how a lot of ni**as look up to sports players, movie stars, certain people as they role model? I’m tellin’ you, my ni**a, it was one day I was at the crib, at The Duke, and Hov was going outta town.” Noreaga asks about the house, which Bleek confirms was the nickname for the 560 State Street address in Brooklyn, near the Barclays Center today. Jay shouted out the address in song lyrics, including 2009’s chart-topping “Empire State Of Mind.” Memph’ continues that while he was disobeying Jay’s orders not to bring women over, the young protege asked for some money. Admitting he was a broke youngster at the time, he continues, “I’m tellin Hov, ‘I’m f*cked up. I need $100.’ [JAY-Z said], ‘Aight. Listen. Go in my room in my night stand. In my top drawer is the hundreds. Yo Bleek; I know how much money I got, so take one hundred. That’s it.'”
Memphis rolls on, setting the scene as he walks up to JAY-Z’s room at his famed Brooklyn stash spot. “So I was like, ‘Aight, cool. No f*ckin’ problem. I’ll go upstairs to the room, to the night stand, take a hundred. I open the drawer [and see] a whole stack of hundreds. Just a whole drawer is full of hundreds. So I’m like, ‘Damn Bleek, why the f*ck you ask for one hundred? What is wrong with you, my ni**a?’ So I’m like, ‘Aight. Let me take one hundred dollar bill, ’cause I don’t want no smoke. I don’t want these ni**as to be like, ‘Bleek [is] a thief.’ You know what I mean? I ain’t that ni**a. I’d rather take it with the gun than steal [it]. So, I’ma take one hundred.”
To follow, Bleek remembers his curiosity getting the best of him after taking the C-note. To the Drink Champs crew, Memphis finishes his tale. “So I’m downstairs chillin’ with the shorties, and suddenly my mind like, ‘Check the other drawers.’ So I go up there and check. Hundreds. [Opens the next drawer] Hundreds. [Opens the next drawer] Fifties. Every drawer, stacked to the top. Hundreds and fifties. Then you just get to the drawer that just had twenties. And it was like, ‘Bleek again. Why did you ask for a hundred?’ Ni**a, five hundred. That’s what you needed. Something like that!’ Boy I was sick.”
In closing, Malik Cox recalls fighting with his mother over spending time with JAY-Z and others. Despite their familial battles, a young Memphis Bleek knew that Jay was destined for greatness. And he desperately wanted to be involved. “And that’s when I knew, that day, I gotta get in. Whatever they doin’, I gotta f*ckin’ get in! Yo, my moms. I used to get punishment for hanging with Hov and them. ‘Yo what are you doin’ around them? They grown men! You ain’t supposed to be over there! Get in the crib!’ I said, ‘I don’t give a f*ck. I’ll take an ass-whoopin’. I’ma learn the sauce.’ Word. I still ain’t got the drawers full of hundreds and fifties though. I don’t know what they was doin’, still.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Memphis Bleek describes his role as a brand manager for D’usse. The Brooklyn, New Yorker explains moving to Miami. He also describes the missed recording session that outed a former label-mate, Amil, from the label.