Jay-Z Verse Troubles Me to This Day

In Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix),” featured artist Jay-Z drops a couple of lines that have bothered me for the past 4 years:

Bleek could be one hit away his whole career
As long as I’m alive, he’s a millionaire
And even if I die, he’s in my will somewhere
So he can just kick back and chill somewhere, oh yeah
He don’t even have to write rhymes
The Dynasty like my money last three lifetimes

“Bleek,” also known as Memphis Bleek (also known as Malik Thuston Cox), is one of the gents on Jay’s Roc-a-fella label who seems perpetually unable to crossover to mainstream success. Unlike most artists with such a problem, though, he has a fan (assumedly) in the form of one of the world’s biggest hip-hop artists. He’s featured on Jay’s albums, is featured on Jay’s tours, is featured in Jay’s videos, and is featured in Jay’s lyrics; all are great promotional vehicles.

However, the line seems to implicate the following:

  • Bleek has never had a hit,
  • Bleek is dependent on Jay for his success and wealth, and
  • Bleek could bow out of the music game and it wouldn’t matter.

Granted, I’m reading into this a bit, but none of these implications, while possibly being factual, are what you (Bleek) would want to hear from a friend (Jay) or fan (also Jay). It makes the friendship appear as a pity party or a mercy friendship.

In other words, if all three of these statements I’m gleaning from the lyrics are true, why would you say this to your friend, much less your friend and all of the hip-hop listening world? Sure, Jay should be honest and constructive in his feedback to Bleek, but this doesn’t appear constructive to me. The first would appear petty, the second would appear obvious and demeaning, and the third would be downright hurtful and dismissive.

From the times where I met Jay while working at Def Jam, he always seemed like a personable, kind fellow. And artists on his label (now and past) seem to have a strong affinity to him (much in the same manner as his fans), which would suggest he doesn’t regularly demean his crew. So, again, why would he say this to someone with such loyalty?

  • Could Jay not have recognized my interpretation of this lyric?
    I doubt it; Jay’s a smart guy, and constructs some very intricate ideas across clever wordplay. In other words, he shows all the signs of thinking through what he’s saying. His point of detailing how anyone (and anyone’s progeny) associated with him would be living large could be detailed in any number of alternative ways. That said, maybe he quickly wrote the verse, recorded it, thought about it, and figured it didn’t matter… it illustrated his point, and there were other lyrics to be recorded for other projects; you can’t live in the past.
  • Is it tough love?
    Again, doubtful. Aside from this line, Jay appears to be a fan of Bleek, and (from what I’ve seen) hasn’t offered any other “time to fly from the comforts of my nest, young one” lines to Bleek.
  • Is it hate?
    I can’t see how this is possible, as Jay has an incredibly large platform to hate from, and there isn’t any other evidence of him taking a shot at Bleek.
  • Could Bleek have written the rhyme for Jay in some sort of bizarre homage to his patron?
    Possible, but strange. This seems the least likely answer yet.

As you can see, I can’t make sense of the line, but I wish that I could. And, while I would certainly enjoy the no-strings-attached patronage of someone like Jay-Z (you know, so I could “just kick back and chill somewhere”), I hope none of my friends would ever publicly call out any perceived lack of success on my part as a means to illustrate their wealth of success.

From a hater, it’s always welcome and expected; from a friend, it just seems downright confusing.



  1. Alex Cook said,

    March 8, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

    If you consider Jay-Z to be the Bill Gates of hip hop, then you could take this verse as proof of his anti-competitive behavior. By keeping Bleek, a possible competitor, in a position of privilege and reducing his desire or for a hit, then Jigga can keep his monopoly over New York hip hop. Roc-A-Fella did snatch up a lot of New York’s rising stars who never quite reached their potential.

  2. Lu said,

    November 9, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

    This is an amazing read. Thank you so very much for this. I have actually thought about those bars myself. I guess what he is trying to say is that no matter what, he has Bleek’s back. However, does that mean Jay-z knows that Bleek will never be a successful solo artist? Take for instance, the song Dear Summer…It was released on Memphis Bleeks album but Jay-z does all the verses on it. ????? Raise an eye brow or two there..

  3. Jordy said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    I think your reading is an interesting one, and sorta reminds me of that time an XXL reader broke down the lyrics to a Biggie song like it was a college philosophy paper (Big Poppa: “Surely Biggie must engage in intercourse with one of the ‘honeys.’ However, the coitus must remain a secret lest other females in his neighborhood, or ‘spot,’ become aware of his lecherous behavior”). Back to Jay Z, though, I’m not totally sure I agree with you. Perhaps Jay is merely highlighting the fickle nature of the record industry. I mean, Bleek very easily could be one hit away his whole career, right? Despite this, Jay affirms his loyalty to Bleek, going so far as to say that he will provide for him financially if the industry and the public fail him. Bleek doesn’t have to worry about applying his craft to provide for his family (i.e. write rhymes), as Jay pledges to take care of this, protecting the artist from the pain of seeing his art under appreciated. Is this really so far fetched for a populist rapper who once admitted he’d much rather rhyme more similarly to Talib Kweli? And now I’ve officially wasted far too much time thinking about this….haha

  4. Micah said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

    Jordy, I like your spin on it… I just think the dude could have phrased things a bit less ambiguously or not called Bleek out specifically. There are lots of more “underground” artists than Bleek associated with Jay who are probably thankful that Hov didn’t use them as the example of his “sacrifice.” And seeing as how Mr. Knowles-Carter makes his money off lyrical skill, I’d be a bit surprised if he hadn’t thought through the meaning (and interpretation) of his lines before giving the green light on pressing the album. In other words, it still seems a bit fishy to me.

    Here in 2010, I’ll try and work up a couple of other lyrical conundrums that have plagued me over the years. Stay tuned…

  5. Rob Davis said,

    March 12, 2011 @ 4:34 pm


    This seems a bit odd as I would think someone who worked at Def Jam would know more about the relationship between Bkeek and Jay. Bowels not some random guy Jay signed to the label. They both grew up in Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. I’m assuming they had a friendship that pre-dates any of Jays success. Bkeek probably showed Jay great friendship during this time. By rapping these lines Jay is pretty much saying no matter what happens in Bleeks career he’ll be financially taken care of. To lentils is the utmost show of loyalty; similar to the relationship of Tony Yayo and 50 Cent.


  6. Micah said,

    March 12, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

    Hey Rob. I get your point. Just saying, it probably hurts more to be recognized publicly by your financier as not being likely to handle your business on your own, than to be acknowledged as being forever solvent. And working in the offices there gave me no inner circle insight into dude’s relationships… just that he seemed like a very charismatic guy.

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