Bleek first entered my ears in 1996. His guest appearance on Jay-Z's 'Coming Of Age' from 'Reasonable Doubt,' was a pretty good one, that track's title co-incidentally also became the title of his debut album. I didn't hear the album in it's entirety, I heard the associated singles but I didn't find myself too impressed. Since then, Bleek has been a well known part of the Roc-A-Fella clique, guesting on his affiliates' albums and touring with them, Bleek has reached a very high level in terms of fame.
The first single from 'The Understanding' had its A-side originally dubbed as a Jay-Z track and released on the European version of Jay's fourth album. 'Is That Your Chick' features Missy Elliot, Jay-Z (of course), Twista and Bleek. The beat, laced by Timbaland fits the entire emcee collective perfectly. The B-side of the previously released 12" was 'All Types Of Shit' which grew on me considerably (after hearing it about 50 times). It follows the "line attribute" vibe we've heard many times, but over the chosen beat, it works fairly well. The "line attribute" vibe I'm referring to is best explained with "Ha" by Juvenile and "Ghetto Like" by Masta Ace. What I'm referring to is when the emcee takes the title and has it as the end of each line or at the beginning.
'The Understanding' features its fair share of dope tracks. There's the 'My Mind Right (Remix)' where Jay-Z does his thing supposedly aimed at a member of Harlem World. Bleek and the other guests also make use of the dope beat and the fitting hook, combining all together to form a real nice joint. The track immediately following, entitled 'Hustlers' has a really amazing introduction. A very engrossing sung background and some words from Beanie set a very well created feel. The combination of the strong drumbeat and lyrics lowers the feel of the track, however, it still remains a nice track.
'I Get High' has a very relaxed vibe to it, the beat fits Bleek in a relaxed style perfectly. The hook works brilliantly and Bleek performs well. It's a pity the track following had to be 'We Get Low' which literally takes you down from 'I Get High's "High."
There are bad aspects on this sophomore release. As previously mentioned, 'We Get Low' follows 'I Get High,' the thing is 'We Get Low' is worse than it's predecessor. That screws up the flow of the album considerably. 'Do My' and 'Bounce Bitch' are also less than brilliant, the beat on 'Bounce Bitch' didn't work for me, and it definitely did not fit Bleek. 'Do My' also felt pretty bland. I'm also not really feeling 'P.Y.T.' the beat's alright, but Amil's guest verse, Jay-Z's not so great-at-all hook and Bleek's fairly dull lyrics don't really stimulate my ears enough to make me praise it.
Bleek also has some depth here. 'In My Life' and 'Everyday' (featuring Carl Thomas) are joints which feature Bleek trying to add another side to his cocky persona. It works reasonably well, but parts of the tracks seem too planned and sometimes come off as tacky.
Does the level Bleek's at in terms of being known compare with his skills? In a word, no. Bleek can rhyme, but not as well as a huge amount of lesser-known artists. With that said though, he has improved from what I've heard of his in the past. 'The Understanding' is a nice album, but not brilliant, and not up to the standards that his affiliates have set.