“The Wu is too slammin’ for these Cold Killin’ labels/some ain’t had hits since I seen Aunt Mabel/be doin’ artists in like Cain did Abel/now their money’s gettin’ stuck to the gum under the table.” This was stated by the GZA over a decade ago, but actually holds more weight now than it did in 1993. Meth personifies the gift and the curse. Early on in his career he was touted as one of Hip-Hop’s most elite lyricists. He gave us the perfect marriage of lyric and song by penning some of the most memorable classics, while accompanied by the RZA on production. We became spoiled by the Ticallion Stallion, and set unreal expectations for him every time he stepped in the booth. He was not the only one; this is what we have done to the majority of our most celebrated craftsmen from the 90′s, such as Nas and Common. Fortunately for these brothers, they were able to have their careers kick started again with the help of; ironically, artists who were virtually unknown during the zenith of the golden era (see Kanye West and Jay-Z). Even with only one sub-par release under his belt, Method Man deserves the same respect.
Meth has not outgrown Hip-Hop; however he has outgrown the current state of the music, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He realizes that today’s music is marketed to grade school children and he has no business running around like a grown-ass thirteen year old just to sell some records. This was evident in two of his most recent public appearances. He reunited with his Shaolin brothers to perform on the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors Awards and was so amped up that you would have thought it was The Hard Knock Life Tour, and that he was stage-diving with Redman. The crowd that he performed in front of was obviously made up of a generation of die hard fans that have been missing in action (those of us who are 25-35). He also performed his single “Say” to a less than lukewarm reception on MTV’s Wild’n Out. Even when he tried to get the crowd involved, they still remained somber. This comes as no surprise from a new generation whose minds have been over-saturated from “Walk It Out” and overdosing on “Chicken Noodle Soup”. The irony of “Say” is that it is one of the most accessible tracks on the album, due to The Green Eyed Bandit’s soulful production and with the help of Miss L-Boogie herself, but it also finds the Wu-Tang veteran dropping some of his most lyrical gems on the album: “R.I.P/make me the king of all I see/and when death call I’m good I got Call ID/see it was Clan in the front/now they just gon’ front/like my joints is on Proactiv and they just don’t bump/(come on) then niggas gon’ say I lost my skill/when in fact they all been programmed and lost they feel/for real.”
This album contains no lack of lyrical content whatsoever. Actually, there are points when he outshines his co-stars. On “Ya’ Meen”, which is definitely New York music at it’s finest; he’s joined by Fat Joe and Styles P for one of the album’s more exciting tracks. All three heavy hitters come out swinging and Meth even appears to take a stab at his newly appointed boss
“New York, New York rock tube socks and Timberlands/cause Hip-Hop ain’t feelin’ them flip-flops they feminine (ouch?).” “Walk On” finds our favorite Boodah Brothers back at it as Funk Doc and MEF remind us why we waited so patiently for their albums to drop in October ’94(remember, Month of the Man?). Johnny Blaze joins his Wu counterparts for a handful of joints (“Dirty Mef”, “The Glide”, “Everything”, “Presidential MC”) which are good, but do not quite mirror the chemistry displayed throughout such classics as Enter the 36 Chambers and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. This assessment may not be fair, but it’s the truth. One of 4:21′s best tracks is not even produced by a Wu member or even a recurring collaborator. “Somebody Done F****D Up” finds the infamous Havoc on the boards. This song has both veterans bringing the best out of each other. It almost leaves you waiting for Prodigy to jump in and spit.
As mentioned earlier, there are a few radio ready tracks on this album. Along with assistance from Lauryn Hill, Meth recruited crooners Ginuwine, and Megan Rochell. The difference between these songs and others on the radio is that these do not sound contrived, which is not a surprise since “All I Need” garnered much unintended crossover success and redefined Hip-Hop’s traditional love joint. Meth and Mary opened the door for all the “Ride-Or-Die Chick”, “Bonnie and Clyde” anthems. Who can be mad at that?
While groups like The Roots and De La Soul have not deviated from a tried and true formula, and their followers respect and appreciate that. Meth falls somewhere in the middle of both worlds. His last time out was more of an attempt to reach a broader audience, which usually leaves no one satisfied (even the artist). This time around was more of a return to Shaolin. The album falters due to the standards and expectations that we already have established for Method Man. The lyrics are there, but even with the RZA on deck, the production fails to fully support the content. We were teased with talk of an all RZA produced album after the lackluster sales of Tical 0, which may not be a bad move at this point, but Meth said it best himself at the end of the intro: “How could you ever say that I’m washed up when I’m the dirtiest thing in sight? / Bring out the girls let’s have a mud fight”.
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