Method to the Madness

I still remember the mom & pop record store in Richmond, Va where I bought Wu-Tang Clan’s original “Protect Ya Neck” cassette single. Back in late ’93, the Clan weren’t yet on Loud/RCA, instead releasing this independent salvo on an Epic subsidiary, RZA’s Razor Sharp Records. I was immediately intrigued. I remember reading interviews in magazines where RZA claimed that he’d concoct his trademark dank and dense, kung-fu dialogue laden beats and then the other eight members of the group would lay down their verses, battling old-school style to see who would actually end up appearing on the track. Amidst all this martial arts-influenced insanity and freshness, the Clan’s most charismatic member was the commander of the single’s outrageous B-side, Clifford “Method Man” Smith. Early on, I don’t know one fan who wasn’t listening to Wu-Tang songs just in pure anticipation of hearing the Iron Lung’s sing-songy flow (and who can forget the way he'd "danced", moving to his own internal rhythm as he spit and had more dudes copying his swagger than LONS had dudes "East Coast Stomping" a few years prior) and gruff rasp over RZA’s hollow and eerie minimalist instrumentals. Perhaps I should have taken “C.R.E.A.M.”s popularity as a sign of things to come from Meth. Because while it went on to become Wu’s breakout and probably most popular single, Method didn’t actually rhyme on it; he only handled the now-unforgettable hook.

And ever since Method Man became the first member of the collective to go solo, that’s been the knock on him: he’s great in small doses and shines bright on other people’s songs or projects but seems incapable of carrying his own solo efforts. Anyone who owns a Method Man album knows this to be true. Even Tical, his first album and probably his best, only reaches its highest heights when Method is passing the mic around between himself and his fellow Wu brethren. He released a few more lackluster solo joints that I can’t even remember the titles of to his fans’ disappointment but now that he’s kicked a few slick verses here and there at the end of ’07, cats is talking “resurgence.” Shiiiit. The real Hot Nickz died the day he decided it was cool to crowd surf at a rap show.

So, as you can imagine, it bothers the ever-living fuck outta me that now, amidst the release of Wu-Tang’s latest album, 8 Diagrams and Ghostface Killah’s The Big Doe Rehab that people are hearing shades of ’93 Method Man and are too quick to claim that he’s somehow “back.” Back from where? From what? This nigga ain’t “back” y’all. He’s doing just what he’s always done and has been doing for the past 15 years (damn, has it been that long?). It’s just that you ain’t heard the kid in a few years but like Roy Jones, Jr. “Y’all Musta Forgot.” Did you forget the angry, disgruntled Method Man of ’06 who spent every interview crying about how Def Jam was mishandling his last basura album, 4:21…The Day After? Do you know anyone who actually owns that? Who even bothered to download it? But you hear “Campfire” or “Killa Lipstick” and suddenly all is forgiven? So all these bloggers and hip-hop fans all up on Mef’s nuts again need to back back and pump their brakes ‘cause this is one dude that ain’t fittin’ ta fall for the okey doke one more ‘gen. I’m begging that none of you do.

So when all this critical acclaim leads to Johnny Blaze getting yet another shot at solo stardom and he falls short YET AGAIN, don’t say I didn’t tell you so. When you’re about to pick up that CD off the shelf, think about all the other ones you wasted your money on and remind yourself that this one’ll likely be worse. Go home and turn on your TV. Remember How High, his sitcom and his part in the upcoming Meet the Spartans and maybe you’ll finally realize the truth: Method Man is more hip-hop “personality” (and in many ways, always has been) than an actual hungry rapper nowadays and to let a few hot bars over a decade-plus career sway your opinion is downright dumb. Let “Method Man” go. He has.

Even “Cheese” Wagstaff got merc’d on THE WIRE series finale…

Memory Lane: