Method Man and Redman are American rappers from Staten Island and New Jersey respectively. They’ve collaborated since way back in 1994, but only really, despite some promising tracks together, put down anything for posterity in 1999.
Their debut together, as such, Blackout!, came out that year, 17 years ago as of Wednesday, September 28. It really heralded, arguably, the commercial heights of both rappers, as a duo, and not just as members of Wu-Tang Clan or Def Squad respectively.
The album cover’s a simple one, both rappers in the dark, only illuminated by their names and album title. Is this a shutdown, a blackout, whereby they cut the lights out, put their stamp on the industry and maraud unsuspecting rappers?
The opening track, “A Special Joint (Intro)”, is the duo spaced out and stoned, saying ridiculous things to incur in eachother the giggles before being sprang on by the police.
“Blackout” is a lively follower, perfect to kick off the album. Both are, as they say, off the chain, rabid dogs unleashed with ferocious, snapping jaw raps. They really bounce off eachother and, after years of collaborating without an album, they seem to be making up for lost time. Both being a bundle of energy would be a bit of an understatement.
“Mi Casa” is a moody one, encapsulating urban street life. “Yeah, right/My bear hugs airtight/New Yorkers know no turning on a red light/Me against forty of you/A fair fight/Microphones get took/You shook, wear white”, says Redman. The track seems to be the first of many references to classic hip-hop hooks and raps. This perhaps a nod to the late, Big Pun in this one.
The album carries on with “Y.O.U.”. “Girl it would be my honour, make you my baby momma”, proposes Method Man. It has a similar moody vibe to the previous, the chorus getting suitably amped and animated, its title imploring the listener to ponder their own involvement in the dynamics of the song. The duo perhaps akin to the chemistry of M.O.P’s Billy Danze and Lil’ Fame. It’s closing moments are also akin to an Eazy-E opening for N.W.A track, “Automobile”.
“4 Seasons”, featuring LL Cool J and Ja Rule, is also enjoyable. The former certainly stamps his authority on the track, coming across as energetic as ever, despite a long established time in the industry: “Get loose, get loose, Method Man get loose/What the world gonna do when my dogs get loose?”. The gravelly tone of Ja and his rhymes aren’t too bad, neither.
Blue Raspberry features in “Cereal Killer”. “Slowly I turn, step by step/Through the back window I crept/Silent as a mouse on the set/While everybody in the house slept…”, sees Method Man setting the scene. Thus begins lyrics very much in tandem with a creepy beat, much suiting the song title and subsequent content. “Tongue below one/Spit dumb, moron/For whiteboys to snowboard on/So what’cha what’cha what’cha want/Chew spearmint gum, two double pump” Redman’s nod to Beastie Boys and “So What’cha Want”.
Second single, “Da Rockwilder”, is the most successful track off the album, and despite its brevity, it’s easy to see why. The beat is quite electronic, a bit jiggy, but anchoring some very satisfying raps. It’s only two verses long, and features a play on Cypress Hill references (“Hand On The Pump”) with its closing hook quoted latterly by Redman, “Got the cable hooked up, all channels/Lift my shirt, all mammal/You ship off keys and we ship grand pianos…sawed off shotgun, hand on the pump/Sippin’ on a forty, yo smokin’ on a blunt/Bust my gun y’all, Red and Meth didn’t jump/La, la, la, la, la, la, la, laaaaa”.
“Tear It Off” is bold with moody bass, bouncing with the subtlety of a mack truck and the sheer chemistry of the duo. Redman for instance: “Try to Okay Corral with Doc and Meth Tical/Bar saloon fight, without weapons out (YEE-HAH!)/Stretch marks, like belly on Kevin Lous?/One yard to score, only second down/Hoes play wifey, wanna settle down/Tryin’ to lock cash? B*tch better bounce/Boyfriend jump in, Meth shut ’em down”. The hook seems to consist of George Clinton-esque adlibbing with the troublesome two tearing the roof off, yes, the sucker.
Then there’s “Where We At (Skit)”, which basically gets off from where the opening track left off. Hash inspired humour, though they develop an infectious hook, one endeavouring to represent Meth’s Shaolin and Red’s Bricks.
“1, 2, 1, 2” is a busy track, one with a weird contemporary, yet jazzy, tempo. As such there seems little room to catch a breath, one and two seconds rest before starting, again, and engaging the listener. There’s some pretty impressive scratching going on in this one, too, as seat of the pants as the rhymes.
“Maaad Crew” is a tad more relaxed, with contemplative, occasionally busy, bass. A highlight features Meth saying: “Bless ’em with the over dosage of black flag/(Say goodbye you got no class)/Ship sinkin’ fast/(Bon voyage)/See you at the bottom when I spot ‘em/Grab him by the throat and say aaahuuumm I got ’em…aiyyo we mo’ phat than down south trash, and you know that/With format to blow the welcome of your doormat”. Many of the flows start off at a canter, before gradually climbing during the backdrop’s livelier moments.
A Wu-Tang Clan reunion of sorts takes place on “Run 4 Cover”, featuring both Ghostface Killah and Streetlife (back then just Street). This is quite an apocalyptic one, very much suiting the track title, like Red’s verse, for instance: “Yo yo yo/When it comes to the darts, I throw ‘em/Flamethrower, blow your section-eight home to your payphone up/Grass smoker, in the cut for the lawnmower/I water, I ride the whale that ate Jonah”. Method Man’s verse is venomous, spat with what could be considered sizeable aggression.
Dedicated to “all the victims who bought the album…” is “The ?”, before those in the opening moments are accosted by what seems demon children. Things wind down to moody, again, rocking with restraint, perhaps fear, a vocal sample ringing out like the aforementioned Children Of The Corn. “It ain’t even a question” of Ja Rule, like maybe, perhaps brutal, death is inescapable?
“Dat’s Dat Sh**t” features Mally G. This is like chopped up soul, locked in a frenetic loop, like Meth’s “Breezin through these tracks with the highest of velocity/Play me like Monopoly/Pay me everytime you trespass on my property/I’m Dick Dastardly, no use in cop blockin’ me/Sloppily, your woman on the stop-watch clockin’ me/Possibly I rock well, somebody always watchin’ me/Livin’ in the street life, my eyes seen atrocity/Undress a kid properly”.
“Cheka” has a similar chopped up vibe, maybe a tad more light hearted, packing subsequent power with Red’s “Stickin’ ya, rippin’ ya for all ya funds/I wet ya like a hundred and forty-one water guns/Cocked like Rocky/(got you scared to death)/So hold on you b*tches/(’cause here come) RED-METH!”.
Bar the three bonus tracks, “Fire Ina Hole” is the album closer proper. Barroom piano, locked to lace raps over, is accompanied, suitably, with explosions of all sorts. The fireworks ignite, lyrically, despite the mid tempo beat.
“Well All Rite Cha” is quite light hearted, seeming to concern largely with matters of the loin. In “Big Dogs” moody’s the word, again, with this one, with a sensual, female hook punctuating the song with “check it, check it out”.
The bass, very intermittent, is addictive, locking the clever flows that it inspires. Closer, “How High (Remix)” is spaced out, the title, of course, hinting what kind of spaced out the vibe of the song is. Method Man includes, in this, one of his many methods, one of which is his almost signature singsong rap as if, or actually, stoned.
Highlights are “Blackout”, “Mi Casa”, “4 Seasons”, “Cereal Killer”, “Da Rockwilder”, “Tear It Off”, “Maaad Crew”, “The ?” and “Cheka”.
This, nine tracks, isn’t a bad return for a sixteen track album, not including three bonus tracks of which all are quite good, too. Those latter, respectively, were tastes of Redman’s Doc’s Da Name 2000 (1998), Method Man’s Tical 2000: Judgement Day (1998) and their then upcoming movie and soundtrack, How High (2001).
The fact that, also, the few points of contention are that “Da Rockwilder” is a tad short, under the two and a half minute mark, is a good sign. Apparently an extra verse was recorded, but the duo deemed it superfluous. Maybe, considering this, it’s better than a song that overstays it’s welcome, that it’s addictive because you can’t, due to its length, get enough of it.
What’s more, as said regarding “Y.O.U.”, it’s pleasing that comparisons to M.O.P can be made. They had an album, 1994, when Red and Meth were just putting mere songs together. Both borrow from the call and response of Run-D.M.C, befitting how the album revisits all the high points in rap.
Method Man & Redman, overall, weigh in with something as current, even now, as it is celebratory of at least a number of high points and Golden Ages in the genre. Method Man & Redman’s Blackout! can be bought from iTunes here.
Words by Andrew Watson